Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, April 9, 1916: “At 1 pm came the order to launch the boats. . . .”

–from the diary of Thomas Orde Lees—

“9 April. Less swell but any amount of open water all around us. Sir Ernest spent much of the time in cogitation and finally determined to make a start in the boats. We packed up all we could carry. The floe split again during the morning and there was barely enough of it left for us to stand on. At 1 pm came the order to launch the boats and they were soon laden, a consignment of some 200 packages and taking a good hour to stow.

“The crew of the boats:
‘James Caird’: Shackleton, Wild, Clark, Hurley, Hussey, James, Wordie, McNeish, Green, Vincent, McCarthy.
‘Dudley Docker’: Captain Worsley, Greenstreet, Kerr, Orde Lees, Macklin, Cheetham, Marston, McLeod, Holness.
‘Stancomb Wills’: Lieutenant Hudson, Crean, Rickinson, McIlroy, How, Bakewell, Stephenson, Blackborrow.

“About 2 pm we shoved off, the ‘James Caird’ leading. We had a good hoosh for luncheon and everyone felt very fit and full of hope, but the attempt to break out of the pack in small boats must fill the most fearless with apprehension. All three boats passed under the lee of the pack edge when all of a sudden, almost before we realized it, the whole pack was in motion as if impelled by some mysterious force against the direction of the wind and as if descending upon us to once more engulf us in its awful grip.

“It was certainly advancing on us at a speed of over two miles an hour and we had all our work cut out to outstrip it in our heavily laden boats. As it approached, it was creating a regular bow-wave—a most uncanny sight. By 5 pm it was getting dusk and shortly after we pulled up at a small floe to which the ‘James Caird’ had gone in advance under sail. Here we unloaded the boats, hauled them up on to the ice, and prepared to spend a quiet night, but it was not to be.”

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