Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ Expedition, May 28, 1916: “Heavy pack formed an impenetrable barrier.”

–from Shackleton’s account “South”—

“The early part of the voyage down to Elephant Island in the “Southern Sky,” [the steam whaler chartered by Shackleton at Husvik, South Georgia, for the rescue of the marooned men] was uneventful. At noon on Tuesday May 23, we were at sea and steaming a ten knots on a south-westerly course. We made good progress, but the temperature fell very low, and the signs gave me some cause for anxiety as to the probability of encountering ice. On the third night out the sea seemed to grow silent. I looked over the sided and saw a thin film of ice. The sea was freezing around us and the ice gradually grew thicker, reducing our speed to about five knots. Then lumps of old pack began to appear among the new ice. I realized that an advance through pack-ice was out of the question. The ‘Southern Sky’ was a steel-built steamer, and her structure, while strong to resist the waves, would not endure the blows of masses of ice.

“So I took the ship north, and at daylight on Friday we got clear of the pancake-ice. The morning of the 28th was dull and overcast, with little wind. Again the ship’s head was turned to the south-west, but at 3 p.m. a definite line of pack showed up on the horizon. We were about 70 miles from Elephant Island, but there was no possibility of taking the steamer through the ice that barred the way. North-west again we turned. We were directly north of the island the following day, and I made another move south.

“Heavy pack formed an impenetrable barrier.”

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