Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, April 24, 1916: “Sir Ernest and his crew set off on their perilous journey.”

–from the diary of Thomas Orde Lees—

“24 April. The weather having moderated, Sir Ernest decided to launch the ‘James Caird’ and start for South Georgia. . . . To celebrate Sir Ernest’s departure, we had a breakfast of two biscuits and ¼ lb jam each. . . . All hands were now employed in launching her. There was still a good deal of surf and she stuck firmly in the heavy grit until several of us had to go into the water, up to our knees nearly, to lift her in. . . .

“Captain Worsley, Crean and the carpenter had all got aboard just before she floated off but most unwisely stood on the deck instead of getting inside, with the result that it rendered her top heavy and she rolled over almost on to her beam ends, precipitating Vincent and the carpenter into the water. Meanwhile Captain Worsley had discovered that the bottom plug of the boat had been omitted and water was pouring through the plughole. He found the cork and quickly remedied the trouble. . . .

“The next task was to place on board the provisions etc, water barrels and 19 bags of grit for ballast (on top of large stones along the keel) and to do this it became necessary to also launch the ‘Stancomb Wills’ and use her as a tender. The ‘James Caird’ was lying 100 yd from the beach, just clear of a reef of submerged rocks.

“With a final wave of the hand, and three squawky cheers from us and the penguins, Sir Ernest and his crew set off on their perilous journey. They made surprising speed for such a frail craft. We watched them until they were out of sight, which was not long, for such a tiny boat was soon lost to sight on the great heaving ocean; as she dipped into the trough of each wave, she soon disappeared, sail and all.”

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