On This Day – May 10th 1916

The James Caird Reaches South Georgia.

The Endurance Expedition.

“We fought the seas and the winds and at the same time had a daily struggle to keep ourselves alive. At times we were in dire peril.”
Sir Ernest Shackleton – South

On May 10th 1916 Shackleton, Worsley, Crean, McCarthy, Vincent and McNish reached South Georgia aboard the James Caird lifeboat, which they had sailed from Elephant Island. The 800 mile journey across the planets most violent stretch of water had taken them 16 torrid days to complete. One can only wonder, as to whether the weary, frozen, starved and parched men realised the sheer enormity of their achievement, as they dragged themselves and their boat from the icy waters that day.
Traversing the Weddell Sea is never anything less than a mammoth task. Doing so in a 23 foot long lifeboat during the Antarctic Winter, is almost beyond comprehension. But that is exactly what those six men did. Continue Reading →

On This Day – April 17th 1916

The Voyage To Cape Wild

The Endurance Expedition

“Wild was to proceed westwards along the coast and was to take with him four of the fittest men, Marston, Crean, Vincent, and McCarthy.” *

Frank Wild

Frank Wild

Having finally reached Elephant Island, with the abject crew of the Endurance, after a deplorable seven day journey in three lifeboats, Ernest Shackleton now had to consider, putting his men to sea again. The sanctuary of the pebble beach they had camped upon was simply not safe enough for a long term stay, as evidence of high tides was clearly visible, and the area offered little in the way of shelter from either the weather or indeed the sea.

Shackleton decided that Frank Wild should explore the coastline of the island in the Stancomb Wills, and endeavour to find a more suitable site, where a long term camp could be established. Wild took with him Tom Crean, Marston, Vincent and McCarthy as they were the strongest and fittest of the bedraggled party, and headed westwards in the tiny lifeboat. Shackleton and Hurley ventured west too, on foot, in an effort to find a suitable haven, should the efforts of the men on the Wills prove unsuccessful.

After three hours of futile searching, Shackleton and Hurley turned back for camp. Not long after their return, the decision to seek out a new station, was entirely justified as the incoming tide began to encroach further up the beach, and soon forced the group to move the entire camp.

The men who had been resting, as well as repairing and drying their clothing, were soon labouring to move the boats and their supplies to higher ground, which brought them nearer to the overhanging cliffs. When Wild and his crew arrived back in the Wills, they reported that they had found a 200 yard long sandy stretch, that could serve the purpose of establishing camp, and it was seven miles west of their current position. Where the sandy spit ended, it was backed up with a long snowy slope, that offered more possibilities than the rocky cliffs that were currently abaft of them. Aside from this they could find no other suitable area that could be used – “Beyond, to the west and south-west, lay a frowning line of cliffs and glaciers, sheer to the water’s edge.” **

Continue Reading →

On This Day – April 16th 1916 Shackleton’s Lifeboats Make Landfall On Elephant Island

Shackleton’s Lifeboats Make Landfall On Elephant Island

The Endurance Expedition

Ernest Shackleton

Ernest Shackleton

On April 9th 1916, the ice floe that Shackleton and the crew of the Endurance, had established Patience Camp upon, had begun to break up beneath their feet, and forced them into a rather hasty evacuation. The men had previously managed to salvage three lifeboats from the Endurance which had been first trapped in the ice of the Weddell Sea in January 1915, before it sank on November 21st, of that year, and these vessels were their only hope of escape.

The three lifeboats had earlier been named after the chief financial backers of the expedition. Shackleton took command of the largest of the lifeboats, the James Caird, the Dudley Docker was commanded by Worsley, and Hubert Hudson took command of the Stancomb Wills.
However Hudson’s mental condition was deteriorating, after months of confinement on the ice, and he was suffering badly with frostbite, so it was soon Tom Crean who assumed command of the Wills. Being the smallest and most vulnerable of the three crafts, Crean’s task was immense and his efforts in keeping the Wills afloat, sailing through a labyrinth of ice and battling the rough sea, was truly heroic. Conditions on the boats were appalling as the freezing, soaked and hungry men suffered from seasickness and diarrhoea, as they sailed in search of land.

Initially Shackleton had contemplated reaching either Deception Island or Hope Island, but after three days at sea, Worsley ascertained that the strong currents had been causing the boats to drift south east. Taking this and the wretched condition of his men into consideration, Shackleton opted to strike for what he deemed the nearest attainable landfall – Elephant Island.

Continue Reading →