Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Polar Medal has been temporarily blocked from export from the UK.

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It was awarded to Shackleton in recognition of his three polar expeditions (1902-04, 1907-09, 1914-16), the latter two of which he led. It is the most important of the UK medals awarded to him, given it is the only one to recognise all three of his expeditions. The honour is also the last of Shackleton’s medals still in the UK.

It is believed to have been owned privately and, when an export licence was applied for, the temporary block was placed on the application in the hope a buyer in the UK can raise £1.7m plus VAT of £44,000.

In the details of provenance for the medal by given by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport it is listed as ‘by descent from the recipient’.

Shackleton made three expeditions to the Antarctic in the early 20th century, with his 1907 Nimrod journey aiming to be the first to reach the South Pole. Although unsuccessful, the expedition was the first to travel within 100 miles of the South Pole. The 1909 venture was the greatest advance to the Pole until Amundsen and Scott reached the South Pole separately three years later in 1912.

Committee chairman Andrew Hochhauser KC said: “This is the original, full-sized version of the medal awarded to Shackleton. It should go to a UK public institution where it can remind visitors of Shackleton’s extraordinary achievements and inspire future generations of leaders.”

A decision on the export licence application will be deferred until May 1.