Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, October 27, 1915: “Each man knew it was the end of the ship.”

–from Frank Worsley’s account “Endurance”—

“Actuated by an invisible force countless miles away, the rigging tautened and sang like harp strings, then snapped under the strain as the ship was twisted and wrung by giant hands of ice that grasped her. The men worked almost in silence. To talk was impossible. Each man knew it was the end of the ship. We had lost our home in that universe of ice. We had been cast out into a white wilderness that might well be our tomb.

“Great spikes of ice were now forcing their way through the ship’s sides. By degrees her head was getting more deeply buried. . . . At last, moving about drearily and draggingly as though at a funeral, we realized that we had done all that we could do, and that it remained to us only to leave the ‘Endurance.’

“Even as we stepped over the ice we could hear her beams cracking, broken as easily as match sticks by the irresistible strength of the ice. We were now on the only solid ground that we were fated to see for many a long day—an ice-floe. There we stood, the whole twenty-eight of us, awaiting our leader’s commands.

“Shackleton made a characteristic speech to hearten our party, the sort of speech that only he could make. Simply and in brief sentences he told the men not to be alarmed at the loss of the vessel, and assure them that by hard effort, clean work and loyal co-operation, they could make their way to land.”


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