James Mann Wordie - this picture is in the public domainJames Mann Wordie (1889 - 1962)
 - Biographical notes

Scientist Endurance 1914-17 - 25 at the start of the expedition

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.

 Shackleton - Endurance expedition
Alexander Macklin, James Wordie and Alfred Cheetham (l to r) cleaning the floor of The Ritz aboard Endurance

Extracts from the expedition diary of James Wordie

"The worst part of the whole expedition was the open boat journey to Elephant Island" - James Wordie

15th April 1916, 1 - On board the James Caird approaching Elephant Island
15th April 1916, 2 - On board the James Caird approaching Elephant Island
16th April 1916 - Arrival at Elephant Island

30th August 1916 - Rescued - on board the Yelcho heading for Chile
1st September 1916 - en route for Chile

These diary extracts (which were typed up on returning home) and photographs (by Frank Hurley) appear courtesy of the Wordie family.

Photographs taken by Frank Hurley on the way south on the Endurance at South Georgia.

The pictures show elephants seals, the whaling station of Grytviken and of some of the activities on the whaling station processing the whales.

The ship, the Endurance can be seen at a jetty toward the left in the distant picture and partly in one of the pictures of processing activity. The last picture is of Grytviken taken from the Endurance.


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 after the Endurance expedition, 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 Armentieres.

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 by Orde-Lees in "Elephant Island and Beyond" buy USA   buy UK

  • The scientist most to be pitied in this expedition is Wordie, the geologist, for his metier lacks the necessary materials at sea and so far we have not seen so much as a pebble since leaving South Georgia Island, except for the two "bottom samples" brought up by the patent sounding machine, a small stone or two found in an iceberg or the contents of penguins stomachs.

  • "Jock" as we always call Wordie, is another true Scotchman, from Glasgow. He has a most amiable temperament and a wonderful fund of very dry humour, and a happy knack of "pulling one's leg" in a quiet sorts of way that leaves one more pleased than hurt.

  • (of Wordie) Taking him all round, he is at once the most inoffensive and one of the most popular of our members. He has no use for cliques, which have unfortunately developed a little and are well known to be the bane of expeditionary life.

References to James Wordie in Shackleton's book "South!" buy USA   buy UK

  • 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 12 and a half in. of hard ice, covered by 2 and a half 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.

  • 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 7 and a half 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.

  • SEA-ICE NOMENCLATURE- 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
Latitude: 69°15'S
Longitude: 067°45'W
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

Feature Name: Wordie Nunatak
Feature Type: summit
Latitude: 66°16'S
Longitude: 051°31'E
Description: Rock outcrop 4 mi SE of Mount Biscoe and 4 mi ENE of Mount Hurley. Discovered in January 1930 by the BANZARE, 1929-31.

Feature Name: Wordie Point
Feature Type: summit
Latitude: 56°44'S
Longitude: 027°15'W
Description: The SW point of Visokoi Island in the South Sandwich Islands. Charted in 1930 by DI personnel on the Discovery II.


The 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

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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