In 1914, British explorer Ernest Shackleton led an expedition to the South Pole, intending to travel on foot across the continent. Because of particularly cold temperatures, however, the expedition ship Endurance became trapped in the ice and remained immobilized for 10 months before being crushed.

Crew members were forced to abandon ship and live on drifting ice floes until a spring thaw allowed them to escape on lifeboats and sail to rocky, uninhabited Elephant Island.

Knowing that his crew could never survive in such a desolate place, Shackleton and some of his men took one lifeboat and, in what has been called one of the greatest boat journeys in history, sailed 800 miles to the nearest settlement on South Georgia Island.

There, they trekked over mountains until they found a whaling station and organized rescue of the men left on Elephant Island.

"Not a life lost, and we have been through Hell," Shackleton wrote after the harrowing expedition.

Shackleton's story is the subject of an exhibition, scheduled through Feb. 6, at the National Geographic Society's museum, Explorers Hall. Photographs, diary entries, vintage film footage and various artifacts document one of the most ferocious man-against-nature sagas ever recorded.

The museum, at 17th and M streets NW, is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. 202-857-7588.


Before becoming the nation's 28th president, Woodrow Wilson wrote about the first, George Washington, in a series of articles that appeared in Harper's magazine from August 1895 to May 1896. The collection eventually was published as a widely read book.

Honoring the bicentennial of Washington's death, the Woodrow Wilson House Museum has assembled an exhibition that is based on Wilson's biography and is to open tomorrow and run through Jan. 16. It includes many prints designed for the book by Howard Pyle, as well as various materials collected by Wilson, including Washington's autograph and a copy of his last will.

In conjunction with the exhibit, Peter Hannaford is to discuss his book, The Essential George Washington, Monday, Dec. 13, 10:30 a.m. Admission is $10, and seating is limited. The museum, at 2340 S St. NW, is open for tours Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 202-387-4062.


What does an orangutan think about during the course of a day? Scientists at the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoological Park set up a "think tank" at the zoo to try to get inside the minds of these intelligent creatures. Some of their discoveries are the subject of a slide-illustrated lecture tomorrow, 6 p.m., at the zoo auditorium. General admission is $15, and reservations are required. 202-357-3030.


Results from recent orbiter and lander missions to Mars are providing a surprisingly new view of the planet's geology, interior structure and atmosphere, helping scientists to comprehend the planet's complex history. Tomorrow, Maria Zuber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is to present a free lecture called "Rediscovering the Red Planet: Latest Results from the Exploration of Mars." The 5 p.m. event is at the National Academy of Sciences Auditorium, 2100 C St. NW. 202-334-2415.


Although astronomers can clearly observe galaxies tens or even hundreds of millions of light years away, a fog of interstellar dust obcures the greater portion of our own Milky Way. By using space-based telescopes sensitive to longer wavelengths of light, researchers have begun to penetrate this veil. On Friday, Dec. 10, 8:15 p.m., Henry T. Freudenreich of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is to discuss new discoveries by these telescopes, including the fact that our galaxy is warped and its center is occupied by a cigar-shaped bar said to be 20,000 light-years in length. The free lecture is at the John Wesley Powell Auditorium of the Cosmos Club, 2170 Florida Ave. NW. 703-978-6025.


See how Christmas was celebrated in the 17th century at Historic St. Mary's City, Maryland's first capital and now an outdoor museum in Southern Maryland. "A Plantation Christmas," scheduled Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 11-12, is to feature hourly tours from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and students and $2 for children 6-12. 1-800-SMC-1634.


The Agricultural History Farm Park in Derwood, Md., is to present a candlelight open house with caroling and other activities, including hayrides on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 11-12, noon to 8 p.m. The park is at 18400 Muncaster Rd. Reservations are required for the horse-drawn hayrides. For Saturday, call 301-916-0220; for Sunday, call 301-670-4661.


Read the last letters written home by six members of the U.S. armed forces before they were killed in action during World War II. "Missing You," an exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum is to run through April 30 and brings to life voices silenced too soon.

The museum, at the corner of First Street and Massachusetts Avenue NE next to Union Station, also is featuring an exhibition of award-winning folk art mailboxes through April 13. 202-357-2700.


When we wake up on Jan. 1, 2000, what kind of world will we find? Marvin Zelkowitz, professor of computer science at the University of Maryland, is to look at how the computer industry, federal and local governments, the media, religions and apocalyptic cults have prepared for the new century. The free public talk sponsored by National Capital Area Skeptics is scheduled Saturday, Dec. 11, 2 p.m., at the Bethesda branch of the Montgomery County Library, 7400 Arlington Rd. 301-587-3827.


Dumbarton House Museum is planning a Christmas open house, Sunday, Dec. 12, 1-4 p.m., with children's activities, including decorating gingerbread cookies and experimenting with quill pens. Eighteenth century toys and clothing also are available to play with or try on, and a buffet of 18th century holiday treats will be offered. The Georgetown museum is at 2715 Q St. NW. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children. 202-337-2288.


Scott Weidensaul, an independent naturalist and author, is to present "Living on the Wind," an Audubon Naturalist Society lecture describing habitat needs of migrating birds, especially raptors. The lecture is scheduled Monday, Dec. 13, 6 p.m., at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Tickets are $14 for adults and $7 for children ($11 and $5 for Audubon and Smithsonian Associates members). Registration is required. 202-357-3030.


Mingma Sherpa, conservation director for the World Wildlife Fund's Asia/Pacific program, is to present a slide-illustrated lecture titled "Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet: Treasures of the Himalaya." The talk will explore the world's highest mountains and deepest valleys and discuss the rich variety of plant and animal life threatened by human population growth. Mingma also will explain the challenges of preserving the Himalaya's rich cultures and natural habitat and will discuss the fund's efforts to work with local communities on projects linking conservation to economic benefits. The event is planned for Tuesday, Dec. 14, 8 p.m., at the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park. The talk is free, but reservations are required. 202-673-4801.


Mammalian embryos, including humans, inherit from each parent genes that have been permanently silenced. Mothers appear to silence genes that promote an embryo's growth, while fathers silence genes intended to limit growth. On Tuesday, Dec. 14, 6:30 p.m., Shirley M. Tilghman of Princeton University is to address the evolutionary purpose of this unusual "imprinting" in a free lecture at the Carnegie Institution of Washington's auditorium, 1530 P St. NW. Seating is limited. 202-328-6988.


Two free lectures are planned at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. On Friday, Dec. 17, 10:30 a.m., Rita Colwell, director of the National Science Foundation, is to discuss "Climate and Health: The Saga of Satellites, Saris and Cholera." On Friday, Jan. 7, 10:30 a.m., Harold L. Hodgkinson, director of the Center for Demographic Policy at the Institute for Educational Leadership, is to present a lecture entitled "The Future is Now: Demographic Trends to Watch," focusing on social and economic trends most likely to affect the future. Both are at NIST's Green Auditorium, Quince Orchard and Clopper roads, Gaithersburg. 301-975-4203.


George Washington died Dec. 14, 1799. Four days later, the funeral was held at his estate. Honoring the bicentennial of this dramatic event, the funeral procession is to be recreated at Mount Vernon Saturday, Dec. 18, 11 a.m. More than 250 individuals dressed in 18th century mourning attire will follow the same path as their historical counterparts, while the mansion will be draped in mourning as it was in 1799. The event is open to the public and included in the price of admission. The estate is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $7.50 for senior citizens and $4 for children ages 6 to 11 when accompanied by an adult. 703-780-2000.


During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation Jan. 1, 1863, formally proclaiming freedom for all slaves held in areas still in revolt. In honor of the proclamation anniversary, the National Archives is to display the original signed document in the Rotunda of the Archives Exhibit Hall on Constitution Avenue between 7th and 9th streets NW, from Wednesday, Dec. 29, through Sunday, Jan. 2. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., including New Year's Day. 202-501-5000.


Learn all about squirrels, one of our most abundant wild neighbors, through stories, crafts and a hike on Saturday, Jan. 8, 10:30 a.m., at Rock Creek Park Nature Center and Planetarium. This free program, designed for children 3 to 6, is one of many offered at the center for various ages. Other upcoming program topics include maps and compasses, snowflakes, hikes through the park, fish, animals in winter and predator-prey relationships. The planetarium offers various skywatching programs every Wednesday at 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sundays at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. The center, at 5200 Glover Rd. NW, off Military Road, is open Wednesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Christmas Day. 202-426-6828.


Submissions for the Jan. 12 calendar must be received by Monday, Dec. 27. Send information to Michael Farquhar, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

CAPTION: The Endurance is icebound on its failed attempt to reach the South Pole. The crew hauls a lifeboat after being forced to abandon ship. Full of gear, the boat weighed more than one ton.