–from “Hold Fast: Tom Crean with Shackleton’s Endurance 1914-1916″ by David Hirzel–
Madeira welcomed them with her old familiar sunbaked splendor, red tile roofs against the bright green verge of a tropical forest. There was coal to be taken aboard, sweet water, fresh oranges and pineapples, new Madeira wine, and trouble with the Germans.
Funchal was still a neutral port. The harbormaster directed Endurance to take her place alongside a German merchantman, SS Hochfeld. The German ship was poorly secured. She broke her moorings in the night and swung round against the barquentine’s bow, fouling the British jibboom. Captain Worsley called for volunteers and with four men boarded the German. They met no real resistance, and made “prisoners” of the engineers and the carpenter to come repair the damage or suffer the outrage of an international incident in time of war. In a neutral port, there was nothing the Germans could do but suffer these indignities red-faced and hope for victory in the field. With the damage made good, they were sent back to their own ship followed by a barrage of hoots and catcalls from the Endurance. It was perhaps England’s first triumph of the war. Less noteworthy was the night the crew spent the night in jail, for having wrecked a café in a drunken spree.
–from “Hold Fast: Tom Crean with Shackleton’s Endurance 1914-1917″ by David Hirzel–
With the Boss still ashore, Captain Frank Worsley was in charge of the ship for the first leg of the voyage. The Skipper was a likeable sort not unlike Lieutenant Evans on board the Terra Nova—a soft touch with the men, not at all the remote and hardbitten captain that was wanted to control a merchant ship. Many of his men had been to the ice before in one ship or another. Younger than most of them, he had a gentleness about his features, a softness in his speaking that might not earn the respect of deep-sea salts and growlers like Tom McLeod or John Vincent. He had worked his way up through the ranks in trading voyages around the south Pacific, taking his first command in a three-master at the age of thirty. He knew his shiphandling and navigation, but he would never be a conventional skipper in any trade.
The War had begun. Shackleton had placed the Endurance and her crew at the disposal of the Admiralty, and had received word from the First Sea Lord, that the expedition was to go forward: “Proceed.”
On August 4 Shackleton left the ship at Eastbourne, and had an audience with King George V. He wrote of the encounter to his wife Emily: “He [the King] was perfectly charming. I stayed 25 minutes and was in my ordinary clothes: he talked a lot and gave me the Union Jack and wished me God Speed and a safe return. This will all be in the papers tomorrow and I told him all about my offer to the Admiralty and he was pleased and said the ‘Certainly I should go’”
–quoted from the Queen’s telegram–
“I am anxious to tell you how much I am thinking of you and the officers and men of the British Antarctic [that is, the Imperial Trans-Antarctic] Expedition upon the eve of your departure from England. I know that it must be a sad parting for all of you who are leaving their nearest and dearest but we shall follow you with our thoughts and I pray that the Almighty will have you in his gracious keeping and will guide and guard you through hardships and perils. Wish you from my heart all possible success godspeed and a safe return. Alexandra”
–from an interview with Macklin published in James and Margery Fisher’s “Shackleton”–
“I waited all that morning, in fact all day, and I think what stood me in good stead was that during the time I was waiting for him I got to talking with other chaps, including Frank Wild. I went along to lunch with them and went back to the office in the afternoon, and Shackleton came in in a terrific hurry again, went into an inner room, spent ab out half an hour with Wild, and Wild came out and said ‘He’ll see you in a minute or two,’ and I said, ‘Well, will you put in a good word for me?’
“Whether he did or not I don’t know, but I went in to see Shackleton, he looked me up and down, asked me one or two questions, and just abruptly, like that said ‘All right, I’ll take you,’ without any further reference o requirement of any kind at all. . . .
“He asked, ‘Why are you wearing spectacles?’ For want of anything better, I said, ‘Many a wise face would look foolish without spectacles,’ and he laughed.”
–from a conversation with Hussey recorded by James Fisher, October 1955—
“He [Shackleton] called for me, looked me up and down, walked up and down when he was talking to me, didn’t seem to take any notice. Finally he said, ‘Yes, I like you, I’ll take you.’ He told me afterwards he took me because he thought I looked funny!”
—from a letter written by James, October 1955, quoted in “Shackleton” by Margery and James Fisher—
“On my way home I visited some relatives in Manchester, and while there received a telegram from Shackleton asking to see him next morning in London. I did so, and was appointed after an interview of about ten minutes at the outside, probably more nearly five. As far as I remember he asked me if my teeth were good, if I suffered from varicose veins, if I had a good temper, and if I could sing.
“At this question I probably looked a bit taken aback, for I remember he said, ‘O, I don’t mean any Caruso stuff; but I suppose you can shout a bit with the boys?’ . . .He did not ask me about my physics. . .After this he put out his hand and said, ‘Very well, I’ll take you.’”