Shackleton after the Endurance
Shackleton returned to Britain from the Endurance expedition in late May 1917, while World War I was under way. Many of his men enlisted promptly upon their return. Too old to enlist, Shackleton nevertheless sought an active role in the war effort, and eventually departed for Murmansk with the temporary army rank of major, as part of a military mission to North Russia. Shackleton expressed his dissatisfaction with this role in letters home: "I feel I am no use to anyone unless I am outfacing the storm in wild lands." He returned to England in February 1919 and began plans to set up a company that would, with the cooperation of the North Russian Government, develop the natural resources of the region. This scheme came to nothing, as the Red Army took control of that part of Russia during the Russian Civil War; to provide himself with an income, Shackleton had to rely on the lecture circuit. During the winter of 1919–20 he lectured twice a day, six days a week, for five months.
Despite the large debts still outstanding from the Endurance expedition, Shackleton's mind turned towards another exploration venture. He decided to turn away from the Antarctic, go northwards and, as he put it, "fill in this great blank now called the Beaufort Sea". This area of the Arctic Ocean, to the north of Alaska and west of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, was largely unexplored; Shackleton believed, on the basis of tidal records, that it contained large undiscovered land masses that "would be of the greatest scientific interest to the world, apart from the possible economic value". He also hoped to reach the northern "pole of inaccessibility", the most remote point in the Arctic regions. In March 1920, his plans received the general approval of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) and were supported by the Canadian government. On this basis Shackleton set about acquiring the necessary funding, which he estimated at £50,000. Later that year, Shackleton met by chance an old school-friend, John Quiller Rowett, who agreed to put up a nucleus of cash to get Shackleton started. With this money, in January 1921 Shackleton purchased the wooden Norwegian whaler Foca I together with other equipment, and began the process of hiring of a crew.
In May 1921 the policy of the Canadian government towards Arctic expeditions changed with the advent of a new Prime Minister, Arthur Meighen, who withdrew support from Shackleton's proposal. Shackleton was required to rethink his plans, and decided to sail for the Antarctic instead. A varied programme of exploration, coastal mapping, mineral prospecting and oceanographic research in southern waters would replace the abandond Beaufort Sea venture.