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

Shackleton Tweets
4: In the Lifeboats to 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


Apr 9 1916
After breakfast tents were struck and boats loaded ready to launch as soon as possible, the ice was opening and closing, slowly churning away.

Apr 9 1916
11am our floe splits right through camp, our home for 156 days is being shattered beneath us, pack too closed still to launch the boats.

Apr 9 1916
Eat as much as we can in the boats at 1pm, by 2pm we are a mile away, a rush of foamy water and tumbling ice like a tidal bore surges after us.

Apr 9 1916
Tide rip impelling a mass of ice towards us, bending strongly to the oars we only just get clear, very nearly swamped as soon as we started.

Apr 9 1916
Pulled hard to windward, in the twilight we hauled the boats onto an old floe rocking in the swell, far from ideal.

 Shackleton - Endurance expedition

Apr 9 1916
By 8pm the blubber stove was burning cheerily, all hands fed and happy, snatches of song carried on the night air.

 Shackleton - Endurance expedition

Apr 10 1916
11pm last night our floe rose on a swell and cracked right through a tent dropping Holness into the freezing sea, Shackleton was up and about..

Apr 10 1916
...crack about 4ft wide, Shackleton reached down, hauled Holness out just before the 2 pieces crashed together. Shackleton, tent and one boat stranded on one piece.

Apr 10 1916
Several near misses later, boats and all men on the same floe. Hot milk served at 3am, little sleep by anyone.

 Shackleton - Endurance expedition

Apr 10 1916
We left the floe in the a.m. gauging carefully so the boats weren't damaged by crashing ice, we have made our exit from the pack unscathed.

Apr 10 1916
The welcome heaving bosom of the ocean makes most of us nauseous, dusk at 5pm we pull up onto a stout floe in a rough sea, more seasickness.

Apr 11 1916
8 sq.yd. piece of our floe fell off at 5am so all out in the dark to shift gear to safety, we were 100yds inside the pack again by dawn.

Apr 11 1916
12ft swell, we rise to the top of the hill then in the valley, carpenter went for a trip, a crack appeared and he had to jump back to join us

Apr 11 1916
A lull in the storm let us launch the boats to clear the pack again, we are around 60 miles from Clarence Island.

 Shackleton - Endurance expedition

Apr 11 1916
Unable to camp, cook was put on a floe and heated milk on the stove, then returned to his boat, we will spend the night in the boats.

Apr 11 1916
Unexpected horror, we are surrounded by a large pod of killer whales, their blood curdling blasts at first distant, but then right alongside.

Apr 12 1916
Miserable night, covered in sleet, piercing wind, cramped conditions, some were seasick too. No hot food, cold rations are almost nauseating.

Apr 12 1916
Able to take a sight from the sun, we have made no progress since taking to the boats, a bitter blow, Shackleton takes the news with magnaminity.

Apr 12 1916
A hot drink of milk made in each boat on a Primus before turning in was the finest you can imagine, boats tied together for the night.

Apr 13 1916
Cold made sleep impossible, ice built up on the oars makes them 3x thicker and twice as heavy, ice axes used to hack build up off the boats.

Apr 13 1916
Split stores between boats in case of separation, then a cold eat-all-you-can meal, we may need to dump some stores when we reach open ocean.

Apr 13 1916
Water freezes as soon as it splashes in the boats, we are covered with sleet and are more or less soaked, our outer clothing solid with ice.

Apr 14 1916
The storm of the dreadful night faded, the wind fell to a breeze, a magnificent sunrise showed us Clarence and then Elephant Island 40 miles away.

Apr 14 1916
Awful thirst, no fresh water, raw seal meat chewed for blood is so salty it makes it worse, small amounts of ice melted in the mouth is all.

Apr 14 1916
Marston livens us with songs, more positive than for days. Blackborow's feet badly frostbitten, nothing can be done while in the boats.

Apr 14 1916
Open sea between us and land, another storm, water breaking over the boats, almost constant bailing, it looks like being another cold night.

Apr 14 1916
Greenstreet's right foot badly frost-bitten, Orde-Lees restored it by holding it in his sweater against his stomach. Many other minor frost bites.

Apr 14 1916
Icy sea spray stings the face like a whip, men are insensible with fatigue, Shackleton has endured days of being soaked and standing at the tiller.

Apr 15 1916
Unspeakable joy! as dawn broke we saw we were before a huge glacier face, we picked freshwater ice from the sea to slake our intense thirst.

Apr 15 1916
The sea breaking heavily against precipitous cliffs and glaciers made finding a landing place difficult.

 Shackleton - Endurance expedition

Apr 15 1916
We have landed! A less than ideal spot, but a reprieve was desperately needed, Shackleton gave the honour to Blackborow of being the first ashore.

Apr 15 1916
"Then, with a few strong strokes we shot through on the top of a swell and ran the boat on to a stony beach."

 Shackleton - Endurance expedition

Apr 15 1916
Reeling about as if there is an unlimited supply of alcoholic liquor.. laughing uproariously.. smiles.. pebbles treated like gold, first land in 18 months.

Apr 15 1916
Big breakfast of hot milk, huge seal steaks, unlimited blubber, all day long eating and drinking.

 Shackleton - Endurance expedition

Apr 16 1916
Signs that high tides sweep our camp mean we have to find a safer place, we moved the boats higher up the shore.

 Shackleton - Endurance expedition

Apr 16 1916
Wild and 4 men headed west by boat to search for a long term camp, returned at 8pm having found a place 7 miles hence.

 Shackleton - Endurance expedition

Apr 17 1916
11am launched the boats, battled along the wild, inhospitable coast, another drenching and covering in mushy ice, arrived at new camp by 4.30pm.

Apr 17 1916
Rickinson suffered a heat attack in the surf as we were unloading the boats, medical attention by the warmth of the blubber stove brought about recovery.

 

Next page:  5 - rescue mission to South Georgia



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

I have in the past linked to particular search landing pages for images, but site structures seem to alter every now and then and so such links just go to error pages.

 

  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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