By Antoine Sanfuentes, NBC News
As we enjoy Kerry Sanders and his team's extraordinary adventure to Antarctica, I am reminded of my connection to the region, via Juan Luis Sanfuentes, who served as Chile's President from 1915-1920.
Sanfuentes, a distant relative, played a key role in the rescue of the explorer's crew.
See photos from NBC's Kerry Sanders' voyage to Antarctica.
In 1914, Shackleton and a team of 28 men set out to explore the Antarctic plains. As the tall ship "Endurance" arrived on the edge of the ice, its hull was soon consumed by this frozen impenetrable place.
Shackleton was faced with an impossible task as he and the members of his crew, miles from anywhere and without any way of communicating with the outside world, faced certain death. After watching the ship sink and setting camp on a nearby island, Shackleton seemingly had only one choice: To sail a small boat across a vast stretch of sea and ice to seek a rescue for the rest of his crew.
It took 14 months before Shackleton and a small crew sailed the 23-foot whaler 800 miles to the nearest inhabited island of South Georgia. Even by today's nautical challenges, this primitive boat had all the odds stacked against it. Meantime, the 22 sailors left behind waited at the camp on the ice, keeping themselves alive by eating mostly seal and penguin.
It took another five months for Shackleton to successfully return to retrieve his crew, after President Sanfuentes dispatched the navy ship "Yelcho" to the rescue.
His historic telegram read: "Please greet Sir Ernest Shackleton and place the Government patrol boat Yelcho at his disposition, in order that this celebrated explorer, who I hope will be extremely successful, may be able to rescue his gallant comrades."
Pilot Luis Alberto Pardo Villalon heroically braved the Antarctic peninsula after being beaten back three different times by the ice. On his fourth attempt, he was successful at rescuing them from Elephant Island.
As the Antarctic ice begins to disappear, penguins are at risk: in some areas one species has declined by a stunning 90 percent. NBC's Kerry Sanders reports from Antarctica.
Antoine Sanfuentes is Senior Vice President of NBC News