Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, April 14, 1915: Sledge dogs and icebergs   Leave a comment

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

“The dogs had been divided into six teams of nine dogs each. Wild, Crean, Macklin, McIlroy, Marston, and Hurley each had charge of a team, and were full responsible for the exercising, training, and feeding of their own dogs. They called in one of the surgeons when an animal was sick. We were still losing some dogs through worms, and it was unfortunate that the doctors had not the proper remedies. . . . We had fifty-four dogs and eight pups early in April, but sever were ailing, and the number of mature dogs was reduced to fifty by the end of the month.

“A new berg that was going to give us some cause for anxiety made its appearance on the 14th. It was a big berg, and we noticed as it lay on the north-west horizon that it had a hummocky, crevassed appearance at the east end. During the day this berg increased its apparent altitude and changed its bearing slightly. Evidently it was aground and holding its position against the drifting pack. During the next twenty-four hours the ‘Endurance’ moved steadily toward the crevassed berg, which doubled its altitude in that time. We could see from the mast-head that the pack was piling and rafting up against the mass of ice, and it was easily to imagine what would be the fate of the ship if she entered into the area of disturbance.

“She would be crushed like an eggshell amid the shattering masses.”

Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party, April 19, 1915: The ‘Aurora’ ties up off Cape Evans   Leave a comment

–from R. W. Richards’ account “The Ross Sea Shore Party, 1914-1917″–

[The ‘Aurora’ had been tied up off Cape Evans, with stout steel hawsers linking her to the shore, intending to winter-over there.]

“In the meantime, fires were drawn on the ship and the boiler blown down. Some dismantling of the engines also took place to guard against undue strain during the winter cold. From time to time wind and tied would cause some or all of the sea ice to go out to sea, and at times ice would over-ride and press inshore. On 10 April two of the stern hawsers parted, but by careful nursing of the others the ship maintained her position right throughout the month. An ever-increasing area of an acre or two of thicker ice remained, held in by the ship when the rest was taken out to sea so we thought she was safe for the winter.”

Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party: Life at Hut Point   Leave a comment

–from Ernest Joyce’s account “The South Polar Trail”–

“It is difficult for one to realize what it is like to be housed in a hut that was built for 45 people, the interior two-thirds full of ice and snow (one corner of which was blocked off with provision cases), minus table, chairs and bunks, old provision cases on the floor with sleeping-bags laid on top of them acted as bunks.

“Three men in sleeping-bags, while three others (two of them were bandaged) hugged the blubber stove. No lighting except that from an improvised blubber lamp, which consisted of an old tin full of blubber, a piece of canvas floating about as a wick. The food,, seal cooked in blubber oil, biscuits, and now and again dried vegetables as a variation. Our appetites are encouraging in spite of the menu.

“The non-appearance of the ‘Aurora’ brings forth many heated arguments. There being open water as far north as the eye can see from the hills. The arguments always finish in this strain: what has occurred to the ship? Something must be radically wrong otherwise she should have returned to pick up the sledging parties, realizing there was no coal, lighting, clothing, etc. These arguments cause friction and have decided to taboo the subject.”

Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, April 5, 1915: Slow drift north   Leave a comment

–from Sir James Wordie’s diary–

“5 April. After much waiting we got a position yesterday: 79º 9′ S., 37º 50′ W. The northerly course was somewhat disappointing, but not unexpected, looking to the series of nearly equal soundings. Yesterday’s soundings, eg was 250 fms. Today’s 245 and previously we had 264, 262, and 256; obviously we have been drifting N just on the edge of what is possibly a continental shelf. The day, in spite of the sun, was the coldest we have had -22º below zero.

Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party, April 1915: Prisoners in the Discovery Hut   Leave a comment

[Having returned from the Barrier, the field parties were now stranded at Hut Point until the sea ice should form, and allow a retreat to the larger, better equipped hut at Cape Evans]

–from Ernest Joyce’s account “The South Polar Trail”–

“The position in the Discovery Hut is, there are only three sleeping bags. Watch and watch will have to be kept until the other sleeping-bags are brought from Pram Point. When in our possession later, we weighed them, and found them to be 25 to 30 pounds. The average weight of a sleeping-bag is 10 pounds, the extra weight being the accumulation of ice that is caused by the heat of the body. . . .

“It is remarkable how difficulties are overcome. What with the dirt, blubber, and grease, our frostbites give us a very unpleasant time, no sleep for days on account of the throbbing from the blisters. A part of Wild’s big toe had to be amputated, the top of an ear came off. A could of weeks elapsed before our faces straightened out again. Very painful to laugh, in spite of odds, and the good management of Cope, who was working under extreme difficulties, we were soon about again. No soap, no towel, no wash, no shave. The blubber stove throws out its reeking fumes when it is replenished.”

Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, April 1, 1915:   Leave a comment

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

“The sun sank lower in the sky, the temperatures became lower, and the ‘Endurance’ felt the grip of the icy hand of winter. Two north-easterly gales in the early part of April assisted to consolidate the pack. The young ice was thickening rapidly, and though leads were visible occasionally from the ship, no opening of a considerable size appeared in our neighbourhood.

“In the early morning of April 1 we listened again for the wireless signals from Port Stanley. The crew had lashed together three 20-ft. rickers to the mast-heads in order to increase the spread of our aerials, but still we failed to hear anything.”

Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party, January 24th-March 25th: “The distance travelled was about 280 miles.”   Leave a comment

–from Ernest Joyce’s account “The South Polar Trail”–

“During the period from the time of leaving the ‘Aurora.’ January 24th to March 25th, was one of hardships. The Skipper [Mackintosh] and party joined up with my party at the Bluff; having taken 17 days to cover a distance of 80 miles; he had lost three dogs on the journey. The parties were then reorganized. The Padre, Gaze, Jack, returning north with five dogs, and Mackintosh, [Ernest] Wild and myself, with nine dogs, trekking south to lay the depot at 80 degrees south, according to the plan made out by Shackleton.

“From February 24th to March 25th is a tale of terrible hardships through frostbites, blizzards, food shortage and low temperatures. The collapse of the dogs through working them too quickly after being cooped up in the ‘Aurora,’ and in conjunction with the constant lay-ups in blizzards and low temperatures, the strain was too much for them. One could not expect otherwise.

“The other parties under Cope, owing to the breakdown of the motor sledge, did not advance very far. The motor-sledge was a useless toy; and was abandoned at Hut Point after covering about four miles.

“The southern party was out on the Barrier for 60 days, 13 days out of that blizzarding. The temperature was very low, at times below -60-92 degrees of frost. The distance travelled was about 280 miles.”


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