Book Reviews

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing -Book Notes, Summary, and Review

22. Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage - Alfred Lansing

Get it on Amazon

Rating: 10/10

Date of reading: 24th – 30th of June, 2018

Description: Let’s take 28 people and have them walk from West to East of Antarctica…on foot….1500 miles… What could possibly go wrong? This is a story of how everything went wrong for the Trans-Antarctic expedition led by Ernest Shackleton, how the group of 28 men got stuck on an ice flow for two years and how they all survived impossible conditions and even more impossible situations which were impossible to do even for people 50 years afterward. 


My notes:


part I


“The order to abandon ship was given at 5 P.M.” ( :12)

“The general feeling of relief at being off the ship was not shared by one man—at least not in the larger sense. He was a thickset individual with a wide face and a broad nose, and he spoke with a trace of an Irish brogue. During the hours it took to abandon the ship, he had remained more or less apart as the equipment, dogs, and men were gotten off. His name was Sir Ernest Shackleton, and the twenty-seven men he had watched so ingloriously leaving their stricken ship were the members of his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.” ( :15)

“he could not possibly have imagined then the physical and emotional demands that ultimately would be placed upon them, the rigors they would have to endure, the sufferings to which they would be subjected. They were for all practical purposes alone in the frozen Antarctic seas. It had been very nearly a year since they had last been in contact with civilization” ( :15)

“If they were to get out—they had to get themselves out.” ( :15)

“Shackleton’s order to abandon ship, while it signaled the beginning of the greatest of all Antarctic adventures, also sealed the fate of one of the most ambitious of all Antarctic expeditions. The goal of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, as its name implies, was to cross the Antarctic continent overland from west to east.” ( :16)

“And even Fuchs, though his party was equipped with heated, tracked vehicles and powerful radios, and guided by reconnaissance planes and dog teams, was strongly urged to give up. It was only after a tortuous journey lasting nearly four months that Fuchs did in fact achieve what Shackleton set out to do in 1915.” ( :16)

“1907, Shackleton led the first expedition actually to declare the Pole as its goal. With three companions, Shackleton struggled to within 97 miles of their destination and then had to turn back because of a shortage of food. The return journey was a desperate race with death. But the party finally made it, and Shackleton returned to England a hero of the Empire. He was lionized wherever he went, knighted by his king, and decorated by every major country in the world.” ( :16)

“an American expedition under Robert E. Peary had reached the North Pole in 1909. Then Scott, on his second expedition in late 1911 and early 1912, was raced to the South Pole by the Norwegian, Roald Amundsen—and beaten by a little more than a month. It was disappointing to lose out. But that might have been only a bit of miserable luck—had not Scott and his three companions died as they struggled, weak with scurvy, to return to their base.” ( :16)

“There can be little doubt that Shackleton, in his way, was an extraordinary leader of men.” ( :18)

“”For scientific leadership give me Scott; for swift and efficient travel, Amundsen; but when you are in a hopeless situation, when there seems no way out, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton.”” ( :18)

“motto of his family, Fortitudine vincimus—”By endurance we conquer.”” ( :19)

“Despite the instantaneous nature of these decisions, Shackleton’s intuition for selecting compatible men rarely failed.” ( :20)

“He was a sensitive, fanciful individual, and the manner in which he claimed to have joined the expedition, whether it was true or not, characterized him perfectly. As he told it, he was ashore in London, staying at a hotel, when one night he had a dream in which he pictured Burlington Street, in the fashionable West End section, as being filled with blocks of ice through which he was navigating a ship. Early the next morning, he hurried over to Burlington Street. As he was walking along he saw a nameplate on a door. It read: “Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.” (The expedition’s London office was, in fact, at 4 New Burlington Street.) Inside he found Shackleton. The two men were immediately drawn to one another, and Worsley hardly had to mention that he wanted to join the expedition. “You’re engaged,” Shackleton said after a brief conversation. “Join your ship until I wire for you. I’ll let you know all the details as soon as possible. Good morning.”” ( :22)

“The Endurance sailed from Buenos Aires at 10:30 M. on October 26 for her last port of call, the A. desolate island of South Georgia off the southern tip of South America. She proceeded out the everwidening mouth of the River Platte, and dropped her pilot the next morning at the Recalada Lightship. By sunset the land had dropped from sight.” ( :23)

“Shackleton summed up his feelings: “. . . now comes the actual work itself . . . the fight will be good.”” ( :24)

“”Finally,” he thundered, “if we run out of food and anyone has to be eaten, you will be first. Do you understand?”” ( :24)

“But it didn’t, so at 8:45 M. on December 5, 1914, A. the Endurance weighed anchor and proceeded slowly out of Cumberland Bay.” ( :25)

“Often during this period, the phenomenon of an “ice shower,” caused by the moisture in the air freezing and settling to earth, lent a fairyland atmosphere to the scene. Millions of delicate crystals, frequently thin and needlelike in shape, descended in sparkling beauty through the twilight air.” ( :26)

“”Here endeth another Christmas Day. I wonder how and under what circumstances our next one” ( :26)

“will be spent. Temperature 30 degrees.”” ( :27)

“The Endurance was now about 400 miles northeast of Vahsel Bay, and Shackleton headed her in that direction. For five days they ran parallel with the barrier, and their progress was excellent. By January 15, they were within 200 miles of Vahsel Bay.” ( :27)

“The Endurance was beset. As Orde-Lees, the storekeeper, put it, “frozen, like an almond in the middle of a chocolate bar.”” ( :28)

“news programs which were to be broadcast to them on the first of each month from the Falkland Islands, now 1,650 miles away.” ( :29)

“Nor was there now any chance of landing the party that was to cross the continent. The drift of the pack since the Endurance was beset had carried them to within about 60 miles of Vahsel Bay—a tantalizingly short distance, it would seem. But 60 miles over hummocky ice with God knows how many impassable tracks of open water in between, carrying at least a year’s supply of rations and equipment, plus the lumber for a hut—and all this behind sledges drawn by ill-conditioned and untrained dogs. No, 60 miles could be a very long way, indeed.” ( :31)

“In all the world there is no desolation more complete than the polar night. It is a return to the Ice Age —no warmth, no life, no movement. Only those who have experienced it can fully appreciate what it means to be without the sun day after day and week after week. Few men unaccustomed to it can fight off its effects altogether, and it has driven some men mad.” ( :34)

“they took to walking in a circle around the ship. The route came to be known as “madhouse promenade.”” ( :34)

“They called him Chef or Cookie—or sometimes Doughballs because of his high, squeaky voice and because he had in fact lost a testicle in an accident. They poked fun at him on the surface, but underneath there was a fundamental respect, and a fondness, too. Few men were more conscientious.” ( :35)

“Buddha—to a practical joke he had fallen for once while the ship was at South Georgia. The men had convinced him that there was to be a costume party ashore . . . and any man who had seen South Georgia with his own eyes—its glaciers and rugged mountains, the stink of whale entrails rotting in the harbor—and who could believe it to be the scene of a costume party . . . but Hudson did. They got him to remove most of his clothing and they dressed him in a bedsheet. Then they tied the lid of a teapot on his head with pieces of ribbon running under his chin. Thus attired, he was rowed to shore, shivering in the icy blasts that howled down off the mountains. A party was held at the home of the whaling factory manager. But when Hudson walked in, he was most assuredly the only one in costume.” ( :35)

“followed by the toast, “To our sweethearts and wives.” Invariably a chorus of voices added, “May they never meet.”” ( :36)

“The whole party had been cheered by the sun’s refracted image appearing over the horizon for one minute just after noon. It was the first time they had seen it in seventy-nine days. But it did not quite offset the general uneasiness.” ( :40)


part II


“The plan, as they all knew, was to march toward Paulet Island, 346 miles to the northwest, where the stores left in 1902 should still be. The distance was farther than from New York City to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and they would be dragging two of their three boats with them, since it was assumed that they would eventually run into open water.” ( :49)

“Each man, he said, would be allowed the clothes on his back, plus two pairs of mittens, six pairs of socks, two pairs of boots, a sleeping bag, a pound of tobacco—and two pounds of personal gear.” ( :50)

“Macklin kept pushing him away until finally he got up nerve enough to put the shotgun to Sirius’ neck. He pulled the trigger, but his hand was shaking so he had to reload and fire a second time to finish the puppy off.” ( :51)

“He wrote in his diary that same night: “The rapidity with which one can completely change one’s ideas . . . and accommodate ourselves to a state of barbarism is wonderful.”” ( :52)

“Almost immediately, stores began to float up, beginning with a barrel of walnuts. Other supplies were grappled to the surface—a case of sugar, a boxful of baking soda. By the end of the day, nearly 3½ tons of flour, rice, sugar, barley, lentils, vegetables, and jam had been rescued and sledged back to camp. It was an extremely rewarding haul, and the whole party was jubilant.” ( :54)

“Green had put in easily three times too much curry. “I had to eat it to satisfy my hunger,” Macklin later wrote in his diary, “but now my mouth is like a limekiln and I am almost parched with thirst.”” ( :54)

“In part, this attitude grew out of a consuming sense of responsibility. He felt he had gotten them into their situation, and it was his responsibility to get them out. As a consequence, he was intensely watchful for potential troublemakers who might nibble away at the unity of the group. Shackleton felt that if dissension arose, the party as a whole might not put forth that added ounce of energy which could mean, at a time of crisis, the difference between survival and defeat.” ( :56)

“It did last for forty-eight hours, and when the weather cleared, Worsley obtained a sight which showed they had been blown 16 miles northwest—a highly satisfactory run.” ( :57)

“it. Even in the most desperate circumstances, when other men were on the point of collapse from fatigue, he seemed to openly shirk his duty. It was perhaps only his guilelessness about it that made him tolerable to the others.” ( :58)

“squeamish about this seemingly cold-blooded method of hunting. But not for long. The will to survive soon dispelled any hesitancy to obtain food by any means.” ( :61)

“Shackleton that night noted simply in his diary that the Endurance was gone, and added: “I cannot write about it.” And so they were alone. Now, in every direction, there was nothing to be seen but the endless ice. Their position was 68°38½′ South, 52°28′ West—a place where no man had ever been before, nor could they conceive that any man would ever want to be again.” ( :62)

“It was therefore particularly apt, and exactly fitted Shackleton’s outlook and behavior. He wanted to appear familiar with the men. He even worked at it, insisting on having exactly the same treatment, food, and clothing. He went out of his way to demonstrate his willingness to do the menial chores, such as taking his turn as “Peggy” to get the mealtime pot of hoosh from the galley to his tent. And he occasionally became furious when he discovered that the cook had given him preferential treatment because he was the “Boss.”” ( :64)

“In essence the note said that the Endurance had been crushed and abandoned at 69°5 ́ South, 51°35 ́ West, and that the members of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition were then at 67°9 ́ South, 52°25 ́ West,” ( :67)

“Most of the men wore heavy Burberry-Durox boots—ankle-high leather boots with gaberdine uppers reaching to the knee—designed for marching on hard ice. But as the party struggled over the slushy floes, those boots continually filled with water. In the soaked state, each weighed about 7 pounds. It was an exhausting exertion at every step to lift one foot and then the other out of 2-foot holes full of snowy slush.” ( :68)

“Greenstreet had written in his diary: “Here endeth another Christmas Day. I wonder how and under what circumstances our next one will be spent.”” ( :68)

“The two men reached a fragment of a berg and climbed it. The view from the top justified Shackleton’s fears. He could see 2 miles ahead, and the ice was truly impassable—criss-crossed by leads of open water and the jumbled remains of broken pressure ridges. Moreover, it was dangerously thin.” ( :70)


part III


“Many of them, it seemed, finally grasped for the first time just how desperate things really were. More correctly, they became aware of their own inadequacy, of how utterly powerless they were.” ( :72)

“carcass into camp. It measured 12 feet long, and they estimated its weight at about 1,100 pounds.” ( :73)

“This indomitable self-confidence of Shackleton’s took the form of optimism. And it worked in two ways: it set men’s souls on fire; as Macklin said, just to be in his presence was an experience. It was what made Shackleton so great a leader.” ( :73)

“Then, in a quiet, level voice, Shackleton ordered Wild to shoot his own team along with McIlroy’s, Marston’s, and Crean’s. There was no protest, no argument. The four drivers obediently harnessed their teams and drove the dogs about a quarter of a mile away from the camp. The drivers then returned alone, except for McIlroy; he and Macklin were to assist Wild. Each dog in turn was taken off his trace and led behind a row of large ice hummocks. There Wild sat the animal in the snow, took the muzzle in his left hand, and placed his revolver close to its head. Death was instantaneous.” ( :75)

“”Wonderful, amazing splendid,” Shackleton wrote. “Lat. 65°43′ South—73 miles North drift. The most cheerful good fortune for a year for us: We cannot be much more than 170 miles from Paulet. Everyone greeted the news with cheers. The wind still continues. We may get another 10 miles out of it. Thank God.” ( :77)

“Before a dense fog rolled in early in the afternoon, they had a total of sixty-nine penguins.” ( :81)

“bringing in every penguin that could be reached. By nightfall, they had killed, skinned, gutted, and cut up 300 Adélies.” ( :81)

“February 24 the party had secured a total of nearly 600. TheAdélie, however, is a small and not very meaty bird, so that the amount of food obtained was not nearly so impressive as might be supposed.” ( :81)

“Our distance from Paulet I. is now 94 miles which means we have completed ¾ of the distance we had to do when we got on the floe. I wonder if we shall ever get there.”” ( :81)

“My opinion is that the chances of getting to Paulet Is. now are about 1 in 10. . . .”” ( :82)

“By evening everyone was satisfied that the open ocean lay, at most, 30 miles away.” ( :83)

“He wrote that night: “Trust will not increase until leads form.”” ( :83)

“But then came the swell—the physical proof that there really was something outside this limitless prison of ice. And all the defenses they had so carefully constructed to prevent hope from entering their minds collapsed.” ( :84)

“pushing them north, James observed darkly: “Paulet Island probably already to the South of us.”” ( :84)

“Yet frustrating as it was, the sight of land was welcome, as James noted, if for no other reason than “it is nearly 16 months since we last saw any black rock.”” ( :92)

“Then Greenstreet paused to get his breath, and in that instant his anger was spent and he suddenly fell silent. Everyone else in the tent became quiet, too, and looked at Greenstreet, shaggy-haired, bearded, and filthy with blubber soot, holding his empty mug in his hand and looking helplessly down into the snow that had thirstily soaked up his precious milk. The loss was so tragic he seemed almost on the point of weeping. Without speaking, Clark reached out and poured some of his milk into Greenstreet’s mug. Then Worsley, then Macklin, and Rickenson and Kerr, Orde-Lees, and finally Blackboro. They finished in silence” ( :94)

“With one bullet, it seemed, Wild had changed the whole complexion of their fives. There at their feet lay nearly 1,000 pounds of meat—and at least two weeks’ supply of blubber. Shackleton announced that they would feast on the sea leopard’s liver for lunch.” ( :96)

“The party had just toasted his health at lunch when a sea leopard’s head appeared at the edge of the floe. McLeod, who was a small but stocky man, went over and stood flapping his arms to imitate a penguin. The sea leopard apparently was convinced, for he sprang out of the water at McLeod, who turned and dashed for safety. The sea leopard humped forward once or twice, then stopped, apparently to take stock of the other strange creatures on the floe. The delay was fatal. Wild had reached into his tent for his rifle. He took deliberate aim and fired, and another thousand pounds of meat was added to the larder.” ( :98)

“During the past twenty-four hours they had scarcely gone north at all—2 miles at most. Instead they had covered 16 miles to the east.” ( :101)

“It was one-thirty in the afternoon when the crews scrambled on board each boat; they put out every available oar and pulled with all their strength for the open water. Even as they drew away from Patience Camp, the ice began to close.” ( :102)


part IV


“That soot-blackened floe which had been their prison for nearly four months—whose every feature they knew so well, as convicts know each crevice of their cells; which they had come to despise, but whose preservation they had prayed for so often—belonged now to the past.” ( :104)

“By Worsley’s estimate, they had made a good 7 miles to the” ( :106)

“wriggling in the water—a man in his sleeping bag. Shackleton reached down for the bag and with one tremendous heave, he pulled it out of the water. A moment later, the two halves of the broken floe came together with a violent shock.” ( :106)

“The lines in Tennyson’s Morte d’Arthur kept running through Macklin’s head: “. . . I never saw, nor shall see, here or elsewhere, till I die, not though I live three lives of mortal men, so great a miracle. . . .”” ( :110)

“Clarence Island lay just 39 miles almost due north. By sailing northwest, they had reduced that distance to about 25 miles NNE, Worsley estimate” ( :111)

“Cheeks were drained and white, eyes were bloodshot from the salt spray and the fact that the men had slept only once in the past four days.” ( :115)

“As the sun climbed a fraction higher, they saw off the starboard bow the peaks of Clarence Island, and a little later, Elephant Island, dead ahead—the Promised Land, no more than 30 miles away. In the joy of that moment, Shackleton called to Worsley to congratulate him on his navigation, and Worsley, stiff with cold, looked away in proud embarrassment.” ( :119)

“Hour after hour hey rowed, and the outline of Elephant Island slowly grew larger. At noon, they had covered almost half the distance; by one-thirty they were less than 15 miles away.” ( :120)

“Hour after hour hey rowed, and the outline of Elephant Island slowly grew larger. At noon, they had covered almost half the distance; by one-thirty they were less than 15 miles away. They had had no sleep for almost eighty hours, and their bodies had been drained by exposure and effort of almost the last vestige of vitality. But the conviction that they had to land by nightfall gave rise to a strength born of desperation. It was pull or perish, and” ( :120)

“Hour after hour hey rowed, and the outline of Elephant Island slowly grew larger. At noon, they had covered almost half the distance; by one-thirty they were less than 15 miles away. They had had no sleep for almost eighty hours, and their bodies had been drained by exposure and effort of almost the last vestige of vitality. But the conviction that they had to land by nightfall gave rise to a strength born of desperation. It was pull or perish, and ignoring their sickening thirst, they leaned on their oars with what seemed the last of their strength.” ( :120)

“The island was close, but just how close was now impossible to tell—maybe 10 miles, probably less.” ( :120)

“They had been in the boats now for five and a half days, and during that time almost everyone had come to look upon Worsley in a new light. In the past he had been thought of as excitable and wild—even irresponsible. But all that was changed now. During these past days he had exhibited an almost phenomenal ability, both as a navigator and in the demanding skill of handling a small boat. There wasn’t another man in the party even comparable” ( :121)

“with him, and he had assumed an entirely new stature because of it.” ( :122)

“Gradually, the surface of the sea became discernible. And there, dead ahead, were the enormous gray-brown cliffs of Elephant Island rising out of the mists, sheer from the water, high above the boat —and less than a mile away. The distance seemed no more than a few hundred yards. There was no great joy in that moment. Only a feeling of astonishment which soon gave way to a sense of tremendous relief.” ( :122)

“great black headlands appearing through the mists, scarcely a quarter mile away. Immediately, Shackleton ordered them to put about and head west across the wind.” ( :124)

“Then they rounded a tiny spit of land, and there, dead ahead, were the masts of the Caird and Wills, bobbing in the backwash from the breakers. By some incredible coincidence, the Docker’s inability to find a suitable place to land had reunited her with the rest of the party. Had there been a haven somewhere in those 14 miles behind her, the two groups might now have been miles apart, each assuming the other had been lost.” ( :125)

“Rickenson suddenly turned pale, and a minute later collapsed of a heart attack. Greenstreet’s frostbitten feet would hardly support him, and he hobbled ashore and lay down alongside of Blackboro. Hudson pulled himself through the surf, then sank down on the beach. Stevenson,” ( :125)

“They were on land. It was the merest handhold, 100 feet wide and 50 feet deep. A meager grip on a savage coast, exposed to the full fury of the sub-Antarctic Ocean. But no matter—they were on land. For the first time in 497 days they were on land. Solid, unsinkable, immovable, blessed land.” ( :126)


part V


“Most of the men were awakened once during that glorious night to stand an hour’s watch, and even” ( :128)

“this was almost pleasure. The night was calm, and the sky was clear.” ( :129)

“It was April 20, a day notable for only one reason: Shackleton finally made official what everyone had expected for a long time. He would take a party of five men and set sail in the Caird for South Georgia to bring relief. They would leave as soon as the Caird could be made ready and provisioned for the trip.” ( :132)

“There were three possible objectives. The nearest of these was Cape Horn, the island of Tierra del Fuego—”Land of Fire,” which lay about 500 miles to the northwest Next was the settlement of Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands, some 550 miles very nearly due north. Finally there was South Georgia, slightly more than 800 miles to the northeast. Though the distance to South Georgia was more than half again as far as the journey to Cape Horn, weather conditions made South Georgia the most sensible choice.” ( :133)

“Shackleton had already made up his mind, after long discussions with Wild, not only as to who should be taken, but who should not be left behind.” ( :133)

“21st April, 1916 To whom this may concern viz. my executors assigns etc. Under is my signature to the following instructions. In the event of my not surviving the boat journey to South Georgia I here instruct Frank Hurley to take complete charge & responsibility for exploitation of all films & photographic reproductions of all films & negatives taken on this Expedition the aforesaid films & negatives to become the property of Frank Hurley after due exploitation, in which, the moneys to be paid to my executors will be” ( :134)

“according to the contract made at the start of the expedition. The exploitation expires after a lapse of eighteen months from date of first public display. I bequeath the big binoculars to Frank Hurley. E. H. SHACKLETON Witness JOHN VINCENT” ( :135)

“Good luck, Boss,” the shore party called after him. Shackleton swung around and waved briefly. When they reached the Caird, Shackleton and Vincent jumped on board, and the stores were rapidly passed across.” ( :138)

“The Caird caught the wind, and Worsley at the helm swung her bow toward the north. “They made surprising speed for such a small craft,” Orde-Lees recorded. “We watched them until they were out of sight, which was not long, for such a tiny boat was soon lost to sight on the great heaving ocean; as she dipped into the trough of each wave, she disappeared completely, sail and all.”” ( :138)

“”Life here without a hut and equipment is almost beyond endurance.” But little by little, as the wind revealed their vulnerable spots, they sealed them up, and each day the shelter became just a little more livable.” ( :140)

“Orde-Lees wrote one night: “We want to be fed with a large wooden spoon and, like the Korean babies, be patted on the stomach with the back of the spoon so as to get in a little more than would otherwise be the case. In short, we want to be overfed, grossly overfed, yes, very grossly overfed on nothing but porridge and sugar, black currant and apple pudding and cream, cake, milk, eggs, jam, honey and bread and butter till we burst, and we’ll shoot the man who offers us meat. We don’t want to see or hear of any more meat as long as we live.”” ( :142)

“The sun now rose a little after nine o’clock and set about 3 P.M. Since they were more than 300 miles north of the Antarctic Circle, they did not have to face the prospect of the sun disappearing altogether. But the weather was” ( :142)

“becoming increasingly cold.” ( :143)

“There was, on the whole, an astounding absence of serious antagonisms, considering the conditions under which they were attempting to exist. Possibly it was because they were in a state of almost perpetual minor friction.” ( :144)

“He had wagered (1) that there would not be a single penguin on that day; (2) that no more than ten would appear on any one day after June 1, and (3) that no more than thirty would be secured during the entire month. On that particular day they killed 115.” ( :145)

“It has been suggested that the noose be tried around his neck. I’m sure many would exert their full man power.”” ( :148)

“”It is hard to realize one’s position here,” Macklin wrote, “living in a smoky, dirty, ramshackle little hut with only just sufficient room to cram us all in: drinking out of a common pot . . . and laying in close proximity to a man with a large discharging abscess—a horrible existence, but yet we are pretty happy. . . .”” ( :149)

“August 1 was the anniversary of the day, two years before, when the Endurance had sailed from London, and one year before, when she had sustained her first serious pressure. Hurley summed it up:” ( :150)


part VI


“Unlike the land, where courage and the simple will to endure can often see a man through, the struggle against the sea is an act of physical combat, and there is no escape. It is a battle against a tireless enemy in which man never actually wins; the most that he can hope for is not to be defeated.” ( :154)

“By noon on April 26, they had logged a total of 128 miles from Elephant Island without encountering a sign of ice.” ( :156)

“Worsley had fixed the position at 128 miles from Elephant Island, the ordeal to which they were committed had become altogether too real. There was only the consolation that they were making progress—at the agonizingly slow rate of about 1 mile every half hour or so.” ( :157)

“59°46′ South, 52°18′ West, and it put the Caird a scant 14 miles north of the 60th parallel of latitude. Thus they had just crept over the line separating the “Raving Fifties” from the “Screaming Sixties,” so called because of the weather that prevails there” ( :157)

“The waves thus produced have become legendary among seafaring men. They are called Cape Horn Rollers or “graybeards.” Their length has been estimated from crest to crest to exceed a mile, and the terrified reports of some mariners have placed their height at 200 feet, though scientists doubt that they very often exceed 80 or 90 feet. How fast they travel is largely a matter of speculation, but many sailormen have claimed their speed occasionally reaches 55 miles an hour. Thirty knots is probably a more accurate figure.” ( :158)

“”The sight . . . is enough to make a landsman dream for a week about death, peril and shipwreck.”” ( :158)

“ust before noon a rift appeared in the sky, and Worsley hurriedly got his sextant. He was just in time, for a few minutes later the sun smiled down for one wintry flicker and then was gone. But Worsley had his sight, and Shackleton had recorded the chronometer reading. When the position was worked out, it put the Caird at 58°38′ South, 50°0′ West—they had covered 238 miles since leaving Elephant Island, six days before. They were almost one-third of the way.” ( :160)

“It was perhaps one of nature’s ironies. Here was her largest and most incomparable creature capable of flight, whose wingspread exceeded 11 feet from tip to tip, and to whom the most violent storm was meaningless, sent to accompany the Caird, as if in mockery of her painful struggles.” ( :164)

“Worsley’s sight at noon put the position at 55°31′ South, 44°43′ West, a run of 52 miles in twentyfour hours.” ( :165)

“Furthermore, the wave during the night had somehow changed their attitude. For thirteen days they had suffered through almost ceaseless gales, then finally a huge rogue sea. They had been the underdog, fit only to endure the punishment inflicted on them.” ( :167)

“possibly 10 miles away. A moment later the clouds moved like a curtain across the water, shutting off the view. But no matter. It was there, and they had all seen it” ( :170)

“He then compared it with the chart and it appeared to correspond to the area of Cape Demidov. If so, it meant that his navigation had been very nearly faultless. They were only about 16 miles from the western tip of the island, the point for which they had originally been aiming.” ( :171)

“Growing things—the first they had seen in more than sixteen months. And they would be standing amongst them in an hour or a little more.” ( :171)

“that they were only a short distance outside the line of breakers, the point at which the seas ceased to behave like swells and became combers instead, rushing faster and faster toward their own destruction against the land. As each swell passed under them they could feel it tugging momentarily at the boat, trying to get hold of her and hurl her toward the beach. It seemed now that everything—the wind, the current, and even the sea itself—were united in a single, determined purpose—once and for all to annihilate this tiny boat which thus far had defied all their efforts to destroy it.” ( :173)

“Worsley thought to himself of the pity of it all. He remembered the diary he had kept ever since the Endurance had sailed from South Georgia almost seventeen months before. That same diary, wrapped in rags and utterly soaked, was now stowed in the forepeak of the Caird. When she went, it would go, too. Worsley thought not so much of dying, because that was now so plainly inevitable, but of the fact that no one would ever know how terribly close they had come. He waited at the helm, silent and tense—braced for the final, shattering impact when the Caird’s bottom would be torn out against some unseen rock. As he watched, the water streaming down his” ( :174)

“face and dripping from his beard, the sky to the east crept into view. “She’s clearing it!” he screamed. “She’s clearing it!”” ( :175)

“The bailers stopped and everybody looked up and saw the stars shining to leeward. The island was no longer in the way. They had no idea how, even why—perhaps some unexpected eddy of the tide had driven them offshore. But no one then stopped to seek an explanation. They knew only one thing —the boat had been spared.” ( :175)

“Hurriedly they ran up every sail to its full height and headed for the narrow opening in the reefs. But it meant sailing straight into the wind, and the Caird simply could not do it. Four times they lay off, and four times they tried to tack into the wind. Four times they failed.” ( :175)

“As quickly as they could, the other men scrambled after him. It was five o’clock on the tenth of May, 1916, and they were standing at last on the island from which they had sailed 522 days before. They heard a trickling sound. Only a few yards away a little stream of fresh water was running down from the glaciers high above. A moment later all six were on their knees, drinking.” ( :176)


part VII


“With all of them pulling they managed to bring her back to shore, and they tried once more to get her up the beach, this time by rolling her over. Again they lacked the strength. They were very close to exhaustion, but even their desperate craving for” ( :178)

“By sea it would have been a voyage of more than 130 miles out around the western tip of the island and then along the north coast. By land it was a scant 29 miles in a straight line.” ( :179)

“three-quarters of a century that men had been coming to South Georgia, not one man had ever crossed the island—for the simple reason that it could not be done.” ( :179)

“”a saw-tooth thrust through the tortured upheaval of mountain and glacier that falls in chaos to the northern sea.” In short, it was impassable.” ( :179)

“McNeish recorded rapturously: “We have not been as comfortable for the last 5 weeks. We had 3 young & 1 old albatross for lunch, with 1 pint of gravy which beets all the chicken soup I ever tasted. I have just been thinking what our companions [on Elephant Island] would say if they had food like this.”” ( :179)

“It was an utterly carefree journey as the Caird drove smartly across the sparkling water. After a while they even began to sing. It occurred to Shackleton that they could easily have been mistaken for a picnic party out for a lark—except perhaps for their woebegone appearance.” ( :180)

“arrives. You have ample seal food which you can supplement with birds and fish according to your skill. You are left with a double barrelled gun, 50 cartridges [and other rations] . . . You also have all the necessary equipment to support life for an indefinite period in the event of my non-return. You had better after winter is over try and sail around to the East Coast. The course I am making towards Husvik is East magnetic. I trust to have you relieved in a few days.” ( :181)

“By seven o’clock, however, the sun had risen high enough to burn away the last traces of the fog, and they suddenly saw that the lake extended all the way to the horizon. They were marching toward Possession Bay—the open sea, on the northern coast of South Georgia.” ( :182)

“The blizzards of South Georgia are considered among the worst on earth.” ( :183)

“And so the decision was made. Shackleton said they would slide as a unit, holding onto one another. They quickly sat down and untied the rope which held them together. Each of them coiled up his share to form a mat. Worsley locked his legs around Shackleton’s waist and put his arms around Shackleton’s neck. Crean did the same with Worsley. They looked like three tobogganers without a toboggan.” ( :184)

“against their chests. Faster and faster—down . . . down . . . down! Then they shot forward onto the level, and their speed began to slacken. A moment later they came to an abrupt halt in a snowbank. The three men picked themselves up. They were breathless and their hearts were beating wildly. But they found themselves laughing uncontrollably. What had been a terrifying prospect possibly a hundred seconds before had turned into a breathtaking triumph.” ( :185)

“If Shackleton had heard the steam whistle at Stromness, it should blow again to call the men to work at seven o’clock. It was 6:50 . . . then 6:55. They hardly even breathed for fear of making a sound. 6:58 . . . 6:59. . . . Exactly to the second, the hoot of the whistle carried through the thin morning air. They looked at one another and smiled. Then they shook hands without speaking.” ( :186)

“December, 1914—seventeen unbelievable months before.” ( :186)

“Spread out beneath them, 2,500 feet below, was Stromness Whaling Station. A sailing ship was tied up to one of the wharfs and a small whale catcher was entering the bay. They saw the tiny figures of men moving around the docks and sheds. For a very long moment they stared without speaking. There didn’t really seem to be very much to say, or at least anything that needed to be said. “Let’s go down,” Shackleton said quietly.” ( :187)

“Mathias Andersen was the station foreman at Stromness. He had never met Shackleton, but along with everyone else at South Georgia he knew that the Endurance had sailed from there in 1914 . . . and had undoubtedly been lost with all hands in the Weddell Sea.” ( :188)

“”Would you please take us to Anton Andersen,” he said softly. The foreman shook his head. Anton Andersen was not at Stromness any longer, he explained. He had been replaced by the regular factory manager, Thoralf Sørlle. The Englishman seemed pleased. “Good,” he said. “I know Sørlle well.” The foreman led the way to Sørlle’s house, about a hundred yards off to the right. Almost all the workmen on the pier had left their jobs to come see the three strangers who had appeared at the dock. Now they lined the route, looking curiously at the foreman and his three companions.” ( :188)

“”My name is Shackleton,” he replied in a quiet voice. Again there was silence. Some said that Sørlle turned away and wept.” ( :188)




“The crossing of South Georgia has been accomplished only by one other party. That was almost forty years later, in 1955, by a British survey team under the able leadership of Duncan Carse. That party was made up of expert climbers and was well equipped with everything needed for the journey. Even so, they found it treacherous going.” ( :189)

“”In distance,” Carse wrote, “they are nowhere more than 10 miles apart; in difficulty, they are hardly comparable. “We to-day are travelling easily and unhurriedly. We are fit men, with our sledges and tents and ample food and time. We break new ground but with the leisure and opportunity to probe ahead. We pick and choose our hazards, accepting only the calculated risk. No lives depend upon our success— except our own. We take the high road. “They—Shackleton, Worsley and Crean . . . took the low road. “I do not know how they did it, except that they had to—three men of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration with 50 feet of rope between them—and a carpenter’s adze.”” ( :189)

“May 22.” ( :189)

“Their spokesman, speaking in Norse with Sørlle translating, said that they had sailed the Antarctic seas for forty years, and that they wanted to shake the hands of the men who could bring an open 22-foot boat from Elephant Island through the Drake Passage to South Georgia.” ( :189)

“Then every man in that room stood up, and the four old skippers took Shackleton and Worsley and Crean by the hand and congratulated them on what they had done. Many of the whalermen were bearded and dressed in heavy sweaters and sea boots. There was no formality, no speeches. They had no medals or decorations to bestow—only their heartfelt admiration” ( :189)

“f May 22, 1916, when, in a dingy warehouse shack on South Georgia, with the smell of rotting whale carcasses in the air, the whalermen of the southern ocean stepped forward one by one and silently shook hands with Shackleton, Worsley, and Crean.” ( :190)

“The following morning, less than seventy-two hours after arriving at Stromness from across the mountains, Shackleton and his two companions set out for Elephant Island.” ( :190)

“for an accomplishment which perhaps only they would ever fully appreciate. And their sincerity lent to the scene a simple but profoundly moving solemnity. Of the honors that followed—and there were many—possibly none ever exceeded that night of May 22, 1916, when, in a dingy warehouse shack on South Georgia, with the smell of rotting whale carcasses in the air, the whalermen of the southern ocean stepped forward one by one and silently shook hands with Shackleton, Worsley, and Crean. The following morning, less than seventy-two hours after arriving at Stromness from across the mountains, Shackleton and his two companions set out for Elephant Island.” ( :190)

“A third attempt was made in a balky wooden schooner, the Emma, which Shackleton chartered. She was at sea for nearly three weeks, during which it was a struggle merely to keep her afloat—much less to effect a rescue. The Emma never approached Elephant Island closer than 100 miles.” ( :190)

“Instead he appealed to the Chilean government for the use of an ancient sea-going tug, the Yelcho. He promised not to take her into any ice, for she was steel-hulled and her ability to weather the sea— much less any pack—was doubtful. The request was granted, and the Yelcho sailed on August 25. This time the fates were willing. Five days later, on August 30, Worsley logged: “5.25 am Full speed . . . 11.10 [A.M.] . . . base of land faintly visible. Threadg: our way between lumps ice, reefs, & grounded bergs. 1.10 Sight the PM Camp to sw. . . .”” ( :190)

“It had been four months and six days since the Caird had left, and there was not a man among them who still believed seriously that she had survived the journey to South Georgia.” ( :190)

“”Hadn’t we better send up some smoke signals?” he asked. For a moment there was silence, and then, as one man, they grasped what Marston was saying. “Before there was time for a reply,” Orde-Lees recorded, “there was a rush of members tumbling over one another, all mixed up with mugs of seal hoosh, making a simultaneous dive for the door-hole which was immediately torn to shreds so that those members who could not pass through it, on account of the crush, made their exits through the ‘wall,’ or what remained of it.”” ( :191)

“The ship approached to within several hundred yards, then stopped. The men ashore could see a boat being lowered. Four men got into it, followed by the sturdy, square-set figure they knew so well —Shackleton. A spontaneous cheer went up. In fact the excitement ashore was so intense that many men actually were giggling.” ( :191)

“Finally he logged: “2.10 All Well! At last! 2.15 Full speed ahead.” Macklin wrote: “I stayed on deck to watch Elephant Island recede in the distance . . . I could still see my Burberry [jacket] flapping in the breeze on the hillside—no doubt it will flap there to the wonderment of gulls and penguins till one of our familiar [gales] blows it all to ribbons.”” ( :192)


Check out more book notes at How I Read 90 Books In The Past 2 Years By Reading 20 Pages A Day

Share life-long habits over:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *