On This Day – February 2nd, 1916.
Shackleton retrieves the Stancomb Wills, lifeboat from Ocean Camp.
The Endurance Expedition (1914-1917).
The smallest of the three boats – the Stancomb Wills – salvaged from the Endurance, had been left behind when the camp was abandoned, on December 23rd 1915.
The plan then had been to haul the James Caird and Dudley Docker, lifeboats, laden with their supplies to Paulet Island, some 340 miles away.
But the surface conditions, would see them cover less than 8 miles, after seven days of back breaking labour.
Shackleton abandoned the effort on December 29th and established Patience Camp. With supplies running low, in February, he sent Macklin and Hurley, back to Ocean Camp, to retrieve whatever food, had been left behind.
On February 2nd, 1916, Shackleton sent a team of 18 men, under the command of Frank Wild, to retrieve the boat. It again proved to be a laborious task, but the Wills was back in Patience Camp, by 12.30 pm that day.
The following morning Shackleton decided to send Tom Crean and Alexander Macklin back again, this time to retrieve whatever gear they thought would be of use. They got to within a mile of the camp, when wide leads in the ice, made further progression impossible.
Ocean Camp had been cut adrift, and they were never able to reach it again. They sat out their time in idle isolation, on the drifting floes of Patience Camp, for well in excess of three months. On April the 8th, the ice beneath them began to break up, and the following morning, the voyage to Elephant Island was underway, with 28 men crammed into the three boats.
On This Day – April 9th 1916 – Tom Crean
Had Shackleton waited another day, to fetch the Stancomb Wills, it would have proved an insurmountable task. Moving all 28 men to Elephant Island, aboard the two remaining boats – the James Caird and the Dudley Docker, would in all likelihood have ended in desperate tragedy. As that journey transpired, it was only through enormous effort that the boats were kept afloat, amid the tumultuous, berg filled waters.