Lewis Raphael Rickinson (1883-1945)
 - Biographical notes

Chief engineer Endurance Endurance 1914-17 - 31 at the start of the expedition

The Endurance Expedition

Lewis Rickinson had a particular aversion to the cold, so it seems rather odd that he should volunteer for a trip to Antarctica, however, he was a good engineer with a good understanding of the still relatively new and little used internal combustion engines.

He is known also for a good sense of humour, during a head shaving event on the Endurance, he agreed to have his own head shaved on the condition that he could shave Shackleton's head first.

He suffered particularly on the voyage to Elephant Island with salt-water boils and it is thought to have had a mild heart attack on  landing on Elephant Island. In Shackleton's words:

    "The blubber-stove was quickly alight and the cook began to prepare a hot drink. We were labouring at the boats when I noticed Rickenson turn white and stagger in the surf. I pulled him out of reach of the water and sent him up to the stove, which had been placed in the shelter of some rocks. McIlroy went to him and found that his heart had been temporarily unequal to the strain placed upon it. He was in a bad way and needed prompt medical attention. There are some men who will do more than their share of work and who will attempt more than they are physically able to accomplish. Rickenson was one of these eager souls. He was suffering, like many other members of the Expedition, from bad salt-water boils. Our wrists, arms, and legs were attacked. Apparently this infliction was due to constant soaking with sea-water, the chafing of wet clothes, and exposure."

He was diagnosed by the doctors as having had a mild heart attack, much of his time on Elephant Island was spent in the makeshift hut (the snuggery) with Blackborow and Hudson, the other two injured men in the party.



On return from Antarctica, in the First World War he served in the Royal Navy. Afterwards becoming a Naval Architect and Consulting Engineer.

He died during the Second World War at the age of 62 as Engineer Commander on shore based H.M.S. Pembroke.

References to Lewis Rickinson in Shackleton's book "South!"- buy USA   buy UK
(Shackleton misspells the surname as Rickenson)

  • A path over the shattered floes would be hard to find, and to get the boats into a position of peril might be disastrous. Rickenson and Worsley started back for Dump Camp at 7 a.m. to get some wood and blubber for the fire, and an hour later we had hoosh, with one biscuit each. At 10 a.m. Hurley and Hudson left for the old camp in order to bring some additional dog-pemmican, since there were no seals to be found near us. Then, as the weather cleared, Worsley and I made a prospect to the west and tried to find a practicable road. A large floe offered a fairly good road for at least another mile to the north-west, and we went back prepared for another move. 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.

  • The first consideration, which was even more important than that of food, was to provide shelter. The semi-starvation during the drift on the ice-floe, added to the exposure in the boats, and the inclemencies of the weather encountered after our landing on Elephant Island, had left its mark on a good many of them. Rickenson, who bore up gamely to the last, collapsed from heart-failure. Blackborow and Hudson could not move. All were frost-bitten in varying degrees and their clothes, which had been worn continuously for six months, were much the worse for wear. The blizzard which sprang up the day that we landed at Cape Wild lasted for a fortnight, often blowing at the rate of seventy to ninety miles an hour, and occasionally reaching even higher figures. The tents which had lasted so well and endured so much were torn to ribbons, with the exception of the square tent occupied by Hurley, James, and Hudson. Sleeping-bags and clothes were wringing wet, and the physical discomforts were tending to produce acute mental depression. The two remaining boats had been turned upside down with one gunwale resting on the snow, and the other raised about two feet on rocks and cases, and under these the sailors and some of the scientists, with the two invalids, Rickenson and Blackborow, found head-cover at least. Shelter from the weather and warmth to dry their clothes was imperative, so Wild hastened the excavation of the ice-cave in the slope which had been started before I left.

  • Rickenson, who was still very weak and ill, but very cheery, obtained a place in the boat directly above the stove, and the sailors having lived under the Stancomb Wills for a few days while she was upside down on the beach, tacitly claimed it as their own, and flocked up on to its thwarts as one man.

References to Lewis Rickinson by Orde-Lees in "Elephant Island and Beyond" buy USA   buy UK

  • We nearly all find something to occupy ourselves with; some sleep in the afternoon, others play cards and Hussey and Rickinson (the chief engineer) the banjo and fiddle respectively, and fortunately, in concert.

  • Head shaving
    We have had side-splitting fun this evening. Everyone submitted to having their hair cropped close with shears. Rickinson our chief engineer really has very handsome dark wavy hair and was not at all anxious to have it cut off, so in fun he told Sir Ernest that he would let him cut it if Sir Ernest would afterwards permit him to cut his. This Sir Ernest agreed to , so now we are all practically bald, leader and all.

  • Rickinson (chief engineer) attired as a rather as a rather sprightly dame rendered a love ballad, appearing in the second half of the programme as a horrid little dwarf when he sang Sam Mayo's song, Push it under the door.

  • Rickinson is about 33 and possesses unusually fine, nearly black hair; Kerr's hair is also wavy but not quite up to Rickinson's standard. Like all engineers, they divulge so little of their antecedents that it is difficult to say just where either of them come from, or just how either of them became engineers, except that they have "done the shops" which is a necessary preliminary to the career of all self-respecting engineers. Both are thoroughly efficient and so unassuming that one would infinitely prefer them as permanent companions to many of my other present comrades.

    Kerr is but 21 years of age. He is an excellent workman and both he and Rickinson have done several little mechanical jobs for the motor-sledge far better than I could ever have hoped to do them for myself. Rickinson has had the rather unique experience of having been engineer in a ship filled with internal combustion engines and Kerr has been in one of the large oil tank steamers.

    Rickinson never really had any desire to spend the winter down here and perhaps at first was affected more by the cold than anyone else, but is now so much acclimatised to it as the rest of us, and does not regret having come. Sir Ernest has taken a great liking to him, and he has such nice quiet ways that I am not altogether surprised. Taking them all round, our two engineers are very nice little fellows, if one may be so patronising as to say so.


Other Crew of the Endurance Expedition

Bakewell, William - Able Seaman
Blackborow, Percy - Stowaway (later steward)
Cheetham, Alfred - Third Officer
Clark, Robert S. - Biologist
Crean, Thomas - Second Officer
Green, Charles J. - Cook
Greenstreet, Lionel - First Officer
Holness, Ernest - Fireman/stoker
How, Walter E. - Able Seaman
Hudson, Hubert T. - Navigator
Hurley, James Francis (Frank) - Official Photographer
Hussey, Leonard D. A. - Meteorologist
James, Reginald W. - Physicist
Kerr, Alexander. J. - Second Engineer

Macklin, Dr. Alexander H. - Surgeon
Marston, George E. - Official Artist
McCarthy, Timothy - Able Seaman
McIlroy, Dr. James A. - Surgeon
McLeod, Thomas - Able Seaman
McNish, Henry - Carpenter
Orde-Lees, Thomas  - Motor Expert and Storekeeper
Rickinson, Lewis - First Engineer
Shackleton, Ernest H. - Expedition Leader
Stephenson, William - Fireman/stoker
Vincent, John - Able Seaman
Wild, Frank - Second in Command
Wordie, James M. - Geologist
Worsley, Frank - Captain

Biographical information - I am concentrating on the Polar experiences of the men involved. Any further information or pictures visitors may have will be gratefully received. Please email  - Paul Ward, webmaster.

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  Ernest Shackleton Books and Video

South - Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance Expedition
South - Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance Expedition (1919)
original footage - DVD

Shackleton - The Greatest Survival Story of All Time (3-Disc Collector's Edition)
Kenneth Branagh (2002) - DVD

Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure (Large Format)
Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure (2001)
IMAX dramatization - DVD

The Endurance - Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition
The Endurance - Shackleton's Legendary Expedition (2000)
PBS NOVA, dramatization with original footage - DVD
Endurance, The Greatest Adventure Story Ever Told, book
Endurance : Shackleton's Incredible Voyage
Alfred Lansing (Preface) - Book

South with Endurance:
Frank Hurley - official photographer

South: The Story of Shackleton's Last Expedition, 1914-17
South! Ernest Shackleton
Shackleton's own words

 Shackleton's Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer
Shackleton's Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer

Shackleton's Boat Journey: The narrative of Frank Worsley


biography by Roland

The Quest for Frank Wild, biography by Angie Butler

The Endurance : Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition
by Caroline Alexander

Mrs. Chippy's Last Expedition:
The Remarkable Journal of Shackleton's Polar-Bound Cat

Shackleton's Forgotten Men
Lennard Bickel

Elephant Island and Beyond: The Life and Diaries of Thomas Orde Lees Book
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