Early in March 1901, Shackleton returned to Southampton on the Carisbrook Castle to find himself part of the National Antarctic Expedition. Shackleton would depart with Scott on the historic Discovery Expedition to Antarctica later that summer.
Shackleton became seriously ill on Scott’s southern sledge journey, midway through the expedition, and had to be invalided home aboard the relief ship Morning. As Bernacchi, with Scott’s Discovery Expedition noted, Shackleton was ‘deeply disappointed & would give anything to remain. Although everyone is so anxious to return this year with the Discovery, few are so poor-spirited as to wish to return in the Morning’.
On 12 June 1903, after convalescing in New Zealand, Shackleton landed in England. A huge scandal had broken out about the affairs of the Discovery Expedition. It seems everyone was upset about Scott remaining for a second winter in the Antarctic. The organizers had explicitly said that under no circumstances was Scott to stay for a second year…it would be considered professional incompetence to allow the Discovery to be frozen in, risking being crushed by the ice. Sir Clements sent a telegram to Shackleton: ‘The Admiralty will undertake rescue of Discovery. Committee appointed. Come to me. I wish to consult you’. The expedition organisers wanted Shackleton to sail out as chief officer on the Terra Nova to assist the Morning, if necessary, to get Scott and his men back home. Shackleton declined as, according to Armitage, ‘he meant to return and prove to Scott that he—Shackleton—was a better man than Scott’. Besides, Emily had now agreed to marry him. Meanwhile, early in October Shackleton visited Sir Clements Markham, in Markham’s words, with ‘full plans for another expedition’. Sir Clements discouraged him, and Shackleton went on to join the staff of Royal Magazine as a journalist.
On 11 January 1904, after a long and nerve-racking wait, Shackleton found himself elected to the desired post of secretary to the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. He now had a full-time job and, as he wrote to Emily, ‘I am so happy dearest thinking about all the times which are to be in the future…we do want to settle down and have our own house at last after all these years of waiting’. In London, on 9 April, Ernest Shackleton and Emily Dorman were married at Christchurch, Westminster. A week before the wedding the Discovery returned to New Zealand after her second season in the ice. The record southing, in which Shackleton had participated, was still intact. When Shackleton walked up the aisle with Emily he was still one of the men who had reached the Furthest South…no finer wedding present could have been given.