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Shackleton, Sir Ernest (1874-1922)
Trans-Antarctica Expedition 1914 - 1917 page 4

Ernest Shackleton, Trans Antarctic Expedition:  Page 1: Preparation Page 2: Into the pack ice | Elephant Island Page 3: The voyage of the James Caird  Page 4: South Georgia again Page 5: Timeline and map Page 6: Shackleton pictures 1 Page 7: Shackleton pictures 2 | Crew of the Endurance | Shop

South Georgia - Again
The "snuggery" on Elephant Island
The "Snuggery" the upturned lifeboats used by the men left on Elephant Island on top of small rock walls and proofed against the weather by tarpaulins and other cloth remnants.


Composite view of the "snuggery"
The "Snuggery" composite picture, photograph of the outside with an artists impression of the arrangement of the sleeping quarters on the inside.


Mountains near Stromness Bay, South Georgia - 1994
photo NOAA


Elephant Island - photo NOAA


Elephant Island at sunrise - photo NOAA


Leaving Elephant Island
The rescue boat arrives at Elephant Island


Chilean steamer Yelcho. The boat that finally managed to reach Elephant Island and rescue Shackleton's stranded men.





There was still a major obstacle to overcome. They had landed 22 miles from the Stromness whaling station as the crow flies. In order to get there they had to go across the backbone of mountains that ran the length of South Georgia, a journey that no-one had ever managed, the map depicted the area as a blank.

McNeish and Vincent were too weak to attempt the journey so Shackleton left them with MaCarthy to care for them. On May 15th Shackleton, Crean and Worsley set out to cross the mountains and reach the whaling station, they crossed glaciers, icy slopes and snow fields. At a height of about 4500 feet, they looked back and saw the fog closing up behind them. Night was falling and with no tent or sleeping bags, they had to descend to a lower altitude. They slid down a snowy slope in a matter of minutes losing around 900 feet in the process. They had a hot meal with two of them sheltering the cooker from the wind. Darkness fell and they carried on walking, soon a full moon appeared lighting their way. They climbed again and ate another hot meal to renew their energy.

They were soon able to make out an island in the distance that they recognized, but realised that they had taken the wrong direction and had to retrace their steps. At 5 a.m. they sat down exhausted in the lee of a large rock wrapping their arms around each other to keep warm. Worsley and Crean fell asleep, but Shackleton realised that if they all did so, they may never wake again. He woke them five minutes later and told them they had been asleep for half an hour, once again they set off.

There was now but one ridge of jagged peaks between them and Stromness, they found a gap and went through. At 6.30 a.m. Shackleton was standing on a ridge he had climbed to get a better look at the land below, he thought he heard the sound of a steam whistle calling the men of the whaling station from their beds. He went back to Worsley and Crean and told them to watch for 7 o'clock as this would be when the whalers were called to work. Sure enough, the whistle sounded right on time, the three men must have never heard a more welcome sound.

"Boys, this snow-slope seems to end in a precipice, but perhaps there is no precipice. If we don't go down we shall have to make a detour of at least five miles before we reach level going. What shall it be?"

"Try the slope".

The three walked downwards to 2000 feet above sea level. They came across a gradient of steep ice, two hours later, they had cut steps and roped down another 500 feet, a slide down a slippery slope placed them at 1500 feet above sea level on a plateau. They still had some distance to go before they reached the whaling station. The going was still less than easy and they had some climbing still to do to negotiate ridges between them and their goal.

At 1:30 p.m. they climbed the final ridge and saw a small whaling boat entering the bay 2500 feet below. They hurried forward and spotted a sailing ship lying at a wharf. Tiny figures could be seen wandering about and then the whaling factory was sighted. The men paused, shook hands and congratulated each other on accomplishing their heroic journey.

The only possible way down seemed to be along a stream flowing to the sea below. They went down through the icy water, wet to their waist, shivering cold and tired. Then they heard the unwelcome sound of a waterfall. The stream went over a 30 foot fall with impassable ice-cliffs on both sides. They were too tired to look for another way down so they agreed the only way down was through the waterfall itself. They fastened their rope around a rock and slowly lowered Crean, the heaviest, into the waterfall. He completely disappeared and came out the bottom gasping for air. Shackleton went next and Worsley, the most nimble member of the party, went last. They had dropped the logbook, adze and cooker before going over the edge and once on solid ground, the items were retrieved, the only items brought out of the Antarctic.

"..... we had entered a year and a half before with well-found ship, full equipment, and high hopes. We had 'suffered, starved and triumphed, groveled down yet grasped at glory, grown bigger in the bigness of the whole.' We had seen God in His splendours, heard the text that Nature renders. We had reached the naked soul of man"

The whaling station, was now just a mile and a half away. They tried to smarten themselves up a little bit before entering the station, but their beards were long, their hair was matted, their clothes, tattered and stained as they hadn't been washed in nearly a year. At 3 o'clock in the afternoon of May 20th, they walked into the outskirts of Stromness whaling station, as they approached the station, two small boys met them. Shackleton asked them where the manager's house was and they didn't answer, they just turned and ran from them as fast as they could. They came to the wharf where the man in charge was asked if Mr. Sørlle (the manager) was in the house.

Mr. Sørlle came out to the door and said, "Well?"
"Don't you know me?" I said.
"I know your voice," he replied doubtfully. "You're the mate of the Daisy."
(the Daisy was the last of the American open boat whalers, it had visited South Georgia in 1913)
"My name is Shackleton," I said.
Immediately he put out his hand and said, "Come in. Come in."

They washed, shaved, ate and slept. Worsley boarded a whaler went to rescue the three left on the other side of South Georgia at King Haakon Bay sheltering under the upturned James Caird. During this rescue a storm blew up that had it come the day previously could have spelled disaster for the three men crossing to Stromness and consequently the whole of the crew, those on the wrong side of South Georgia and all those on Elephant Island.

Shackleton remained at Stromness and prepared plans for the rescue of the men on Elephant Island. Shackleton, Worsley and Crean left on the British whale catcher Southern Sky that had been laid up for the winter bound for Elephant Island on the 23rd of May.

Later, Shackleton was to write in a letter to a friend, "When we got to the whaling station, it was the thought of all those comrades that made us so mad with joy...We didn't so much feel safe as that they would be saved"

Sixty miles from the island the pack ice forced them to retreat to the Falkland Islands whereupon the Uruguayan Government loaned Shackleton the trawler Instituto de Pesca but once again the ice turned them away. They went to Punta Arenas where British and Chilean residents donated £1500 to Shackleton in order to charter the schooner Emma. One hundred miles north of Elephant Island the auxiliary engine broke down and thus a fourth attempt would be necessary. The Chilean Government now loaned the steamer Yelcho, under the command of Captain Luis Pardo, to Shackleton.

As the steamer approached Elephant Island, the men on the island were approaching lunchtime. It was August 30th 1916 when Marston spotted the Yelcho in an opening in the mist. He yelled, "Ship O!" but the men thought he was announcing lunch. A few moments later the men inside the "hut" heard him running forward, shouting, "Wild, there's a ship! Hadn't we better light a flare?" As they scrambled for the door, those bringing up the rear tore down the canvas walls. Wild put a hole in their last tin of fuel, soaked clothes in it, walked to the end of the spit and set them afire.

The boat soon approached close enough for Shackleton, who was standing on the bow, to shout to Wild, "Are you all well?". Wild replied, "All safe, all well!" and the Boss replied, "Thank God!" Blackborow, since he couldn't walk, was carried to a high rock and propped up in his sleeping bag so he could view the scene. Frank Wild invited Shackleton ashore to see how they had lived on the Island, but he declined being keen to on their way as soon as possible in the light of previous failed attempts to reach the men due to ice conditions. Within an hour they were headed north to the world from which no news had been heard since October, 1914; they had survived on Elephant Island for 137 days, it was 128 days since Shackleton had left for South Georgia with his small crew on the James Caird.

In 1921 Shackleton was once more drawn back to Antarctica in an attempt to map 2000 miles (3200 km) of coastline and conduct meteorological and geological research. Although he was only 47, he died of a suspected heart attack on board the Quest as she was at anchor in King Edward Cove, South Georgia. Shackleton was buried on South Georgia and his death brought to a close the  "Heroic Age" of Antarctic exploration. The grave was marked by a headstone of Scottish granite in 1928 and is visited regularly by scientists and tourists to this day.

Timeline and map

Historical photographs on this page by permission of National Library of Australia

Not a single man of Shackleton's original twenty-eight was lost. And though the Endurance was lost to the sea ice, the James Caird was brought back to England and survives to this day in Dulwich museum London, a living reminder of an act of remarkable courage in the heroic age of exploration. James Caird Society an official charitable organization honouring the memory of Shackleton

Shackleton's boat, the James Caird at Dulwich museum London.

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Ernest Shackleton Prints

The Beginning of the End

The Endurance is gripped by the ice and is tilted over before being crushed

The Agony of The Endurance
Dogs at rest beside the crushed and soon to be sunk Endurance

  Explorer Ernest Shackleton's Ship "Endurance" Trapped and Slowly Crushed by Ice in Weddell Sea Photographic Print
"Endurance" Trapped and Slowly
Crushed by Ice in Weddell Sea

The "Discovery" Frozen in During the Scott Shackleton and Wilson Exploration of the Antarctic Giclee Print
The "Discovery" Frozen in

During the Scott / Shackleton and Wilson Exploration of the Antarctic

Ernest Shackleton Preparing for a Trans-Antarctic Expedition
Photographic Print

Lt. Shackleton, Captain Scott and Dr. Wilson, Antarctica
Photographic Print

Ernest Shackleton's Expedition Reached Within 100 Miles of the South Pole
Photographic Print
Shackleton's South Pole Car Giclee Print
Shackleton's South Pole Car

Giclee Print

Ernest Shackleton, Irish Antarctic Explorer
Photographic Print

Ernest Shackleton
Giclee Print
Sir Ernest Shackleton Explorer c.1909 Photographic Print
Sir Ernest Shackleton Explorer c.1909

 Photographic Print

Sir Ernest Shackleton
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Recommended Books DVD's and VHS

Endurance, The Greatest Adventure Story Ever Told, book
Endurance : Shackleton's Incredible Voyage
Alfred Lansing (Preface)
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South with Endurance:
Frank Hurley - official photographer
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South: The Story of Shackleton's Last Expedition, 1914-17
South! Ernest Shackleton
Shackleton's own words
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Shackleton's Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer
Shackleton's Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer
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Shackleton's Boat Journey: The narrative of Frank Worsley
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biography by Roland
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The Quest for Frank Wild
biography by Angie Butler
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The Endurance : Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition
by Caroline Alexander
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Mrs. Chippy's Last Expedition:
The Remarkable Journal of Shackleton's Polar-Bound Cat
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Shackleton's Forgotten Men
Lennard Bickel
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Tom Crean an Illustrated Life: Unsung Hero of the Scott & Shackleton Expeditions
Tom Crean: Unsung Hero
biography by Michael Smith

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Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, The True Story of the Endurance Expedition
Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World -
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for ages 12 and up
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Movies / Documentaries
South - Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance Expedition
South - Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance Expedition (1919)
original footage
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Shackleton - The Greatest Survival Story of All Time (3-Disc Collector's Edition)
Kenneth Branagh (2002)
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Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure (Large Format)
Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure (2001)
IMAX dramatization
Buy from Amazon USA DVD  Buy from Amazon UK DVD
The Endurance - Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition
The Endurance - Shackleton's Legendary Expedition (2000)
PBS NOVA, dramatization with original footage
Buy from Amazon USA DVD  Buy from Amazon UK DVD

Roald Amundsen  Douglas Mawson Robert Falcon Scott  Ernest Shackleton

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Shackleton's 1914-17 Trans-Antarctica Expedition on Twitter - follow us now to get the story 100 years to the day later.  @danthewhaler

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Lonely Planet travel guide Antarctica
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Frozen Planet
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Buy from Amazon USA DVD  |  Buy from Amazon UK DVD

The Endurance - Shackleton's Legendary Expedition
Dramatization with original footage

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