Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, April 28-29, 1916: “A thousand times it appeared as though the ‘James Caird’ must be engulfed. . . .”   Leave a comment

–from Ernest Shackleton’s account “South”—

“A severe south-westerly gale on the fourth day out forced us to heave to. I would have liked to have run before the wind, but the sea was very high and the ‘James Caird’ was in danger of broaching to and swamping. The delay was vexatious, since up to that time we had been making sixty or seventy miles a day, good going with our limited sail area. We hove to under a double-reefed mainsail and our little jigger, and waited for the gale to blow itself out. During that afternoon we saw bits of wreckage, the remains probably of some unfortunate vessel that had failed to weather the strong gales south of Cape Horn. The weather conditions did not improve, and on the fifth day out the gale was so fierce that we were compelled to take in the double-reefed mainsail and hoist our small jib instead. . . .

“Thus our boat took most of the seas more or less end on. Even then the crests of the waves often would curl right over us and we shipped a great deal of water. A thousand times it appeared as though the ‘James Caird’ must be engulfed, but the boat lived.”

Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, April 28, 1916: “By the second night we had set watches. . . .”   Leave a comment

–from Frank Worsley’s account ‘Endurance’—

[aboard the ‘James Caird’ on the fourth day since leaving Elephant Island]

“By the second night we had set watches, Shackleton taking one, and I taking the other. . . .The divided watches gave us three men each, all three taking turns at steering. As the journey progressed, our ideas of the size of the boat in an amusing but curious fashion, so that we even spoke of ‘taking a trick at the wheel’ although actually we were steering by yoke-lines. We also spoke, without any consciousness of absurdity, of ‘going below’ and ‘going for’rard’ and ‘aft.’

“While one man steered for an hour the other two pumped the boat, which was always shipping and making water to a degree that occasionally became dangerous, and the rest of the time was spent in attending to the trim of the sails and in an endeavor to patch and make small improvements in our miserable and worn-out apparel.”

Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, April 26, 1916: “This sleeping place was indescribably uncomfortable. . . .”   Leave a comment

–from Frank Worsley’s account ‘Endurance’—

[aboard the ‘James Caird’ on the second night since leaving Elephant Island]

“The least soaked portion of the boat was in the bows, and there we placed our sleeping-bags. This sleeping place was indescribably uncomfortable, for it was only seven feet long and five feet broad, tapering to nothing at the bows, and in this three of us had to pack ourselves on top of cases of food, sharp angular boulders and bags of shingle. On account of the stores beneath and the canvas cover above there was scarcely any room. In addition we had to crawl under the thwart to reach this wretched place, and it was an ordeal in our heavy, wet clothes; for we would often get stuck half way and lie there temporarily giving up the struggle, until the next man’s head or shoulders bumping behind would remind one that two other poor devils wanted to get into their bags and snatch a little sleep. . . .

“Within the bows of the boat our unfortunate bodies were swung up and banged down on mountainous seas as we rushed up hills and plunged down valleys, shivering as we were slung from side to side of the boat; while to our imagination she seemed to wag like a dog’s tail or flap like a flag in a gale of wind.”

Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, April 24, 1916: “Sir Ernest and his crew set off on their perilous journey.”   Leave a comment

–from the diary of Thomas Orde Lees—

“24 April. The weather having moderated, Sir Ernest decided to launch the ‘James Caird’ and start for South Georgia. . . . To celebrate Sir Ernest’s departure, we had a breakfast of two biscuits and ¼ lb jam each. . . . All hands were now employed in launching her. There was still a good deal of surf and she stuck firmly in the heavy grit until several of us had to go into the water, up to our knees nearly, to lift her in. . . .

“Captain Worsley, Crean and the carpenter had all got aboard just before she floated off but most unwisely stood on the deck instead of getting inside, with the result that it rendered her top heavy and she rolled over almost on to her beam ends, precipitating Vincent and the carpenter into the water. Meanwhile Captain Worsley had discovered that the bottom plug of the boat had been omitted and water was pouring through the plughole. He found the cork and quickly remedied the trouble. . . .

“The next task was to place on board the provisions etc, water barrels and 19 bags of grit for ballast (on top of large stones along the keel) and to do this it became necessary to also launch the ‘Stancomb Wills’ and use her as a tender. The ‘James Caird’ was lying 100 yd from the beach, just clear of a reef of submerged rocks.

“With a final wave of the hand, and three squawky cheers from us and the penguins, Sir Ernest and his crew set off on their perilous journey. They made surprising speed for such a frail craft. We watched them until they were out of sight, which was not long, for such a tiny boat was soon lost to sight on the great heaving ocean; as she dipped into the trough of each wave, she soon disappeared, sail and all.”

Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, April 23, 1916: “Today the ‘Stancomb Wills’ was turned upside down. . . .”   Leave a comment

–from the diary of Thomas Orde Lees—

“23 April. The blizzard has subsided but there is now very heavy snow and still a strong wind. It is much colder. The ‘James Caird’ is now completed for Sir Ernest’s latest venturesome undertaking. The carpenter has contrived wonderfully with the very limited resources at hand. Although I would rather die than undertake such a journey, I think her crew should be able to keep fairly dry.

“Today the ‘Stancomb Wills’ was turned upside down in the same way as the ‘Dudley Docker’ to provide a residence for the sailors. We have not been getting many seals yet—two on the 21st and a big one yesterday.

“The ‘James Caird’ being ready for sea, Sir Ernest is only waiting for fair enough weather to launch her. At present there is far too much surf. The following have been selected to accompany him: Captain Worsley, Crean, the carpenter (McNeish) and two sailors, Vincent and McCarthy. The distance is 750 miles in a straight line. The object of undertaking the journey is to obtain relief at the earliest possible moment. Bravo! Brave leader.”

Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, April 21, 1916: “Yesterday Sir Ernest made the momentous decision to sail from here to South Georgia. . . .”   Leave a comment

–from the diary of Thomas Orde Lees—

[from the shelter of the upturned ‘Dudley Docker,’ his party’s tent having been blown to bits during the current blizzard]

“21 April. Nearly everyone’s sleeping bag is now quite sodden through, and this consideration takes preponderance of anything else just at present, except food. Unless we get some fine drying weather I am afraid this semi-aquatic life will soon undermine our health, for there are several others who are nearly as badly of as I am, especially Marston in one of the derelict hoop tents.

“Yesterday Sir Ernest made the momentous decision to sail from here to South Georgia in the ‘James Caird,’ and she was immediately put in the hands of the carpenter and Marston, working on her and decking her over with odd pieces of timber, box lids and canvas. The blizzard which continued today greatly impedes them.”

Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, April 17, 1916: “Then came a hard pull for life, hugging the land and making less than a foot at a time.”   Leave a comment

–from the diary of Sir James Wordie—

“Great was our joy to hear that Wild had found a decent camping place about 6 miles to the W—apparently the only possible place they saw. . . .

“All hands were called to lash up and stow about 5.0 a.m. on Monday 17th. The three boats were launched before 6.0, while the tide was full. I just had time to finish hoosh—full breakfast ration.

“The ‘Caird’ leading, we now rounded the skerries and rowed westwards. So far the weather not so bad, and the wind SE. Fierce gusts swept down off the land, proper ’willy-was’. And it was all we could do the reach the cape, round it and get I under the land. Then came a hard pull for life, hugging the land and making less than a foot at a time. I felt as if I had been hours on the fo’c’sle head tugging at the cumbersome oar. So we gradually pushed on, having lost sight of the other boats in the thick weather: weathered what we call the Castle Rock and finally reached our destination more exhausted I think than by the previous boat journey. All the boats were reached before 5.0.

“Our first remark on landing was that this looked a very windy spot [‘Cape Bloody Wild,’ as it came to be known]. Hot Bovril and a hoosh of sledging ration and then to sleep.”


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