Endurance expedition

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1914–1917: Map of the routes of the Endurance , the Aurora and the James Caird , the planned overland route and the depot line of the Ross Sea Party:
  • Endurance ride into the pack ice
  • Endurance drift in pack ice
  • Drift on the ice after sinking the endurance
  • Journey of the James Caird
  • Planned crossing route
  • Journey of the Aurora to Antarctica
  • Drift and return of the Aurora to New Zealand
  • Deposit line
  • The Endurance under sail, around 1915

    The Endurance Expedition , officially the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition , was an Antarctic expedition from 1914 to 1917. It was the last major expedition of the Golden Age of Antarctic exploration . What these expeditions had in common was the limited resources available to them before advances in the fields of transport and communication fundamentally changed the nature of the expeditions. The company, led by Ernest Shackleton , aimed to be the first to cross the Antarctic continent. The expedition failed, but remains particularly well known because all expedition members of the group under Shackleton survived under extremely adverse circumstances.

    The expedition consisted of two groups spread over two ships. The ship Endurance , which Shackleton carried with the main group, was to sail into the Weddell Sea to land there. The Aurora with the so-called Ross Sea Party was to travel to the opposite side of the continent in the meantime and create a number of depots from McMurdo Sound . The Endurance got stuck in the pack ice of the Weddell Sea before reaching its destination, Vahsel Bay . After being crushed in the ice and sank, the crew managed to reach Elephant Island in lifeboats . A small group went on to South Georgia to organize help there. All members of the main group could be saved. The Ross Sea Party set up the planned depots with great difficulty; three men died.



    After returning from the Nimrod Expedition in 1909, Shackleton spent a restless and aimless time, although his achievement of a new southern record (88 ° 23 ′ S) had been publicly recognized. The nature of his future work in Antarctica now depended on the success of Scott's Terra Nova expedition , which had left Cardiff in July 1910 for the South Pole, as a success would make Scott's attempt to the Pole pointless.

    Shackleton's future became clearer when news of Roald Amundsen's unexpected victory in the race for the South Pole reached him on March 11, 1912 . The pole itself could no longer be a destination, no matter what Scott achieved. Shackleton wrote: "The discovery of the South Pole will not be the end of Antarctic exploration." In his opinion, the new task will be "a transcontinental journey from sea to sea, touching the pole". He could not be sure that this task would fall to him, since other expeditions were also active: On December 11, 1911, a German expedition under Wilhelm Filchner set out in South Georgia , the aim of which was to penetrate deep into the Weddell Sea , a southern base to set up and from there to try to cross the continent to the Ross Sea . At the end of 1912 Filchner retired to South Georgia after failing to set up his starting camp. His discovery of possible landing sites in Vahsel Bay was noted by Shackleton and included in his expedition plans.

    In the course of 1913, following news of the death of Scott and his men on the return journey from the South Pole, Shackleton began preparations for his own transcontinental expedition. He sought financial and practical help from Tryggve Gran of the Terra Nova Expedition and former Prime Minister Lord Rosebery , among others , but received little support from either. Gran was evasive, Rosebery open: "I was never even interested in a penny for the Poles." He found more help from William Speirs Bruce , who had already been to Antarctica and had plans for a failed Antarctic crossing due to lack of money. Bruce happily allowed Shackleton to adopt his plans, but the final plan barely matched Bruce. On December 29, 1913, he made his plans public in a letter to the Times , having received some financial backing - a promise of £  10,000 from the British government .

    Shackleton's plan

    Shackleton gave his expedition the great title Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition ("Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition"); to arouse public interest, a detailed program was published in early 1914. The expedition should consist of two groups and two ships. The Weddell Sea group was to travel with the Endurance and advance into the Vahsel Bay area, where fourteen men were to land. Of these fourteen men, six were to form the transcontinental group under Shackleton's command, according to Huntford (p. 401) these should have been Shackleton, Hurley, Macklin, Wild, Marston and Crean. This group, equipped with 100 dogs, two snowmobiles, and equipment “everything that the experience of the leader and his advisors can suggest”, would undertake the approximately 2,900 kilometer journey to the Ross Sea. The remaining eight members of the coastal group would conduct scientific work, with three each going to Grahamland and Enderbyland and two staying at the base.

    The Ross Sea Party was commissioned to take the Aurora to the Ross Sea base in McMurdo Sound on the other side of the continent. After landing there, the men were to "set up depots on the route of the crossing group, march south to aid the men [of the crossing group] and make geological and other observations." The role of the Ross Sea Party was vital; Shackleton's group was only supposed to take supplies that would bring them to the base of Beardmore Glacier . Their survival over the last 650 kilometers to the base in the Ross Sea would depend on the depots across the Ross Ice Shelf at previously agreed coordinates .

    In his program, Shackleton clearly stated the intention that the crossing should take place in the first season (1914/1915). He later realized the impracticability of this plan and should have informed Aeneas Mackintosh , the head of the Ross Sea Party, of the change of plan. However, according to the Daily Chronicle correspondent Ernest Perris, the telegram was never sent, an omission that made the Ross Sea Party's first working season unnecessarily difficult.


    Shackleton assumed it would take £ 50,000, (in today's purchasing power £ 4.93 million), to carry out the basic version of his plan. He did not trust calls to the public that "[they] cause endless accounting worries". His method of obtaining funds was to solicit money from wealthy patrons. He had started this process in early 1913 with little success. The first major breakthrough came in December 1913 when the government offered him £ 10,000 - a useful sum, but only half of what he had received to pay off the debts of the Nimrod expedition. Most of the money raised in England at the time to fund the Nimrod expedition had consisted of repayable bonds that Shackleton would not have been able to repay without government money. The Royal Geographical Society , from which he had not expected anything, gave him £ 1,000 - according to Huntford, Shackleton replied in a generous gesture that he would only need half that amount, although he could have used the money. When time was gradually running out, the last of the funds were finally secured in the spring and early summer of 1914. Dudley Docker of the Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA) gave £ 10,000, wealthy tobacco heir Janet Stancomb-Wills donated a "generous" sum (the exact amount was never published), and in June a further £ 24,000 came from Scottish industrialist Sir James Caird . "This wonderful gift relieves my worry," Shackleton informed the Morning Post .

    Shackleton now had the money to take the next step. For £ 11,600 he bought a 300-ton schooner bark called Polaris , which was built for Belgian explorer Adrien de Gerlache de Gomery for an expedition to Spitsbergen . However, De Gerlache's plan was never carried out and the ship became available. Shackleton changed the name to Endurance , according to his family motto ("By endurance we conquer" - something like: Through perseverance to the goal). He also bought Douglas Mawson's expedition ship, the Aurora , which was anchored in Hobart , Tasmania , for £ 3,200 . She served as the ship of the Ross Sea Party.

    The total amount Shackleton raised is unknown as the amount of the donation was not disclosed by Stancomb-Wills. However, lack of money was a constant companion of the expedition. As an austerity measure, the funds available to the Ross Sea Party were cut in half; Aeneas Mackintosh, the group's commander, only found out about this when he wanted to take command in Australia. Mackintosh was forced to haggle and ask for money and goods to make his part of the expedition viable. The lack of funds also hampered the Ross Sea Party rescue operation when it became necessary in 1916. After his return, Shackleton also took care of offsetting the costs: he sold the Daily Chronicle the exclusive rights to the report and founded the Imperial Trans Antarctic Film Syndicate to exploit the film rights.


    Frank Worsley,
    Endurance Captain

    There was no shortage of volunteers for the expedition; Shackleton received over 5,000 applications. In the end the candidates were reduced to 56 men; 28 for each branch of the expedition. This total strength of 56 men includes William Bakewell, who went on board the ship in Buenos Aires; Perce Blackborow, Bakewell's friend, who went along as a stowaway after his application was turned down; and several last minute hires made by the Ross Sea Party in Australia. Not included is Sir Daniel Gooch , who temporarily helped Shackleton as a dog handler and left the expedition in South Georgia.

    Shackleton chose Frank Wild , who had been with him on both the Discovery and Nimrod expeditions , as his deputy . Wild had just returned from Mawson's Australasian Antarctic Expedition . Royal Navy Chief Captain Tom Crean , a member of the Terra Nova Expedition, was appointed second mate, while Alfred Cheetham , another experienced Antarctic navigator, served as third mate. Two other veterans of the Nimrod were hired for the Ross Sea Party, Aeneas Mackintosh as commandant and Ernest Joyce .

    As captain of the Endurance , Shackleton wanted to hire John King Davis , who had commanded the Aurora on the Australasian Antarctic Expedition . Davis declined the offer because he believed the company was "doomed". So Shackleton chose Frank Worsley . The six-strong scientific workforce accompanying the Endurance included two doctors, Alexander Macklin and James McIlroy , geologist James Wordie , biologist Robert Clark , physicist Reginald James, and meteorologist Leonard Hussey , who would later publish Shackleton's South Expedition Report. The photographer Frank Hurley and the painter George Marston were asked to ensure that the expedition was recorded visually.

    The final Ross Sea Party crew was hastily put together - some members who had traveled from the UK to Australia to board the Aurora quit before it left due to financial problems. Only Mackintosh and Joyce had previous Antarctic experience, which in the case of the former was very limited - Mackintosh had lost an eye in an accident on the Nimrod expedition and had returned home in January 1909.

    The much-cited advertisement ( Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success ; "Men wanted for dangerous journey. Low wages. Bitter cold. Long months of absolute darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in the event of success ”) is most likely spurious. One website advertised a price of $ 100 for whoever can find the original ad; no winner has been found so far. Nonetheless, the text is known today in public opinion to be associated with Shackleton.

    Expedition of the Weddell Sea Group

    Travel through the ice

    The Endurance left Plymouth on August 8, 1914 and first made a stop in Buenos Aires , where Hurley came on board and William Bakewell and the stowaway Perce Blackborow joined the crew. Some of the team members mentioned by Worsley during the approach disappear from the logbook after this stop. Presumably they were hired in Argentina. After a last one-month stay in Grytviken , South Georgia , the Endurance set out for Antarctica on December 5, 1914. Two days later, to Shackleton's alarm, she hit drift ice at 57 ° 26 ′ S, which forced the ship to take evasive maneuvers. Over the next few days there were further problems with the ice, which on December 14, 1914 was thick enough to hold the ship in place for 24 hours. The ship was locked again three days later. Shackleton commented, “I had been prepared for bad conditions in the Weddell Sea, but I was hoping the drift ice would be loose. What we encountered was a rather tight belt of a very cumbersome character. "

    Working to free the ship

    The continuation of the journey was marked by further delays until the fairways opened on December 22nd, 1914 and the Endurance could drive steadily south. For the next two weeks, the ship was able to penetrate deep into the Weddell Sea unhindered. Further delays slowed progress during the first few days of 1915, but a period of good driving during January 7th and 10th, 1915 brought the Endurance close to the coast of Coats Land . On January 15, 1915, the ship reached a large glacier, the edge of which formed a bay that looked like an excellent landing place. Landing this far north of Vahsel Bay was out of the question, "unless under the pressure of necessity" - a decision Shackleton later regretted. On January 17, 1915, the expedition reached 76 ° 27 ′ S, where land was discovered that Shackleton named the Caird Coast after his main patron . Bad weather forced him to seek shelter in the slipstream of a stranded iceberg.

    The Endurance was now near Prinzregent-Luitpold-Land , at the southern end of which was its destination, the Vahsel Bay . The next day the ship had to evade 23 km to the west and continued on a south and then briefly north-westerly course before coming to a complete standstill. The exact position was 76 ° 34 'S and 31 ° 30' W. It soon became clear that the Endurance was now stuck in the ice, and after ten passive days the ship's fires were covered with ashes to save fuel. Efforts to free the Endurance continued; On February 14, 1915, Shackleton sent men out on the ice with chisels, awls, saws, and hoes to clear a passage, but the effort was in vain. Shackleton did not lose all hope of being set free, but was now considering the "possibility of having to spend a winter in the inhospitable arms of the ice".

    Endurance drift

    Shackleton and Wild between the pack ice piled up by the pressure

    On February 21, 1915, the Endurance reached its southernmost latitude, 76 ° 58 ′ S, in the grip of the pack ice, and then began to move north with the ice. Realizing that they would not be released until spring, Shackleton ordered the ship's routine to be abandoned on Feb. 24. The dogs were brought off board and quartered in ice kennels or dogloos (a word formation from dog for dog and igloo ), while the ship's furnishings were converted into suitable winter quarters for the various groups of men - officers, scientists, machinists and sailors. The radio started working, but the Endurance's location was too remote to receive or transmit signals.

    Shackleton was aware of the example of Wilhelm Filchner's ship, the Deutschland , which had been trapped by ice in the same area three years earlier during the Second German Antarctic Expedition . After Filchner's attempts to set up a base on Vahsel Bay failed, his ship got stuck in the ice on March 6, 1912, about 200 miles off the coast of Coatsland . Six months later, the ship was released at 63 ° 37 'and sailed to South Georgia with no apparent problems. A similar experience could allow the Endurance to try again to reach Vahsel Bay next Antarctic spring.

    In February and March 1915 the propulsion speed was very low. At the end of March 1915, Shackleton calculated that the ship had only traveled 155 kilometers since January 19, 1915. However, as winter set in, the speed of the drift increased and the state of the surrounding ice changed. The ice "piles up and drifts against the ice sheets," reported Shackleton on April 14, 1915 - if the Endurance got caught in these movements, "it would be crushed like an eggshell." In May 1915, when the sun set for winter, was the ship was at 75 ° 23 ′ S, 42 ° 14 ′ W and was still drifting roughly north. It would be at least four months before the ice could open with spring, and it was not ruled out that the Endurance might not be able to clear in time to make a second attempt at Vahsel Bay. Shackleton now considered the possibility of finding an alternative landing site on the west coast of the Weddell Sea, if such a point could be reached. "In the meantime," he wrote, "we have to wait."

    The endurance at the end of the drift just before it goes down

    The dark winter months of May, June and July 1915 passed without any major events. Shackleton's most important job was to maintain the fitness, exercise, and morale of the men, which he reportedly did very well; Football games and dog races took place and amateur theater was performed in the evening. The first signs of the ice breaking appeared on July 22, 1915, and on August 1, 1915, during a storm from the southwest, the ice floes around the Endurance broke open , which at that time were at 72 ° 26′S, 48 ° 10′W. The pressure pushed ice masses under the keel and caused a heavy list to starboard. This position was dangerous; Shackleton wrote, “The effect of the pressure around us was awesome. Mighty blocks of ice […] rose slowly until they flew away like cherry pits clamped between thumb and forefinger […] once the ship was firmly in the grip of the ice, its fate would be sealed. ”This danger passed and the following weeks passed calm. At the beginning of September 1915, however, the ice began to squeeze violently and continued to squeeze periodically. On September 30, 1915, the ship was under "the worst pressure we had ever seen" when it was tossed back and forth like a shuttlecock a dozen times. "Shackleton had previously advised Worsley that he was going to do it for a moment probably think that the Endurance would be destroyed as it would come out of the ice.

    Although the Endurance had proven it could withstand the strain, its predicament was now worse than ever. When her starboard side was pressed against a large ice floe on October 24, 1915, the ice pressure on the side of the ship rose until the side of the ship began to bend and splinter; then water that was below the ice began to penetrate the ship. Three lifeboats and the supplies were brought onto the ice while the crew tried to prop up the hull and pump out the incoming water. On October 27, 1915, Shackleton was forced to evacuate the ship at temperatures of −25 degrees Celsius. The position at this point in time was determined to be 69 ° 05 'S, 51 ° 30' W. The wreck remained afloat, and during the weeks that followed, the crew was able to rescue additional supplies and materials, including Hurley's photographs and cameras that had initially been left behind. Out of about 550 panels, Hurley picked the best 150 and smashed the rest.

    Camp on the ice

    Frank Hurley and Ernest Shackleton at Ocean Camp

    With the loss of the ship, Shackleton had to give up all thoughts of his transcontinental voyage, and the focus of the expedition suddenly switched to pure survival. To do this, Shackleton wanted to move the crew either to Snow Hill Island , the base of Otto Nordenskjöld's 1901-1903 Swedish expedition , where emergency supplies could be found, or to Paulet Island , where Shackleton knew was an extensive food depot existed, which he had created himself 12 years earlier, or to Robertson Island . Shackleton believed that from each of these islands they could cross graham land and reach the whaling bases in Wilhelmina Bay . Worsley calculated the distance from their stranding position to Snow Hill Island to be 520 kilometers, and a further 195 kilometers would have to be covered to Wilhelmina Bay. Take with you food, fuel, survival equipment and three heavy lifeboats.

    The march began on October 30, 1915, but problems soon arose. The condition of the pack ice made progress almost impossible. As the horizontal pressure increased, the ice had warped and rose in great ridges, often over ten feet high. On this surface, the team only advanced 3.2 kilometers in two days. On November 1, 1915, Shackleton broke off the march and decided, together with Wild and Worsley, to camp and wait for the ice to break up. They named the flat and solid-looking floe on which their march had ended, the name Ocean Camp, and set up camp. The wreck of the Endurance , still stuck in the ice nearby, continued to be visited by small groups of men. It was possible to retrieve other supplies that were left behind until the ship finally slipped under the ice on November 21, 1915. Shackleton did not record the exact coordinates. Maps suggest the ship sank just south of the 67th parallel, about 160 kilometers from where the crew left it 25 days earlier.

    The speed of the drift had increased from November 1, 1915 and on November 7 was a steady five kilometers per day. By December 5, 1915, the men had passed the 68th parallel, but the driving direction was now slowly turning north-northeast. This would put them in a position from which it would be difficult or impossible to reach Snow Hill Island. To the northeast, however, was Paulet Island, which was now Shackleton's destination. Paulet Island was about four hundred miles away, and it was important to Shackleton to shorten the length of time it would take in the lifeboats to get there. Therefore, on December 21, 1915, he announced a second march that was to begin on December 23.

    Harry McNish

    However, conditions had not improved since the first attempt. The temperatures had risen and it was uncomfortably warm; the men sank up to their knees in the soft snow as they dragged the boats through the pressure ridges. On December 27, 1915, ship carpenter Harry McNish (or McNeish - there is no consensus on the correct spelling) rebelled and refused to work. He argued that the ship's statutes had no longer been valid since the endurance's sinking and that he no longer had to obey orders. Shackleton's sure opposition eventually changed the carpenter's mind, but the incident remained unforgotten. McNish later did his best to save the crew; nevertheless he was one of the four crew members who were refused the polar medal on Shackleton's recommendation , the other three were William Stephenson , Ernest Holness and John Vincent. Two days later, after no more than twelve kilometers of progress had been recorded on seven tough days, Shackleton gave up the attempt and observed, "It would take us over 300 days to reach land." The men pitched their tents and straightened themselves in the so-called Patience Camp , which should remain her home for over three months.

    The supplies were slowly becoming scarce. Hurley and Macklin were sent back to Ocean Camp to get food that had been left there to facilitate the sleds. On February 2, 1916, Shackleton sent a larger group back to retrieve the third lifeboat that had also been left behind. The food shortage worsened as the weeks passed, and seal meat, which had previously diversified the men's diet, became a staple as Shackleton tried to save the remaining packaged rations. In January 1916, all but two of the dog teams (which had already been decimated by accidents and illness in the past few months) were shot at Shackleton's orders because the consumption of seal meat was too high. The last two teams were mostly left alive as they were still useful for trips across the ice. The last two teams were shot on April 2, 1916; at this point their meat was a welcome change in the rations. In the meantime the drift had become fickle; after the men had been detained at 67 ° south for several weeks, there was a series of rapid north-easterly movements in late January 1916 that brought Patience Camp to the latitude of Paulet Island by March 17. However, the island was over 90 kilometers to the east. "It could have been 900," Shackleton noted, "given the chance we had of reaching them across the incoherent ice."

    Frustratingly, there was always land in sight. The summit of Mount Haddington on James Ross Island remained visible as the slow drifted past. Because Snow Hill and Paulet Island were no longer alternatives, as Shackleton wrote, all hopes were now directed to the remaining two small islands on the northern edge of Graham Land: Clarence Island and Elephant Island , about 100 miles north of their March 25 position 1916. Shackleton had the idea that Deception Island could be a better destination. The island was far to the west, toward the end of the chain that made up the South Shetland Islands , but Shackleton thought it might be reached by island hopping . The upside was that Deception Island was sometimes visited by whalers and could be stocked with supplies. All of these goals would require a dangerous journey on the lifeboats after the ice on which they were drifting eventually collapsed. Before this trip, the lifeboats were all named after one of the expedition's main sponsors: James Caird , Dudley Docker and Stancomb Wills .

    Boat trip to Elephant Island

    Map of Elephant Island. Point Wild is drawn on the north coast.

    The end of Patience Camp came on the evening of April 8, 1916, when the ice floe suddenly broke. The camp was now on a small triangular ice raft, the breakup of which would have been a disaster, which is why Shackleton had the lifeboats ready for the forced departure of the crew. He had now decided that if possible they would try to reach Deception Island - there was supposedly a small wooden church there that had been built for the whalers. The wood of this church would enable them to build a seaworthy boat. At 1 p.m. on April 9, 1916, the Dudley Docker was launched , and an hour later all three boats had left. Shackleton himself commanded the James Caird , Worsley the Dudley Docker and navigational officer Hubert Hudson nominally the Stancomb Wills , although Tom Crean was the actual commander because of Hudson's unstable state of mind.

    The next few days were very difficult. The boats were still in the pack ice, depending on waterways opening and closing - advancement was dangerous and unpredictable. The boats were often tied to or pulled up onto ice floes while the men camped and waited for conditions to improve. Shackleton again wavered between several possible destinations, and finally on April 12, 1916, he decided against the various islands, and for Hope Bay at the tip of Grahamland. The conditions in the boats, where temperatures were sometimes -30 ° C, little food was available and you were regularly drenched in icy sea water, wore the men down, both mentally and physically. Shackleton therefore decided that Elephant Island, the closest possible refuge, was now the only viable option.

    On April 14, 1916, the boats were moored off the southeastern coast of the island, but landing was out of the question, as this coast consisted of steep cliffs and glaciers. The next day, the James Caird circled the eastern cape of the island to reach the north, leeward coast, and finally discovered a narrow pebble beach on which Shackleton decided to land. Soon after, all three boats, which had been separated by heavy seas the previous night, met at the landing site. It wasn't long, however, before high tide marks made it clear that this bay could not serve as a permanent storage area. The next day Wild and some men set out on Stancomb Wills to find a better place to land on the coast. They returned with news of an eleven kilometer stretch of land to the west that looked like a possible landing site. Immediately the men returned to their boats and drove to this new place, which they later named Point Wild .

    Journey of the James Caird

    Sketch of the boat trips to Elephant Island and from there to South Georgia

    Elephant Island was remote, uninhabited, and rarely, if ever, visited by whalers or other ships. In order to bring the men back to civilization, help had to be brought in. The only realistic way to achieve this was to convert one of the dinghies for the nearly 1,500-mile journey across the Southern Ocean to South Georgia. Shackleton had given up the thought of going to Deception Island, presumably because the condition of his men made it impossible to expose them to the harsh sea conditions. Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands were closer than South Georgia, but would have meant predominantly headwinds.

    Shackleton selected the group to attempt the crossing to South Georgia: himself, Worsley as navigator, Crean, McNish, John Vincent and Timothy McCarthy. At Shackleton's instruction, McNish immediately began rebuilding the James Caird , partially improvising tools and materials. Frank Wild was selected to head the group remaining on Elephant Island and was due to leave for Deception Island in the spring of 1917 if Shackleton did not return. Shackleton took on supplies for four weeks, knowing that if they hadn't reached land at the end of those rations, they would be lost.

    Departure of James Caird from Elephant Iceland

    The 6.85 meter long James Caird was launched on April 24, 1916. For the voyage that followed, everything depended on Worsley's absolutely precise navigation based on observations made under the most inopportune conditions. The prevailing wind helpfully came from the northwest, but the churned sea soon soaked everything on board with icy water. Soon the ice was thickly stuck to the boat, which slowed the journey. On May 5, 1916, a north-westerly storm nearly destroyed the boat. Shackleton was said to have never seen waves as big as they did in this storm in his twenty-six years at sea.

    After a two-week voyage that had taken the crew members to their physical limits, South Georgia finally came into view on May 8, 1916. Two days later, the exhausted crew landed in King Haakon Bay after a battle with heavy seas and hurricane winds .

    Crossing South Georgia

    Map of South Georgia. "Peggotty Camp" was in the deep bay on the southwest side, southwest of Prince Olav Harbor
    The interior of South Georgia photographed by Frank Hurley one year after Shackleton's crossing

    After the arrival of the James Caird in King Haakon Bay, rest and relaxation were necessary, while Shackleton planned the next steps. The inhabited whaling stations of South Georgia were all on the north coast of the island. To reach them, one would have had to either circumnavigate the island by boat or cross the unexplored interior of the island. However, the condition of James Caird and the physical condition of the men, especially Vincent and McNish, only allowed the second option.

    After five days the group drove a little bit to the east by boat, to the end of a deeply cut bay that marked the starting point for the crossing. Shackleton, Worsley and Crean would tackle the crossing, the others would stay in the so-called Peggotty Camp , to be picked up later by ship. On May 18, 1916, a storm halted their departure, but at 2 a.m. the following morning the weather was clear and calm, allowing the three men to leave an hour later.

    Since they did not have a map, they could only roughly estimate their route. By dawn they had risen to 1,000 meters and could see the north coast. They were above Possession Bay , which meant they were too far to the west and had to move east to reach Stromness , the whaling station that was their destination. For the first time they had to go back the way they had already covered. That was to happen several more times - which would add to the journey and frustrate the men. At the end of that first day, they risked everything when they slid down a mountain slope on a makeshift “rope sledge” to avoid a night in higher regions. Resting was out of the question - they walked on in the full moonlight and moved upwards towards a gap in the next mountain range. Early the next morning Shackleton knew he was on the right track as the men saw Husvik below their position. At seven o'clock they heard the whistle from the whaling station, "the first outside man-made noise to reach our ears since we left Stromness Bay in December 1914." After a difficult descent that included climbing through a cold waterfall , they were finally safe.

    Not a religious man, Shackleton later wrote, “I have no doubt that Providence led us… I know that during the long and grueling 36-hour march over the unnamed mountains and glaciers, I often felt like we were four, not three. ”This motif of a fourth companion - confirmed by Worsley and Crean - was picked up by TS Eliot in his poem The Waste Land .

    Rescue attempts

    Shackleton's first task after arriving in Stromness was to arrange for his three comrades to be picked up at Peggotty Camp. A whaler was sent around the coast with Worsley as a pilot, and by the evening of May 21, 1916, all six men from the James Caird were safe. Shackleton now tried to return to Elephant Island to take in the men who remained there. His first three attempts were in vain.

    Three days after arriving in Stromness, Shackleton left South Georgia after securing The Southern Sky , a large whaler located in Husvik. Shackleton had assembled a crew of volunteers ready to leave on the morning of May 22, 1916. As the ship neared Elephant Island, Shackleton found an impenetrable pack ice barrier that had formed about 110 kilometers from the island. The Southern Sky was not built as an icebreaker and therefore drove back to Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands .

    After arriving in Port Stanley, Shackleton sent London a telegram of his whereabouts and asked that a suitable ship be sent south for the rescue operation. He was informed by the Admiralty that no ship would be ready before October 1916, which was too late for Shackleton. With the help of the British envoy in Montevideo , Shackleton managed to borrow a stable fish steamer from the Uruguayan government , the Instituto de Pesca No. 1 , which set out south on June 10, 1916. Again the pack ice came between the ship and the island.

    Looking for another ship, Shackleton, Worsley and Crean traveled to Punta Arenas in Chile , where they met Allan MacDonald, the British owner of the schooner Emma . MacDonald equipped this ship for another rescue attempt, which started on July 12, 1916, but was again thwarted by the pack ice. Shackleton later named a glacier on the Brunt Ice Shelf in the Weddell Sea after MacDonald .

    On Elephant Island

    The men left behind on Elephant Island.
    Back row, from left:
    Greenstreet, McIlroy, Marston, Wordie, James, Holness, Hudson, Stephenson, McLeod, Clark, Orde-Lees, Kerr, Macklin.
    Second row, from left:
    Green, Wild, How, Cheetham, Hussey, Bakewell.
    Front: Rickinson.
    Hurley and Blackborow are missing from the photo because Hurley took the photo and Blackborow was lying in the hut after his toes were amputated.

    After Shackleton set out on April 24, 1916 with the James Caird , Frank Wild took command of the group on Elephant Island, some of whose members were in poor physical or psychological condition: Lewis Rickinson had probably suffered a heart attack; Blackborow could not walk because of frostbite; Hudson suffered from depression. The toes on Blackborow's left foot became gangrenous and had to be amputated by candlelight on June 15, 1916 by doctors Macklin and James McIlroy. The men’s most pressing need was permanent protection against the rapidly approaching winter. At the suggestion of Marston and Lionel Greenstreet , a hut was improvised by turning the two boats upside down and placing them on low stone walls so that they formed a shelter with about five feet of headroom. The building was partially waterproofed with canvas and other materials. According to Wild, it was gross but effective protection.

    Nobody knew how long they would have to wait for the rescue. Wild initially over-optimistically estimated the time at about a month and banned the establishment of longer-term penguin and seal meat stocks, as this would have been defeatist in his eyes . He did what he could to establish and maintain routines and activities that would break up the monotony. A lookout was set up, cooking and housekeeping schedules were introduced, and seals and penguins were hunted. On Saturdays concerts were held with a banjo , birthdays were also celebrated, but nothing could really distract from the discouragement as the months passed and there was no sign of a ship to be seen.

    By August 23, 1916, Wild's strategy against storage had failed. The surrounding sea was covered with pack ice that would hold up any rescue ship. In addition, food became scarce and no more penguins came ashore. Orde-Lees wrote: "We shall have to eat the one who dies first ... many true words are said in jest."


    Only the fourth rescue attempt led to success. In mid-August Shackleton asked the Chilean government to lend him the Yelcho , a small, sturdy steamer that had helped Emma on the previous rescue attempt. The government agreed, and on August 25, 1916, the Yelcho set out for Elephant Island. This time you were luckier - the sea was open and the ship was able to approach the island in thick fog.

    Meanwhile, Wild on Elephant Island had seriously considered taking a boat trip to Deception Island. He planned to leave on October 5, 1916 in the hope of encountering a whaler. But with the arrival of the rescue ship, the time on Elephant Island suddenly came to an end. At 11.40am on the morning of August 30th, the fog lifted, the camp was sighted, and within an hour all the men from Elephant Island were safely on board. Thereupon the Yelcho set out again for Punta Arenas.

    Ross Sea Party expedition

    The Aurora left Hobart on December 24, 1914 after being held up by financial and organizational problems in Australia. Their arrival in McMurdo Sound on January 15, 1915 came later in the season than planned, but the group's commander, Aeneas Mackintosh, immediately made plans for the depot facility trip on the Ross Ice Shelf, still believing in Shackleton could attempt a crossing from the Weddell Sea during this first season. As noted above, he had not received instructions to the contrary from Shackleton. Neither the men nor the dogs were climatically adapted, and the group was very inexperienced in terms of the conditions - only Mackintosh and Ernest Joyce of the group had been to Antarctica. This first hasty trip resulted in the loss of ten of the group's eighteen dogs, a single incomplete depot, and men who were frostbitten and demoralized.

    In May, when the Aurora was at Headquarters on Cape Evans , it was driven out to sea during a storm and could not return because it was trapped in an ice floe. She drifted in the ice until February 12, 1916, covering a distance of nearly 2,600 kilometers before she was released and could return to New Zealand. The greater part of the land group's fuel, food, clothing and equipment was on board, although the sled rations for the depot had already been landed. In order to continue with their mission, the group had to self-feed and equip themselves from what was left of previous expeditions, particularly Robert Falcon Scott's Terra Nova expedition . Thanks to the improvisations of the men, the depot installation of the second season started according to plan in September 1915.

    Arnold Spencer-Smith, the Ross Sea Party chaplain, who died in March 1916

    In the following months, the necessary depots were created across the Ross Ice Shelf to the Beardmore Glacier at intervals of one degree of latitude. On the way back, the entire group fell ill with scurvy . During the tough retreat to base, Arnold Spencer-Smith , the expedition's chaplain and photographer, collapsed and died . The remaining men reached the temporary shelter of the hut at Hut Point and recovered there. On May 8, 1916, Mackintosh and Hayward decided to walk across the unstable sea ice to Cape Evans, got caught in a blizzard and were never seen again. The seven survivors had to wait another eight months for the New Zealand overtaken Aurora to arrive on January 10, 1917 and bring it back to civilization.

    Shackleton accompanied the Aurora as a surplus officer after he was denied command by the governments of New Zealand, Australia, and Great Britain, who jointly organized the rescue. So he participated in the rescue of the members of both parts of his expedition, but his loose attitude towards the original organizational arrangements for the Ross Sea Party was interpreted against him. Despite the chaotic start, the clutter, the catastrophic loss of the Aurora and the three dead, the Ross Sea Party was the only part of the entire expedition that fulfilled its original mission, even if the failure of the Weddell Meer group meant it was in vain Had happened.

    Another fate of the participants

    Return to civilization

    The rescued group, who had had their last contact with civilization in 1914, knew nothing about the course of the First World War . News of Shackleton's safe arrival in the Falkland Islands briefly faded the war news in the British newspapers on June 2, 1916. The men returned one at a time during a critical period of the war and did not receive the normal honors and public attention. When Shackleton himself returned to England on May 29, 1917 after a short reading tour in America, his arrival was barely noticed.

    Most of the members of the expedition returned to immediately begin active military or naval service. Before the war ended, two men (Tim McCarthy and Alfred Cheetham) had died in combat, and Ernest Wild of the Ross Sea Party had died of typhus while serving in the Mediterranean. Several others were seriously injured and many were honored for their courage. After a propaganda mission in Buenos Aires, Shackleton served as a major in the army in Murmansk during the last weeks of the war . This special order took him up until March 1919.

    Shackleton's last expedition

    From 1920 Shackleton organized his last Antarctic expedition, the Quest Expedition , which left London on September 17, 1921. Wild, Worsley, Macklin, McIlroy, Hussey, Alexander Kerr , Thomas McLeod and cook Charles Green of the Endurance accompanied Shackleton on the Quest . On January 5, 1922, Shackleton suffered a fatal heart attack in South Georgia. After that, the plan to explore Enderbyland was abandoned. Wild directed a short drive that took them near Elephant Island. They anchored off Cape Wild and could see the old landmarks; a landing was not possible.

    First crossing of Antarctica

    It took over 40 years for the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition to cross the Antarctic continent by land from 1955 to 1958. This expedition began in Vahsel Bay and followed a route that avoided Beardmore Glacier, bypassed most of the Ross Ice Shelf, and reached McMurdo Sound via a descent from Skelton Glacier . The trip took 98 days.

    See also

    Literature and Sources

    Additional literature


    • The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition . Documentary, Discovery Channel, 2002, with Liam Neeson as narrator
    • Hell trip Antarctica. TV documentary, 2011 (New Zealand-German co-production). First broadcast on April 21, 2012 on ZDF
    • In darkness let me dwell - songs from the darkness , radio play by Janko Hanushevsky and Eva Pöpplein, radio play of the month December 2016
    • The endurance expedition is the theme of the play Verloren im Packeis - an adventurous tale of Ernest Shackleton's endurance expedition and the story of a mutiny by Christoph Busche. The world premiere was on January 27, 2018 at Theater Kiel (Theater im Werftpark), directed by Christoph Busche. At the center of the one-person piece is the ambiguous figure of the ship's carpenter Harry McNish , who initially admires Shackleton, but loses faith in the expedition leader during the months-long odyssey and takes a stand against him.
    Roland Eugen Beiküfner as Sir Ernest Shackleton in "Shackleton: Banjo or Bible? 636 days in the ice"
    • Shackleton: Banjo or Bible? 636 Days in Ice is a play for three people about the endurance expedition. It was written by Friederike Pöhlmann-Grießinger from Art and Drama with the actor Roland Eugen Beiküfner . Lawrence Davies from Wales accompanies all performances with sea shanties, which were also sung on the Endurance. The world premiere took place on June 15, 2015 in the ballroom of the KunstKulturQuartier in Nuremberg . The Swiss premiere was on February 1, 2018 in Bergün . The Austrian premiere was on January 5, 2019, on the 97th anniversary of Sir Ernest Shackleton's death in Dornbirn .

    Web links

    Commons : Endurance Expedition  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

    English language websites

    Individual evidence

    1. This definition can be found in Fisher, p. 449.
    2. ^ A b Roland Huntford, Shackleton, Hodder & Stoughton, 1985, p. 350.
    3. Murphy, pp. 87-102.
    4. ^ Shackleton, p. 2
    5. Huntford, pp. 356-57
    6. ^ Huntford, p. 367
    7. ^ Huntford, p. 362
    8. a b c d Shackleton, South (preface)
    9. ^ Tyler-Lewis, p. 216
    10. a b c Fisher, p. 306
    11. ^ Huntford, p. 355
    12. Huntford, pp. 356-58
    13. Huntford, pp. 313-14
    14. ^ Huntford, p. 369
    15. Huntford, pp. 375-77
    16. Fisher, p. 306, estimates the cost at £ 14,000
    17. ^ A b Huntford, p. 370
    18. ↑ In 1920 the Daily Mail estimated the expedition cost £ 80,000 - Fisher, p. 306
    19. Tyler-Lewis, pp. 34-35
    20. Tyler-Lewis, pp. 41-48
    21. Tyler-Lewis, pp. 222-27
    22. Alexander, p. 10.
    23. ^ Fisher, p. 308, footnote. Online at the Scott Polar Research Institute .
    24. Tyler-Lewis, pp. 48-53
    25. ^ Announcement of the Antarctic Circle
    26. Alexander, p. 15.
    27. Shackleton, p. 5
    28. Shackleton, p. 11
    29. Shackleton, p. 27
    30. Shackleton, p. 29
    31. Shackleton, p. 31 - if you cover the fire with ashes, it just glows and uses less wood
    32. Shackleton, p. 34
    33. ^ Huntford, p. 418
    34. Shackleton, pp. 35-40
    35. Shackleton, p. 43
    36. Shackleton, p. 45
    37. ^ Huntford, p. 421
    38. Shackleton, p. 47
    39. See Orde-Lees' comments, found in Huntford, p. 426
    40. ^ Shackleton, p. 58
    41. ^ Worsley, quoted by Shackleton, p. 65
    42. Worsley, p. 20
    43. Shackleton, pp. 74-77
    44. ^ Huntford, p. 461.
    45. ^ Fisher, p. 358.
    46. Shackleton, p. 75
    47. Alexander, p. 95
    48. Huntford, pp. 456-57
    49. ^ Huntford, p. 459
    50. Huntford, pp. 468-69
    51. ^ Huntford, p. 473
    52. Huntford, pp. 473-76
    53. ^ Huntford, p. 656
    54. a b Shackleton, p. 106
    55. Shackleton, p. 108
    56. a b Shackleton, p. 116
    57. a b Shackleton, p. 119
    58. Shackleton, p. 121
    59. ^ Huntford, p. 506
    60. Huntford, pp. 509-10
    61. Huntford, pp. 512-13
    62. Shackleton, pp. 144-45
    63. Shackleton, p 151. Point game was also Cape Wild called
    64. Shackleton, pp. 158-59
    65. ^ Fisher, p. 371
    66. Shackleton, p. 162, lists the goods taken with them.
    67. ^ Huntford, p. 563
    68. Fisher, pp. 378-81
    69. a b Fisher, p. 383
    70. ^ Fisher, p. 384
    71. ^ Shackleton, quoted in Fisher, p. 385
    72. ^ Fisher, p. 386
    73. ^ Shackleton, South, p. 209
    74. Huntford, pp. 696-97
    75. Shackleton, pp. 208-09
    76. Shackleton, pp. 210-13
    77. Shackleton, pp. 214-18
    78. ^ Huntford, p. 533
    79. Huntford, pp. 532-33
    80. Mills, pp. 239-40
    81. Mills, p. 241
    82. Mills, pp. 250-52
    83. ^ Huntford, p. 541
    84. Shackleton, pp. 218-19
    85. Alexander, p. 182
    86. Mills, p. 261
    87. Shackleton, pp. 218-19
    88. The main source for this section is The Lost Men (Kelly Tyler-Lewis). For a complete list of sources and references, see Ross Sea Party .
    89. Huntford, pp. 605-606
    90. ^ Huntford, p. 647
    91. Shackleton, pp. 339-341
    92. ^ Fisher, p. 432
    93. Mills, p. 289
    94. Mills, pp. 304-305
    95. ^ Fuchs & Hillary, p. 293
    96. deutschlandfunk.de (March 5, 2017)
    97. Lost in the pack ice . In: Theater Kiel . ( theater-kiel.de [accessed on June 5, 2018]).
    This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on December 25, 2008 .