Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, May 25, 1916: “Living under such conditions, piled close upon one another such as we are. . . .”

–from the diary of Thomas Orde Lees, one of the twenty-six men marooned on Elephant Island—

“25 May. Strong north-east wind. When will the pack go? Not with this wind. My next-door neighbor [adjacent sleeping-bag in the close quarters of the upturned-boats hut] the cook [Charlie Green], was pouring forth his woes this morning, but really I have so many troubles of my own that I am afraid I gave him little consolation.

“The occupants of the bags on the thwarts above me, Stephenson and Holness, got their bags wet with salt water, which seems bad for the hair, and now their bags are moulting and every time they emerge from them, hair descends upon me literally in thousands. If I happen to be having my food at the time, this is most unpleasant and naturally calls forth remonstrances from me. They, in turn, being unable to help it, naturally think I ought not to complain and it requires considerable restraint to prevent oneself being drawn into an altercation.

“Living under such conditions, piled close upon one another such as we are, we have been given to understand that we are all on an equal footing. Of course the sailors, like most people of their class, have no sense of proportion and immediately begin to take advantaged of it. There is one brilliant exception, Bakewell, a Canadian of some refinement, who is always respectful as well as being self-respectful.”


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