Messages from Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance expedition. An illustrated account of the events of 1914-1916 based on the diaries

Shackleton Tweets
6: Rescue From Elephant Island

The events of the expedition: page 1 - South Georgia to Midwinter 1915 | page 2 - midwinter to the sinking of the Endurance | page 3 - life on the ice | page 4 - lifeboats to Elephant Island | page 5 - rescue mission to South Georgia | page 6 - rescue from Elephant Island


May 25 1916
Elephant Island - Living closely brings strains, the "upstairs people" have little space when the weather confines us to our bags.

May 25 1916
Southern Sky -
Sea grows silent, a thin film of ice is forming, the sea is starting to freeze around us speed reduced to 5kts, pack appearing.

May 27 1916
Elephant Island - Mild, overcast, very close packed ice in the bay. From all parts of our low roof dangle a collection of blubbery garments, hung to dry.

May 28 1916
Ernest Shackleton -
North to avoid and skirt the pack, heading south again, 3pm line of pack sighted, about 70 miles from Elephant Island, our boat cannot enter even moderate ice.

May 29 1916
Ernest Shackleton -
Tried once again to move south, heavy pack. It was hard to admit failure, but coal is low, will proceed to the Falklands for a better vessel.

May 31 1916
Ernest Shackleton - Arrive in Falklands, there is no suitable ship in the islands, none from England until October. Contacting governments in South America.

Jun 2 1916
Elephant Island - One hot meal a day due to lack of fuel. Faces, hands black with soot, blubber and grime, food comes with condiments of feathers and hair.

Jun 5 1916
Elephant Island - 163 penguins and a seal caught in a few days! Some had undigested 2nd hand fish bonuses. 6 weeks since Shackleton left, Wild keeps us optimistic.

Jun 5 1916
Ernest Shackleton - Uruguayan government have offered a trawler generously equipped with coal, provisions, clothing etc. We await her arrival in Port Stanley.

Jun 7 1916
Elephant Island - We speculate much about Shackleton, assume tried to reach us with an iron whaler turned back by ice, so seeks a suitable but rarer wooden ship.

Jun 10 1916
Ernest Shackleton - Trawler "Instituto de Pesca No. 1" arrived today from Uruguay, we left at once for Elephant Island, bad weather but making good progress at 6knts.

Jun 10 1916
Elephant Island - No work to be done outside, an hour's exercise each day is all we need to do, wet and blizzard keep us in our bags for 2-3 days at times.

Jun 12 1916
Ernest Shackleton - Sighted peaks of Elephant Island at dawn, our ancient enemy the pack lay in wait, within 20 miles the trawler was stopped by an impenetrable barrier of ice.

Jun 12 1916
Ernest Shackleton -
Tried to push through ice but no progress, danger to propeller, just 3 days coal so turned back. Fog hid the lower slopes, no visual contact.

Jun 14 1916
Elephant Island - Mild and calm weather gets us all out for some exercise, escaping the ubiquitous sooty and oily blubber film of the hut interior.

Jun 15 1916
Elephant Island - Drs. McIlroy & Macklin amputate Blackborow's frostbitten left toes, Hurley stokes the stove with penguin skins, all else but Wild out.

Jun 15 1916
Elephant Island -
Back to our cosy bags after 3hrs sheltering in a cave, patient sleeps off the anaesthetic, sing-song in the evening, Hussey on his banjo.

Jun 21 1916
Elephant Island - Preparing for midwinter tomorrow, giddy at the thoughts of a change to our diet of meat, meat and more meat, at least we don't starve.

Jun 21 1916
Ernest Shackleton - Trawler engine in bad shape, can't wait for repair offered by Uruguayan government Leaving Falklands for Tierra del Fuego to seek another ship.

Jun 22 1916
Elephant Island -
Breakfasted like Antarctic Kings, thick hoosh of Bovril sledging rations and hot drink made from Trumilk powder, peace and goodwill prevails.

Jun 22 1916
Elephant Island -
Lunch - 12 mouldy nut food bars, 20 biscuits and 4 sledging rations boiled together, there is nothing so delicious! Dense fog, no pack ice.

Jun 22 1916
Elephant Island -
Dinner another triumph, followed by toasts and a concert. Orde-Lees "...and so ended one of the happiest days of my life".

Jun 27 1916
Elephant Island - South west blizzard means we are in our bags talking between chattering teeth and thinking of the next meal.

 Shackleton - Endurance expedition

Jun 30 1916
Elephant Island - Sometimes wonder if Shackleton made it at all, perhaps he has to wait for the Aurora, in which case we cannot expect rescue before late July.

Jul 1 1916
Elephant Island - New menu reflects lack of options, tobacco low, substitutes tried - penguin feathers, rope, dried meat, grass.

 Shackleton - Endurance expedition

Jul 5 1916
Elephant Island - The most wonderful sunrise after a blizzard, clouds and our glacier lit up crimson then gold, inky night chased away to pale blue.

Jul 12 1916
Ernest Shackleton - British Association of Magellanes in Punta Arenas raised £1500 in 3 days, 40 yr. old wooden schooner "Emma" was prepared and equipped.

 Shackleton - Endurance expedition

Jul 12 1916
Ernest Shackleton -
Chilean gov. lent us the steamer "Yelcho" to tow us, once more we set for the South to rescue our 22 on Elephant Is.

Jul 13 1916
Elephant Island -
Orde-Lees: if warmth continues may have to take off jersey.. seldom off since 27/10/15 when the ship was crushed, never seen the skin of my body since then.

Jul 14 1916
Ernest Shackleton - Bad weather meant yesterday spent at anchor, cannot delay so started again this morning, with the crack of a gun, the tow rope broke.

Jul 15 1916
Ernest Shackleton -
Increasing gale, lumpy sea, tow rope parted at 12 and again at 1. By 3 Yelcho bilges full of water, coal low, Shackleton let them return to harbour.

Jul 15 1916
Ernest Shackleton - Continuous bad weather for last 3 days, "Emma" now alone and sailing south again to attempt rescue, grave fears about the 22 men on Elephant Island.

Jul 15 1916
Elephant Island - Huge chunk of our glacier fell thunderously raising a 40ft wave straight at our hut, brash ice in the bay damped the wave and saved us.

Jul 20 1916
Elephant Island - Blackborrow's feet not healing well, Hudson very ill, they stay in the hut, heated discussions on relative merits of crumpets or muffins.

Jul 20 1916
Elephant Island -
Balmy weather, some of us shake / beat sleeping bags outside, falling hairs and rubbish are collected and smoked for stray tobacco particles.

Jul 21 1916
Ernest Shackleton - 100 miles from Elephant Island at dawn met ice, bobstay broke, engine water inlet ice-choked, ice too heavy to push through, left pack and stood to the east.

Jul 22 1916
Ernest Shackleton - Hove to overnight, the engine has broken down, we now have sail only. Ice is moving north, made some progress, 108 miles from Elephant Island at noon.

Jul 24 1916
Ernest Shackleton - Ropes are thick as an arm with frozen spray, cold and violent tossing of the storm taking its toll on the crew, ice still blocks the way.

Jul 24 1916
Elephant Island - Wild calculates Aurora could be with us on Aug 25 if that is what we are waiting for, thoughts turn to summer escape if no ship turns up.

Jul 26 1916
Ernest Shackleton - The persistent south winds are dead ahead, we go south at every chance but always a line of ice blocks the way, we may have to turn back.

Jul 28 1916
Ernest Shackleton - cannot reach Elephant Island under these conditions, have turned north to clear the Emma of heavy ice masses, it is difficult to turn back a 3rd time.

Jul 28 1916
Elephant Island - celebrated a good catch of penguins with a tot of methylated spirits at lunch, even the most rabid teetotallers have taken to it.

Aug 1 1916
Elephant Island - Today is 2 yrs since the Endurance left London and 12 months since she was first severely nipped by the ice, still we face uncertainty.

Aug 4 1916
Ernest Shackleton - A tempestuous passage, still some days from Port Stanley. I don't believe the ice remains fast to Elephant Island during the winter, just loose pack.

Aug 8 1916
Ernest Shackleton - Back in the Falklands after a hard and difficult passage, the worse for having failed to reach our men, Discovery due to arrive mid September.

Aug 8 1916
Elephant Island - Food other than wild-caught is very low now, 700 biscuits in reserve, Clarke has taken over as cook, a splendid seaweed hoosh for supper.

Aug 12 1916
Ernest Shackleton - In Stanley one can walk 1.5 miles from the slaughter house to the graveyard, or walk the same in reverse, I cannot wait 6 or 7 weeks here.

Aug 12 1916
Ernest Shackleton - Chilean government have agreed to send the tug "Yelcho" to take us and the "Emma" across to Punta Arenas, they have been constantly helpful.

 Aug 12 1916
Elephant Island - Drank the last of our meths, the last of the milk powder went long ago, on the brighter side we can sometimes get limpets to add to our diet.

 Aug 14 1916
Ernest Shackleton - Have arrived at Punta Arenas, crossing in a north west gale and narrowly escaping disaster, there is still no suitable ship to tackle the ice.

Aug 15 1916
Elephant Island - Gathering limpets from rock pools in balmy temps is occupying our days but is leading to cliques forming and uneven food distribution.

Aug 18 1916
Ernest Shackleton - Discovery will arrive Sept 20th under Admiralty command, to effect my own rescue have again begged Chilean government to let me have the Yelcho.

Aug 18 1916
Elephant Island - Non-return of Shackleton openly discussed by all, wood, nails etc. carefully being saved in preparation for a spring boat journey to Deception Island.

Aug 19 1916
Elephant Island - Winter has returned, heavy snowfall, deep drifts, the bay is thickly beset with ice, -10C, no new penguins or seals, food stocks falling.

Aug 22 1916
Elephant Island - We are grubby and greasy, any efforts to wash without soap ends up with us using the dirt as a sort of polish.

 Shackleton - Endurance expedition

Aug 22 1916
Ernest Shackleton - Chilean Naval Commander agreed to use of the Yelcho for another attempt, we will set off in a few days manned by Chilean Navy volunteers.

Aug 25 1916
Ernest Shackleton - With Crean and Worsley I set sail for Elephant Island once again in good weather, the Yelcho is old and too fragile to touch ice but winter is waning.

 Shackleton - Endurance expedition

Aug 26 1916
Elephant Island - Food seriously short, in our darkest moments there are discussions of who should be sacrificed to save the rest, however unpleasant....

Aug 29 1916
Elephant Island - Wild and 4 others are to attempt to reach Deception Is (250 miles) in Oct in a remaining boat, food is now mainly limpet and seaweed hoosh.

Aug 29 1916
Ernest Shackleton - A Southerly gale has sent the pack north, the Yelcho can slip through in relatively fine weather.

Aug 30 1916
Ernest Shackleton - Approaching Elephant Island in thick fog, sea clear of any pack, dare not wait for the fog to lift, grounded bergs and reefs show we are close.

Aug 30 1916
Elephant Island - Boiled seal backbone for lunch. Wild as ever announced when the sea is clear of ice "Roll up your bags boys, The Boss may come today".

Aug 30 1916
Elephant Island - At lunch, Marston - "Wild, there's a ship! shall we light a fire?" a rush while all dived for the door hole.

 Shackleton - Endurance expedition

Aug 30 1916
Ernest Shackleton - 1.5 miles out we see tiny figures on the beach, waving and lighting a fire, within half an hour we had reached the shore by row boat.

Aug 30 1916
The Boss called "Are you all well?" Wild replied "We are all well, boss", the men fell upon cigarettes thrown ashore.

 Shackleton - Endurance expedition

Aug 30 1916
Shackleton would not set foot on the "godforsaken spot" again, minimal packing, heavy seas could bring the ice back once more.

Aug 30 1916
Within an hour of the Yelcho arriving, all are aboard, Shackleton will not risk the ice, two farewell toots and off north.

 Shackleton - Endurance expedition

Aug 30 1916
After 137 days on Elephant Island, the party arrive at Punta Arenas, Chile on 3rd of Sept 1916, not a single man had been lost.



Credits, sources and references

Diaries -
the diaries of expedition members were used to get the information and quotes that make up this narrative of the expedition.

    Ernest Shackleton - South! - at Project Gutenberg
    Thomas Orde-Lees - see book links below
    Frank Worsley - see book links below
    Frank Hurley - link
    Harry McNeish (Henry McNish) - link

Pictures - from a variety of sources particular credit to:

    State Library of New South Wales - link
    National Library of Australia - link
    National Library of New Zealand - link
    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - link


  Ernest Shackleton Books and Video

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)
Shackleton
dramatization
Kenneth Branagh (2002)
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Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure (Large Format)
Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure (2001)
IMAX dramatization
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The Endurance - Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition
The Endurance - Shackleton's Legendary Expedition (2000)
PBS NOVA, dramatization with original footage
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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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Shackleton
biography by Roland
Huntford
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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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Elephant Island and Beyond: The Life and Diaries of Thomas Orde Lees
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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 -
Jennifer Armstrong
for ages 12 and up
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