Though a spectacular attempt to cross the Antarctic Continent on foot did not succeed, Shackleton’s 1914-
THE CALL OF ADVENTURE summoned Sir Ernest Shackleton south again in 1914. This was five years after the conclusion of his 1907-
ON New Year’s Day, 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton published the plan of his second Transcontinental Antarctic Expedition. He proposed to attempt the most spectacular feat remaining to be accomplished in the Antarctic -
A new ship, the Endurance, was to take Shackleton’s party to the Weddell Sea and land them as far southward as possible. If they reached there early enough in the season, the transcontinental journey would be begun immediately. In that event the party should have been at the South Pole by January, 1915. Meanwhile a second vessel, the Aurora, would have landed in McMurdo Sound (Ross Sea) a supporting party which would lay depots of food and fuel as far southward as the Beardmore Glacier (83½° S.). These would be picked up by the transcontinental party on the northward half of their march, as it was impracticable for them to start with sufficient food for the whole journey.
If the transcontinental party could not be landed in time to attempt the crossing with any hope of success before the Antarctic winter of 1915, they would start as early as possible in the latter half of that year. The depots, of course, would be equally valuable in either contingency.
Such was the plan. It was never realized, and perhaps never will be. But Shackleton’s attempt led to a series of hairbreadth escapes and adventures so remarkable that, if published as fiction, they would probably have met with the criticism that “such things don’t happen in real life”.
By the end of July, 1914, the Endurance was ready to sail from England. But the war-
was received within an hour, followed by a later message saying that the authorities wished the expedition to go ahead as planned. Accordingly, the Endurance sailed from Plymouth on September 8. The Aurora, already much nearer the scene of her operations, was not due to leave Hobart (Tasmania) till Christmas.
The Endurance left South Georgia on December 5, 1914, and stood southward into the Weddell Sea -
At first all went well. The Endurance met the pack-
ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST PERILOUS SEAS, the Weddell Sea, is shown here. Strong currents impel the vast icefields, which are capable of crushing any ship caught in them. Shackleton's vessel, the Endurance, was trapped on January 19, 1915. In October of that year the ship had to be abandoned. Shackleton with his twenty-
On January 15 they passed, regretfully, a most excellent landing-
The Loss of the “Endurance”
Shackleton did all he could to safeguard his ship and keep his men efficient. Huts were built on the floes alongside for the expedition’s sixty sledgedogs, which were exercised whenever possible. All stores were checked and re-
The Endurance drifted slowly northward. Although both she and the Aurora carried wireless, neither succeeded, while in the Antarctic, in sending an intelligible message, or in picking one up from any outside source. If they could have communicated, Shackleton would have learned that the Aurora was in the same plight as himself. After the depot-
In July the Weddell Sea ice became ominously active. Formidable ridges showed in the pack, indicating that it was being forced up by heavy pressure., One such region appeared quite suddenly not more than three hundred yards from the ship. Enormous masses of ice were piled up in wild confusion. Shackleton had made preparations to abandon ship in the event of emergency, and on August 1, 1915 -
October, however, saw the beginning of the end. They were then about 69° S. 51° W. -
“NATURE’S GIGANTIC JIGSAW PUZZLE” is how Shackleton described pack-
“The Boss”, as his men delighted to call him, was facing a situation grim beyond all precedent. His ship was lost. His twenty-
But Shackleton was one of those born leaders whom no emergency can surprise and no difficulty baffle. He mustered his men, and told them that, after overhauling the stores and discarding all superfluous gear, the party would sledge their way northward over the floes. They would take the ship’s three boats with them. Their objective would be Paulet Island (some 350 miles to the north-
By hard sledging the men contrived to shift their tents, provisions, the three boats, and their personal belongings (sternly reduced to a maximum of 2 lb. a man) to a thick, heavy old floe about a mile and half from what was left of the Endurance. At this camp (“Ocean Camp”) they stayed nearly two months, the labour of sledging even this tiny distance having shown that such slow progress was not worth the labour it entailed. They lived, as far as possible, on seal and penguins, reserving their provisions -
On December 23 Shackleton made a final effort to speed up their progress by sledging -
Worsley’s observations had gradually revealed that they could not hope to make Paulet Island. On March 17 they were sixty miles due eastward of it -
On April 7, 1916, at daylight, came a welcome sight -
THE PLANNED ROUTES of the Expedition’s two parties are shown on this map. The Endurance was to take Shackleton’s party to the Weddell Sea and land it as near the Pole as possible. It would then make the transcontinental journey via the South Pole. A supporting party was to proceed at the same time in the Aurora, land at McMurdo Sound in the Ross Sea and lay depots of food and fuel, to be picked up by the first party on the northward section of their journey.
By now the floe on which the survivors of the Endurance were camped was not far from the seaward edge of the pack, and they could feel it lifting to the never-
About eleven that night the new floe suddenly split and one man (Holness) fell down the crack in his sleeping-
The party spent the rest of the night on what remained of the floe -
Thanks to Worsley’s accurate navigation under great difficulties -
Inspection showed, however, that the party could not stay long where it was -
One thing was obvious -
Shackleton picked his little crew with great care. His first choice was Worsley -
For sixteen days her crew fought their way towards South Georgia through mountainous seas, while undergoing every conceivable form of hardship and discomfort. For those off duty, sleep, except in snatches, was out of the question -
EXERCISING THE DOGS. The photograph shows George Marston leading he dogs down on to the ice floe from the Endurance. Shackleton is standing on the platform overlooking the gangway. Six teams had been formed, each having nine dogs, and considerable time and pains had been spent on their training. Each team had its leader dog whose duty it was to maintain discipline in the team by punishing disobedience or shirking. Crean, Hurley, Macklin, Marston, Mcllroy and Wild were in charge of the respective teams, and each man was responsible for exercising, training and feeding his own dogs.
On the fifth day out a furious gale compelled the crew to heave-
On May 6 Worsley managed to “shoot the sun”, and made out that they were within a hundred miles of South Georgia. In two days, if the wind held, they ought to sight it. If they missed it -
On May 8 signs of land began to appear -
Though they had won through to South Georgia, they were still far from help. They were on the south-
They rested for three days, during which a storm carried off the boat’s rudder. But this, with all the Atlantic open to it, came bobbing back into their cove on the next tide, and was reshipped. Then they shifted camp to the head of King Haakon Bay, and Shackleton, with the two fittest men -
THE AURORA, the supporting ship of Shackleton’s expedition, homeward bound after rescuing the Ross Sea shore-
Two hours’ hard climbing saw them 2,500 feet above the sea. Then they roped up, and went forward among holes and crevasses, painfully breaking trail through the soft snow. A slow descent down a huge glacier brought them to the head of Possession Bay -
Difficulties of every kind were met. Ice-
Two small boys and an old man ran from them at sight. This was scarcely surprising. Their beards were long and their hair was matted. Their garments had been worn for nearly a year continuously and were black with dirt from head to foot, as were the wearers. The man in charge at the wharf stuck to his post, and Shackleton asked him if Mr. Sorlle (the manager) was in the house. “Yes”, he said, and inquired who they might be.
“We have lost our ship, and come over the island.”
The man repeated this in a tone of utter disbelief, and reported to Sorlle that “three funny-
“Don’t you know me?” asked Shackleton.
“I know your voice”, said Sorlle, doubtfully. “You’re the mate of the Daisy”.
“My name is Shackleton. When was the war over?”
Mb. Sorlle put his house at the wanderers’ disposal, and feasted them royally. Next day Worsley went round to King Haakon Bay in a whaling steamer and picked up McCarthy, Vincent, McNeish and the sturdy little James Caird (now at Dulwich College, Shackleton’s old school), while Shackleton chartered a larger steamer, the Southern Sky, for the relief of the party on Elephant Island. He sailed with her on May 23, but the island proved to be unapproachable in a steel ship as heavy pack now formed an impenetrable barrier all round the Island. After a week of fruitless effort, the Southern Sky made for the Falklands.
It was absolutely imperative, if the Elephant Island men were to be saved, that they should be got off the island before winter set in. To negotiate the pack successfully a wooden ship with a fair turn of speed was required. Shackleton cabled from Port Stanley to England and learned that the Discovery could be sent out, but would not arrive until mid-
Shackleton left Port Stanley in her for Elephant Island on June 10 -
Nothing daunted, he crossed to Punta Arenas on the Strait of Magellan, where the local British colony raised £1,500 to charter an auxiliary schooner, the Emma, for a third attempt. Towed southward by the Chilean steamer Yelcho, the Emma proceeded independently on reaching the edge of the pack. But her engines developed one defect after another, and persistent head-
Shackleton had the Emma towed back to Punta Arenas by the Yelcho. Then, as a last hope, he obtained the Chilean Government’s permission to take the Yelcho, on his promising that he would keep her clear of the ice -
Meanwhile, the party on Elephant Island had contrived to exist, but they were in desperate straits. Under Wild’s invaluable leadership, they had managed to build a low, stone shanty, roofed with the two boats. There, in almost complete darkness and indescribable filth, the party had spent four and a half purgatorial months. The James Caird had sailed on April 24. On August 30, 1916, the men were assembling for lunch -
“The Boss is Safe!”
Weld put a pick through their last tin of petrol and lit a flare. Then they stood in groups, watching a boat being lowered. Down the ladder climbed a familiar figure, and a cheer went up from the castaways, mingled with heartfelt murmurs of “Thank God, the Boss is safe!”
By the luckiest of chances a southerly gale had cleared the pack away from Elephant Island just before the Yelcho had arrived. There was not a moment to waste, and Shackleton headed for the island, at full speed, through thick fog. When this cleared, Worsley’s keen eyes had picked up the camp -
Shackleton had good reason to regard the saving of the Endurance’s crew as the biggest thing he ever did. The ship was beset in January 1915 -
One rescue remained to be effected -
When Shackleton reached New Zealand in December 1916, he found that the New Zealand Government had already organized a relief expedition to the Ross Sea, and had arranged to send the Aurora -
ESKIMO DOGS, OR HUSKIES, play an important part in most Antarctic and Arctic expeditions. They generally supply the tractive power and are yoked together, frequently in eights, to the sledges on which the party’s tents, gear, and provisions are carried. On his previous expedition of 1907-