–from “Hold Fast: Tom Crean with Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition 1913-1916″ by David Hirzel–
“Restored and replenished, the Endurance left the fragrant shores of Madeira for the open ocean. Warm trade winds hustled her along beneath fleecy clouds awash in a blue sky and sunsets so dazzling they had no equal but the still more glorious sunrises to follow. Schools of porpoise coursed along beneath the bows of the hurrying ship; shoals of flying fish leapt into the air in silver waves streaking inches over the water. Closer to the equator in the doldrums the engines were put to good use. Endurance had a schedule to keep, whether or not a favoring breeze came to her aid: stop in Buenos Aires, make a jaunt across the South Atlantic, depart South Georgia no later than the beginning of December.
“During the day, the ship rings with the sound of saws and hammers nailing up kennels for the dogs to be boarded in South America. The night watches are the best, when everyone not on duty is snug in his berth below. The steady thrum of the engines sings a soft baritone to the glittering stars. Crean at the helm keeps a watchful eye on them and the red glow of the compass rose. The only other sounds are the low voices of the black gang on deck as Stephenson and Holness lift the ash buckets to the rail, and the sudsy hiss of the hot coals hitting the water. There will be no need to trim sail this night. For the watch on duty, it is a time for quiet, confidential talk. Crean and Cheatham sailed together before in the Terra Nova, and can speak now with the ease of old shipmates.”
–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!”