Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, Night of April 9-10, 1916: “. . .just before 11 pm by the now-familiar cry of ‘crack!’”

–from the diary of Thomas Orde Lees—

“Night of 9-10 April. All hands were awakened just before 11 pm by the now-familiar cry of ‘crack.’ We jumped up just in time to see, as much as it was possible to do so in the dark, the floe separate into two halves and the hear the cry and commotion of a man in the water. The latter was the sailor, Holness, and his position was one of extreme danger, for apart from the usual restrictions of clothing, boots, etc, and the fact that his sleeping bag had fallen in on top of him he was in imminent danger of being crushed between the two halves of the floe.

“As a general rule, the edges come together with a crash, grinding against each other. Providentially, on this occasion, the two fragments did not approach within a yard of one another. This was enough for the rescue of the drowning man, but greatly impeded by subsequent events. The crack had cut of Sir Ernest’s tent and the ‘James Caird’ from the rest of our little floating camp and it was a question of whether we could contrive to bridge the boat over the now-widening crack, the first care—the rescue of Holness—having been satisfactorily accomplished.

“Curiously enough, it was Sir Ernest himself who rescued Holness. Ho doubt he was spending one of his usual wakeful nights, and so was up and out in an instant. First he saved Holness’ sleeping bag and then the man himself, whose chief lament was that he had thus lost all the baccy out of his bag.”

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