Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party, February 23, 1916: “It causes one to think and say, ‘What is the good of it all?

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

“February 23rd, Wednesday. We decided, although it is still blizzarding, to get under way. At the same time it seems our best plan to eat the last of our Bovril emergency, which we have kept so religiously these last 6 days for the big final effort. I called the Skipper’s [Mackintosh’s] tent, and told him ‘we must attempt to make the depot, and we should trek as soon as we had our last meal.’ I went over to his tent as he did not hear what I said owing to the wind. He said he was feeling somewhat off. I replied, ‘We must move, we are on our last legs, and slowly weakening. It is imperative that we must leave this camp, or we will go under. Have a hot meal and we will come over and assist you to strike camp.’

“’Our food lies ahead, and death stalks us from behind.’

“After our meal we started to dig out the sledge which was many feet under the snow. What a labour. Two digs of the shovel, then our breath exhausted. The dogs were freed and the tent struck. The sledge was taken over to the Skipper’s tent. The heavy snowdrift 10 feet high in places. We managed to get the Skipper’s tent down, packed the sledge. Poor Padre, he fainted as we lifted him to place him on the sledge. It causes one to think and say, ‘What is the good of it all?’ The time taken to strike camp was over four hours. . . .

“Poor Mack, who was very exhausted, was holding on to the sledge. After three, he fell down, we halted. He said, ‘Joycey, wrap me in a snow-cloth and leave me in the snow. I stood over him, my thoughts travelling rapidly. I felt I must cheer him at any cost. . . .”

“We decided to pitch a tent leaving the Skipper and Padre with [Ernest] Wild to care for them, with what little food there was left, which consisted of 16 biscuits, 4-1/2 ounce cubes of Bovril and a little chocolate. We proceeded to try and make the depot 10-1/2 miles away. I left instructions with Wild to eke out the food until the 27th, when I hoped to be back if I found the depot; if not–?”


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