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News > Career Stories > 'The Quest Chronicle' by Jan Chojecki is out now

'The Quest Chronicle' by Jan Chojecki is out now

The book reveals the deeper story of The Shackleton-Rowett Expedition of 1921-2 and its legacy
26 Sep 2022
Career Stories

Old Mole Jan Chojecki (Class of 1971), is the grandson of John Quiller Rowett,  who financed the Shackleton-Rowett (Quest) Expedition of  1921-22. He has a degree and Ph.D. in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge and has spent his career working in public sector technology transfer. In his hobby role of family archivist, he published the WW1 letters of his great uncle in "We Are All Flourishing - the Letters and Diary of Captain Walter JJ Coats MC, 1914-1919" (Helion 2016, republished Goldcrest Books 2022).

His latest book 'The Quest Chronicle' has just been published, and here is a little more about it. 

In 1921, a converted Norwegian sealer, Quest, carried the legendary explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton, on  what turned out to be his last expedition. How did this scheme come to be almost completely financed by my grandfather, John Quiller Rowett, whose rum had supplied the forces during World War 1? Was this wise business on Rowett’s part, a generous gesture of friendship or well-intended philanthropy? What were Shackleton’s real intentions for the venture and what happened in the leadership void after he had died? And why did the book of the expedition, Shackleton’s Last Voyage published in 1923, name Shackleton’s trusty right-hand man, Frank Wild, as the author, when in fact it was written chiefly by the ship’s surgeon, Alexander Macklin? There is more to uncover. Why did the up-and-coming Australian adventurer, George Hubert Wilkins, choose to go with Shackleton on the Quest, instead of joining the expedition of the Canadian explorer, Stefansson, or making polar flights with Amundsen? And why did Wilkins not put his name to the account of his natural history work on the expedition? Shackleton’s Last Voyage did not tell the whole story. Then there are other puzzles to be resolved such as why Quest’s seaplane – which would have been a polar first – never flew; and what really happened to Questie, the Daily Mail kitten and ship’s mascot? The Quest expedition has long lain in the shadow of Shackleton’s other exploits. It is only fleetingly mentioned in the biographies of Sir Ernest Shackleton. Misconceptions and oversimplifications abound, such as with respect to the particular qualities of the ship, its preparation and equipment, and the plans and aims of the expedition. This account sets out the events that occurred before, during and after the voyage, told through the words of the protagonists with their letters, logs and diaries, many of which have not been previously published. Jan Chojecki, 2022


“Only once in an Antarctic moon does a book burst into the accepted narratives of the great exploration epics with sublime freshness. The Quest Chronicle is such a book! Revealing long ignored material from his family and other archives, Jan Chojecki’s masterfully researched investigation into the awkward silence surrounding his grandfather lays bare the agonising effort of Shackleton’s last expedition. A must-read, for any polar pundit.” Dr. David Wilson, FZS, polar historian and author of Nimrod Illustrated: Pictures from Lieutenant Shackleton's British Antarctic Expedition 1907-1909.

“No Shackleton library is complete without The Quest Chronicle. It stands poles apart from the Shackleton we know, the explorer whose exploits on the Endurance expedition inspired an entire subgenre of leadership books. Shackleton is correctly celebrated today not only as history’s greatest polar explorer but as perhaps the greatest explorer, period. Yet Endurance provides just one perspective on a highly complex man. The assiduously researched Quest Chronicle reveals another. Not a different Shackleton, as such, for the stoicism, the bravery, the loyalty and the humour are still there, but so too is an element of quixotism. Throughout his life of exploration, Shackleton navigated a perilous course between triumph and misfortune, glory and tragedy. With The Quest Chronicle, more than any other account, we see the risks that such a journey entailed.” John Geiger, CEO Royal Canadian Geographical Society and internationally bestselling author. John’s seven books include Frozen In Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition and The Third Man Factor: Surviving the Impossible.

“The Quest Chronicle is a vitally important book. Expertly researched and written by Jan Chojecki, the grandson of the gentleman who funded Shackleton’s Quest expedition, it fills a needed spot in Polar literature shattering the myths of this often under-appreciated expedition. Highly recommended to Polar enthusiasts around the world, and everyone seeking to understand Sir Ernest Shackleton.” Brad Borkan, FRGS, co-author of When Your Life Depends on It: Extreme decision-making lessons from the Antarctic, and Audacious Goals, Remarkable Results: How an explorer, an engineer and a statesman shaped our modern world.

Available September 2022 from:
Enquiries and pre-orders to:



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