Monday, March 14, 2022

Shipwrecked HMS Endurance from 1914 Antarctica Expedition


Yep That Must Be The One

The name Ernest Shackleford may sound familiar — he led several expeditions to Antarctica in the early 1900s. This ship was part of the third one, and as you can see, it didn’t go well.

The first two expeditions did not fully meet the goals so he organized a third — but instead it turned into almost two years of unbelievable hell on Earth. Somehow all 27 of them survived, but when you read the full story and think about all they had to overcome, it’s nearly impossible to believe that nobody died.

They left South Georgia Island (several hundred miles east of the Falklands, in the South Atlantic) on December 5, 1914 — that’s the middle of Summer in the Southern Hemisphere — and within 2 days were surrounded by ice, and within 6 weeks were trapped in it. They had no choice but to wait for winter to come and go and the thaw that they hoped would follow. 

But in October the ship, after months of being pushed this way and that by moving sea ice, was finally gashed open and started taking on water. Forced to abandon the ship and set up camp on ice floes, over the next few weeks they unloaded as much vital cargo as possible and tossed everything else overboard. Within four weeks it sunk in 10,000 feet of water. That’s it in the picture above, just found last week.

During all that time, Shackleford showed great leadership to keep morale up and project confidence:

Shackleton, wrote Alexander Macklin, one of the ship’s surgeons, “did not rage at all, or show outwardly the slightest sign of disappointment; he told us simply and calmly that we must winter in the Pack; explained its dangers and possibilities; never lost his optimism and prepared for winter.”

In private, however, he revealed greater foreboding, quietly expressing to the ship’s captain, Frank Worsley, one winter’s night that, “The ship can’t live in this, Skipper … It may be a few months, and it may be only a question of weeks, or even days … but what the ice gets, the ice keeps.

Believe it or not, their nightmare had barely begun. I could summarize it here, but to get the full impact of how amazing it is that nobody perished in this 20 month adventure, you should read about it here: Voyage of the James Caird.