Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, May 28, 1916: “Heavy pack formed an impenetrable barrier.”   Leave a comment

–from Shackleton’s account “South”—

“The early part of the voyage down to Elephant Island in the “Southern Sky,” [the steam whaler chartered by Shackleton at Husvik, South Georgia, for the rescue of the marooned men] was uneventful. At noon on Tuesday May 23, we were at sea and steaming a ten knots on a south-westerly course. We made good progress, but the temperature fell very low, and the signs gave me some cause for anxiety as to the probability of encountering ice. On the third night out the sea seemed to grow silent. I looked over the sided and saw a thin film of ice. The sea was freezing around us and the ice gradually grew thicker, reducing our speed to about five knots. Then lumps of old pack began to appear among the new ice. I realized that an advance through pack-ice was out of the question. The ‘Southern Sky’ was a steel-built steamer, and her structure, while strong to resist the waves, would not endure the blows of masses of ice.

“So I took the ship north, and at daylight on Friday we got clear of the pancake-ice. The morning of the 28th was dull and overcast, with little wind. Again the ship’s head was turned to the south-west, but at 3 p.m. a definite line of pack showed up on the horizon. We were about 70 miles from Elephant Island, but there was no possibility of taking the steamer through the ice that barred the way. North-west again we turned. We were directly north of the island the following day, and I made another move south.

“Heavy pack formed an impenetrable barrier.”

Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, May 25, 1916: “Living under such conditions, piled close upon one another such as we are. . . .”   Leave a comment

–from the diary of Thomas Orde Lees, one of the twenty-six men marooned on Elephant Island—

“25 May. Strong north-east wind. When will the pack go? Not with this wind. My next-door neighbor [adjacent sleeping-bag in the close quarters of the upturned-boats hut] the cook [Charlie Green], was pouring forth his woes this morning, but really I have so many troubles of my own that I am afraid I gave him little consolation.

“The occupants of the bags on the thwarts above me, Stephenson and Holness, got their bags wet with salt water, which seems bad for the hair, and now their bags are moulting and every time they emerge from them, hair descends upon me literally in thousands. If I happen to be having my food at the time, this is most unpleasant and naturally calls forth remonstrances from me. They, in turn, being unable to help it, naturally think I ought not to complain and it requires considerable restraint to prevent oneself being drawn into an altercation.

“Living under such conditions, piled close upon one another such as we are, we have been given to understand that we are all on an equal footing. Of course the sailors, like most people of their class, have no sense of proportion and immediately begin to take advantaged of it. There is one brilliant exception, Bakewell, a Canadian of some refinement, who is always respectful as well as being self-respectful.”

Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party, May 31, 1916: Waiting for the sea to freeze. . . .   Leave a comment

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

“May 24th to May 31st. Blizzard bound for the whole week; no possibility of leaving the [Discovery] hut, which means no sealing or exercise. Still we are cheerful.”

Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, May 20, 1916: “We had touched the naked soul of man.”   Leave a comment

–from Shackleton’s account “South”—

“At 1.30 p.m. we climbed a final ridge and saw a little steamer, a whaling-boat, entering the bay 2500 ft. below. A few moments later, as we hurried forward, the masts of a sailing-ship lying at a wharf came in sight. Minute figures moving to and fro about the boats caught our gaze, and then we saw the sheds and factory of Stromness whaling-station. . .

“Cautiously we stared down the slope that led to warmth and comfort. . . . the sole possible pathway seemed to be a channel cut by water running from the upland. . .It was the splashing of a waterfall, and we were at the wrong end. The way down was through the waterfall itself. . . . We had flung down the adze from the top of the fall and also the logbook and the cooker wrapped in one of our blouses.

“That was all of tangible things; but in memories we were rich. We had pierced the veneer of outside things. We had ‘suffered, starved and triumphed, groveled down yet grasped at glory, grown bigger in the bigness of the whole. We had seen God in his splendours, heard the text that nature renders. We had touched the naked soul of man.”

Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, May 20, 1916: “It was the first signal of civilization that we had heard for nearly two years.”   Leave a comment

–from Frank Worsley’s account ‘Endurance’—

“At dawn we reached the top of another great transverse range. Looking over the dark waters of Fortuna Bay, some thousands of feet below us, and beyond two distant mountains, we recognized the Z-shaped stratification that told us Stromness Bay was in that direction. Seven o’clock came, and we listened intently. Then, clear across the mountains, in the still morning air, from eight miles away came the sound of the steam whistles of the whaling factories bidding the men to turn-to. It was the first signal of civilization that we had heard for nearly two years. For the second time on that march we shook hands; for each of us recognized that this was an occasion on which words were inadequate.”

Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, May 19, 1916: “And we were in a solitude never before broken by man.”   Leave a comment

–from Frank Worsley’s account ‘Endurance’—

“When we attained the crest of the second pass and again looked down, we found the conditions almost as bad as at the first. The beauty of the scene only intensified the iron of our position. In front of us stretched a truly magnificent view: the exquisite purity of Alpine scenery in a crystalline atmosphere with deep blue skies broken only here and there by a few soft, fleecy clouds which contrasted sharply with the brilliant sunshine that blazed into the valleys and over the icy uplands. We stood between two gigantic black crags that seemed to have forced their way upwards through their icy covering—dark and forbidding masses of bleak and barren rock. Before us was the Allardyce range, peak beyond peak, snow-clad and majestic, glittering in the sunshine. Sweeping down their flanks were magnificent glaciers, noble to look upon, but, as we realized, threatening to our advance. And we were in a solitude never before broken by man.

“Still, a way had to be found.”

Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, May 19, 1916: “At about nine o’clock in the morning we had our first hot meal. . .”   Leave a comment

–from Frank Worsley’s account ‘Endurance’—

“At about nine o’clock in the morning we had our first hot meal, having been on the march for siz hours. The only nourishment we had taken en route had been a small piece of biscuit and a chunk of Streimer’s Nut Food. After this we cooked a meal over the little Primus every four hours. Our procedure was as follows. We dug a hole in the snow with the adze, packed the bowl full of snow, lit the Primus and, placing it in the hole, Crean and I lay over it in turn to prevent the wind from blowing it out. . . .On the breast of our sweaters we had sewn a patch of blanket, and in this pocket each kept his spoon, together with other treasures such as tobacco, half a biscuit, and paper for cigarettes. . . . At our first meal, Shackleton, who was always fond of a leg-pull, said:

“’Crean, you’ve got a bigger spoon than we have!’

“’Doesn’t matter,’ said the imperturbable Crean, ‘The Skipper has a bigger mouth!’”


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