The Endurance Expedition
Jock Wordie was an amiable and popular
member of the expedition. He was expedition geologist
and head of the scientific staff, such was his commitment
to the expedition, that he gave Shackleton some of his
own money to help buy fuel for the Endurance.
Wordie was recommended to Shackleton
for the expedition by Raymond Priestley (later knighted)
who had been the geologist with Shackleton on the Nimrod
expedition. He was known by the crew for a dry sense
of humour and much loved as he was willing to trade
his tobacco ration for rock specimens with men who had
long since smoked theirs when stranded on Elephant Island.
For Wordie, "The
worst part of the whole expedition was the open boat
journey to Elephant Island".
James Wordie was born in Glasgow,
Scotland, and pursued an academic career reading geology
at Glasgow University and at St. John's College
Cambridge. He visited the Yukon and Alaska in 1913 and
by 1914 he had his degree and was working for Cambridge
University as a demonstrator in petrology. He had also
become a proficient rock climber while in Germany and
Switzerland, a skill all the better for a geologist
to pursue his interest.
On return to England, he was enrolled
as a Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery and served
with distinction, he was badly wounded in the left leg
at the Battle of
After the war, Wordie returned to
Cambridge and resumed his academic career, initially
as a lecturer in Geology. He had a long and very successful
career and was the most renowned of all the expedition
members for his professional life. He accompanied a
number of trips to the Arctic, to Spitzbergen, Baffin
Island and Greenland, soon he was leading the trips.
Through these expeditions, many students received an
introduction to polar fieldwork. He rose to the level
of Senior Tutor at St. John's College in 1933 subsequently
becoming master of the college.
He was Chairman of the Scott Polar
Research Institute (SPRI) from 1937 till 1955, was appointed
C.B.E. (Commander of the Order of the British Empire)
in 1947 and gained several other honours from Cambridge
University and the wider world culminating in a knighthood
in 1957. He was an active and influential member of
many British polar committees and a government advisor
on polar matters.
James Wordie died on the 16th of January
1962 in Cambridge at the age of 72.
References to James
Wordie in Shackleton's book "South!"
- The afternoon was not without
incident. The bergs in the neighbourhood were very
large, several being over 200 ft. high, and some
of them were firmly aground, showing tidemarks.
A barrier-berg bearing north-west appeared to be
about 25 miles long. We pushed the ship against
a small banded berg, from which
several large lumps of biotite granite. While the
Endurance was being held slow ahead against the
berg a loud crack was heard, and the geologist had
to scramble aboard at once.
- Worsley examined a spot where
a killer had smashed a hole 8 ft. by 12 ft. in 12½
in. of hard ice, covered by 2½ in. of snow. Big
blocks of ice had been tossed on to the floe surface.
in measuring the thickness of young ice, went through
to his waist one day just as a killer rose to blow
in the adjacent lead. His companions pulled him
out hurriedly. y situation; but was not altogether
without material. The pebbles found in the penguins
were often of considerable interest, and some fragments
of rock were brought up from the sea floor with
the sounding-lead and the drag-net. On the 7th
Wordie and Worsley
found some small pebbles, a piece of moss, a perfect
bivalve shell, and some dust on a berg fragment,
and brought their treasure-trove proudly to the
- The weather cleared a little,
and after lunch we struck camp. I took Rickenson,
and Hudson as a breakdown gang to pioneer a path
among the pressure-ridges. Five dog teams followed.
Wild's and Hurley's teams were hitched on
to the cutter and they started off in splendid style.
They needed to be helped only once; indeed fourteen
dogs did as well or even better than eighteen men.
- The quarters in the 'tween
decks were completed by the 10th, and the men took
possession of the cubicles that had been built.
The largest cubicle contained Macklin, McIlroy,
Hurley, and Hussey and it was named "The Billabong."
Clark and Wordie
lived opposite in a room called "Auld Reekie."
- This penguin's stomach proved
to be filled with freshly caught fish up to 10 in.
long. Some of the fish were of a coastal or littoral
variety. Two more emperors were captured on the
following day, and, while
Wordie was leading
one of them towards the ship, Wild came along with
his team. The dogs, uncontrollable in a moment,
made a frantic rush for the bird, and were almost
upon him when their harness caught upon an ice-pylon,
which they had tried to pass on both sides at once.
The result was a seething tangle of dogs, traces,
and men, and an overturned sled, while the penguin,
three yards away, nonchalantly and indifferently
surveyed the disturbance. He had never seen anything
of the kind before and had no idea at all that the
strange disorder might concern him. Several cracks
had opened in the neighbourhood of the ship, and
the emperor penguins, fat and glossy of plumage,
were appearing in considerable numbers. We secured
nine of them on May 6, an important addition to
our supply of fresh food.
- Worsley, Hurley, and
Wordie made a journey
to a big berg, called by us the Rampart Berg, on
the 11th. The distance out was 7½ miles, and the
party covered a total distance of about 17 miles.
Hurley took some photographs and
Wordie came back
rejoicing with a little dust and some moss.
- The pioneer sledge party, consisting
of Wordie, Hussey,
Hudson, and myself, carrying picks and shovels,
started to break a road through the pressure-ridges
for the sledges carrying the boats. The boats, with
their gear and the sledges beneath them, weighed
each more than a ton. The cutter was smaller than
the whaler, but weighed more and was a much more
strongly built boat.
- By J. M. WORDIE, M.A. (Cantab.), Lieut. R.F.A.
- By J. M. WORDIE, M.A. (Cantab.), Lieut. R.F.A.
Landmarks named after James Wordie
Feature Name: Wordie Ice Shelf
Feature Type: glacier
A confluent glacier projecting as an ice shelf into
the SE part of Marguerite Bay between Cape Berteaux
and Mount Edgell, along the W coast of Antarctic Peninsula.
Discovered by the BGLE under Rymill, 1934-37.
Name(s) - Wordie Shelf Ice
Feature Type: summit
Rock outcrop 4 mi SE of Mount Biscoe and 4 mi ENE of
Mount Hurley. Discovered in January 1930 by the BANZARE,
Feature Name: Wordie Point
Feature Type: summit
The SW point of Visokoi Island in the South Sandwich
Islands. Charted in 1930 by DI personnel on the Discovery
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Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration?
Clark, Robert S.
Green, Charles J.
Hudson, Hubert T.
Hurley, James F. (Frank)
Hussey, Leonard D. A.
James, Reginald W.
Kerr, A. J.
Macklin, Dr. Alexander H.
Marston, George E.
McIlroy, Dr. James A.
Motor Expert and Storekeeper
Shackleton, Ernest H.
Second in Command
Wordie, James M.