Timothy McCarthy, 1888-1917
Biographical notes

Second engineer Endurance 1914-17 - 26 at the start of the expedition
Chief Engineer Quest - Ernest Shackleton 1921 - 1922

Antarctica and the Southern Ocean

Timothy McCarthy

    "[He] is the most irrepressible optimist I've ever met,"   "When I relieve him at the helm, boat iced and seas down your neck, he informs me with a happy grin, `It's a grand day, sir`"
    Frank Worsley

An Irishman who had joined the expedition from the merchant service, McCarthy is one of the six men who made the journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia on board the James Caird, though he did not cross South Georgia, instead staying with Vincent and McNish who were not well enough to move.

He was one of the youngest members of the expedition.


Timothy McCarthy was born in the in Lower Cove district of Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland in 1888, the son of John and Mary McCarthy. He had a brother, Mortimer (Morty) who was six years older and had also been on an Antarctic expedition, with Scott on the "Terra Nova". The district where they came from was well known for producing skilled seamen and fishermen.

On returning to England after the expedition, McCarthy joined the Royal Navy Reserve as a Leading Seaman as his service in the First World War. On Friday 16th March 1917, only three weeks after returning from South Georgia, and at the age of 28, he was killed in action at his gun post on board the S.S. Narragansett, on his first day under enemy fire. The ship had been torpedoed between the South West of Ireland and the Scilly Isles. He went down with his ship along with all other 45 hands, he was the first of the Endurance expedition members to die.

In 2000, both the McCarthy brothers, Timothy and Mortimer, were honoured with commissioned busts by their hometown of Kinsale, which stand in the town's park close to the shore.

References to Timothy McCarthy by Orde-Lees in "Elephant Island and Beyond" buy USA   buy UK

  • McCarthy is a witty Irishman with a splendid gift of repartee.

References to Timothy McCarthy in Shackleton's book "South!" buy USA   buy UK

  • The camp I wished to find was one where the party could live for weeks or even months in safety, without danger from sea or wind in the heaviest winter gale. Wild was to proceed westwards along the coast and was to take with him four of the fittest men, Marston, Crean, Vincent, and McCarthy. If he did not return before dark we were to light a flare, which would serve him as a guide to the entrance of the channel.

  • I finally selected McNeish, McCarthy, and Vincent in addition to Worsley and Crean. The crew seemed a strong one, and as I looked at the men I felt confidence increasing.

  • McCarthy said that he could contrive some sort of covering for the James Caird if he might use the lids of the cases and the four sledge-runners that we had lashed inside the boat for use in the event of a landing on Graham Land at Wilhelmina Bay. This bay, at one time the goal of our desire, had been left behind in the course of our drift, but we had retained the runners. The carpenter proposed to complete the covering with some of our canvas; and he set about making his plans at once.

  • The weather was fine on April 23, and we hurried forward our preparations. It was on this day I decided finally that the crew for the James Caird should consist of Worsley, Crean, McNeish, McCarthy, Vincent, and myself.

  • These birds are as sure an indication of the proximity of land as a lighthouse is, for they never venture far to sea. We gazed ahead with increasing eagerness, and at 12.30 p.m., through a rift in the clouds, McCarthy caught a glimpse of the black cliffs of South Georgia, just fourteen days after our departure from Elephant Island. It was a glad moment. Thirst-ridden, chilled, and weak as we were, happiness irradiated us. The job was nearly done.

  • Crean and McCarthy had brought down six more of the young albatrosses in the afternoon, so we were well supplied with fresh food.

  • One side of the James Caird rested on stones so as to afford a low entrance, and when we had finished she looked as though she had grown there. McCarthy entered into this work with great spirit. A sea-elephant provided us with fuel and meat, and that evening found a well-fed and fairly contented party at rest in Peggotty Camp.

  • The two men were not capable of managing for themselves and McCarthy must stay to look after them. He might have a difficult task if we failed to reach the whaling station. The distance to Husvik, according to the chart, was no more than seventeen geographical miles in a direct line, but we had very scanty knowledge of the conditions of the interior. McCarthy, McNeish, and Vincent had been landed on the Monday afternoon. They were already showing some signs of increasing strength under a regime of warm quarters and abundant food.

  • McCarthy, the best and most efficient of the sailors, always cheerful under the most trying circumstances, and who for these very reasons I chose to accompany me on the boat journey to South Georgia, was killed at his gun in the Channel.

Landmarks named after Timothy McCarthy

Feature Name: McCarthy Island
Feature Type: island
Latitude: 5410S
Longitude: 03726W
Description: Island, 1 mi long, lying in the entrance to King Haakon Bay on the S side of South Georgia. Surveyed by the SGS in the period 1951-57, and named by the UK-APC.

Image of Timothy McCarthy used permission of Peter McCarthy, Timothy's great nephew.


Other Crew of the Endurance Expedition/strong>

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