Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, August 1, 1915: “The break-up of our floe came suddenly. . .”   Leave a comment

–from Sir Ernest Shackleton’s account “South”–

“The break-up of our floe came suddenly on Sunday, August 1, just one year after the ‘Endurance’ left the South-West India docks on the voyage to the Far South. The position was lat 72º 26′ S., long. 48º 10′ W. The morning brought a moderate south-westerly gale with heavy snow, and at 8 a.m., after some warning movements of the ice, the floe cracked 40 yds. off the starboard bow. Two hours later the floe began to break up all round us under pressure and the ship listed over 10 degrees to starboard.

“I had the dogs and sledges brought aboard at once and the gangway hoisted. The animals behaved well. They came aboard as eagerly as though they realized their danger, and were placed in their quarters on deck without a single fight occurring.

“The pressure was cracking the floe rapidly, rafting it close to the ship and forcing masses beneath the keel. Presently the ‘Endurance’ listed heavily to port against the gale, and at the same time was forced ahead, astern, and sideways by the grinding floes. She received one or two hard nips, but resisted them without so much as a creak.”

Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, July 28, 1915: On Shackleton’s character   Leave a comment

–from Thomas Orde Lees’s diary published as “Elephant Island and Beyond”–

“About his [Ernest Shackleton’s] only undesirable idiosyncracy is a strong propensity to unnecessarily bustle things. He will quite suddenly give an order, say, to shift the whole of the cases out of one of the holds and immediately has the whole thing done with a rush and a scramble when there is not the least need of undue hurry.

“This has happened, much to our discomfort, several times. The result is that after weeks of labour in getting things in order, suddenly one finds everything is completely muddled up and nothing get-at-able, and one has to start all over again getting things straight.

“He is just the same in other departments, expecting things to be done in an unreasonably short time. It might be thought he did so merely by way of testing one’s efficiency but this is not so at all. Strange to say, in spite of all of this, nothing gets on his nerves more than seeing anyone else attempt to do anything by ‘tour de force.’ ”

Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, July 27, 1915: On Shackleton’s character   Leave a comment

–from Thomas Orde Lees’s diary published as “Elephant Island and Beyond”–

“Sir Ernest has a wonderful character. . . . Whatever he says to his subordinates in approbation, in chiding, or in giving advice or information, is exactly what he really means, and at the same time he is always tactful without being in any way noticeably circumspect. He bears no resentment in private, nor is he ever guilty of the slightest favoritism. . . He is always careful to give his comrades the impression that he has absolute confidence in them, each in their own special sphere and yet he keeps a watchful eye on all.

“He always leaves them entirely to themselves to carry out their work as they think best. . . . The reliance he places in his subordinates is certainly by far the best incentive they can have to do their work conscientiously, and one always feels that if at any time it was not and that one was wanting in efficiency he would at once go right into the matter and appoint someone else to take over one’s job—the most awful reproach that could befall a member of an expedition.”

Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, late July 1915: “No one was allowed to leave the ship. . .”   Leave a comment

–from Frank Hurley’s account “Shackleton’s Argonauts”–

“Toward the end of July a three-day blizzard, accompanied by a heavy fall of snow, raged day and night. No one was allowed to leave the ship, except to attend to the dogs. When the wind dropped the aspect of the entire landscape had changed. A huge dump of snow had collected on the port side, depressing the floe and completely covering the kennels. All hands were engaged with shoves, and the dogs emerged none the worse for their experience; in fact, they were unusually active. . .

“A few days later heavy ice-pressure was observed southwest of the ship. Sounds like the breaking of surf could be heard, and during the days the decks were cleared and chains secured so that the dogs might be brought aboard at any moment. A constant look-out was maintained during the day and an hourly watch during the night.

“A crack started from the lead ahead and ran to within thirty yards of the ship. A bare four hundred yards away, on the port bow, the ice became very active, crunching and rafting. Huge fragments, many tons in weight, were forced up, and balanced on the top of pressure-ridges fifteen feet high.”

Shackleton’s ‘Aurora’ July 22, 1915: “. . .made final preparations for abandoning ship”   Leave a comment

–quoted from Captain J. R. Stenhouse’s log on board the ‘Aurora,’ beset in ice and drifting helplessly across the Ross Sea–

“July 22–Ship in bad position in newly frozen lance, with bow and stern jammed against heavy floes; heavy strain with much creaking and groaning. 8 a.m.–Called all hands to stations for sledges, and made final preparations for abandoning ship. Allotted special duties to several hands to facilitate quickness in getting clear should the ship be crushed. Am afraid the ship’s back will be broken if the pressure continues, but cannot relieve her.

“2 p.m.–Ship lying easier. Poured sulfuric acid on the ice astern in hopes of rotting crack and relieving pressure on stern-post, but unsuccessfully. Very heavy pressure on and around ship (taking strain fore and aft and on starboard quarter). ship jumping and straining, and listing badly.

“10 p.m.–Ship has crushed her way into new ice on starboard side and slewed aslant lane with stern-post clear of land-ice.

“12 p.m. Ship is in safer position; lanes opening in every direction.”

Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, July 18, 1915: “. . . a fine morning a lovely blaze of red light on the horisone . . .”   Leave a comment

–from the diary of Harry McNeish, ship’s carpenter–

“Sunday 18 July. Temp Minus 18 a fine morning a lovely blaze of red light on the horisone which had a peculiar effect on the floe making every thing look red we had a walk about 2 miles until stoped by open water the dogs had plenty of exercise we have been drifting back South this last two days but it has started to blow again from the SW so we are Homeward bound agin we have the Gramaphone going with all the latest songs before we left we have never had a religious service since the second out from Plymouth but plenty of filthy remarks as there are a few who cant speak of anything else & of course the think it makes them manly instead of Blaggards I dont see how we could have better luck than we have had; but if we are spared to get out of it I dont think there will be many volinteers for to come back.”

Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, July 17, 1915: “. . .we are all having our turn a being Peggie . . .”   Leave a comment

–from the diary of Harry McNeish, ship’s carpenter–

“Saturday July 17th. Temp Minus 21 All hands busy clearing the decks I put up skills [?] along side the house for the timber & sledges McLeod has a job by himself now getting the ice for general use Lees is Laid up with a sprained back he was shovelling snow yesterday the first work he has done since we left London we are all having our turn a being Peggie until he recovers we had our usual Sweethearts & Wifes with songs the observation we got today makes us two miles further south than yesterday we put it down to the pressure coming of the ice as the wind is still SW but light the dog men are busy building kennels on top of the drift snow.”


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