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
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 Wordie
secured 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. Wordie, engaged
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 ship.
- The weather cleared a little, and after lunch
we struck camp. I took Rickenson, Kerr,
Wordie, 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.
SCIENTIFIC WORK - By
J. M. WORDIE, M.A. (Cantab.), Lieut. R.F.A.
Landmarks named after James Wordie
Feature Name: Wordie Ice Shelf
Feature Type: glacier
Description: 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.
Variant Name(s) - Wordie Shelf Ice
Description: 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
Description: The SW point
of Visokoi Island in the South Sandwich Islands. Charted in 1930
by DI personnel on the Discovery II.
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Clark, Robert S.
Green, Charles J.
How, Walter E.
Hudson, Hubert T.
Hurley, James F. (Frank)
Hussey, Leonard D. A.
James, Reginald W.
Kerr, A. J.
Macklin, Dr. Alexander
Marston, George E.
McIlroy, Dr. James A.
Motor Expert and Storekeeper
Shackleton, Ernest H.
Wordie, James M.