Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party, March 9, 1916: “he had already passed along the road to the Great Unknown.”

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

“March 9th, Thursday. Had a distracting night. Temperature down below -30. Poor Padre was groaning with pain. In the medical chest there appears to be little to relieve him. He was anxious to know the time. When Wild said 4 a.m., he remarked “Have you lost your bearings?” He then told Richy his heart was behaving in a strange manner, and what was the best thing to do. Richy advised, ‘I think it would be wiser to try and lie still.’ Poor Padre, he must have passed away shortly afterwards.

“Turned out 5.45, Glancing across the tent noticed to my surprise that the Padre’s head lay out of his bag. I though this is not in accordance with the nature of our sleeping-bag conditions and at a temp. of -35. He appeared to be asleep, the ice had formed on his beard. Richy said, ‘I think he has gone, Joycey.’ I examined him. To my sorrow and distress, he had already passed along the road to the Great Unknown. He had been sick indeed for 57 days, over 40 of which he was carried on the sledge.

“The jolting of the sledge, on a weak heart would be agonizing to him and required much fortitude to brave it. He never complained, always cheerful. Sometimes when lifted on the sledge he would faint.

“We were powerless to aid him further. All we could do was to make him as comfortable as possible. The absence of sun made matters worse; no chance to dry his sleeping-bag. [Ernest] Wild was a tentmate in a thousand, cared for him all the while; truly a mother at such a time.

“I covered him up.”


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