Showing posts with label Ernest Shackleton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ernest Shackleton. Show all posts

100 Years Ago Shackleton's Men Were Rescued From the Ice

Yesterday marked an auspicious day in the annals of exploration. It was exactly 100 years to the day since Ernest Shackleton's men were rescued from the ice in the Antarctic after a months-long ordeal that would eventually go down as one of the greatest tales of survival ever. The rescue brought and end to their struggles on that particular expedition, but returned them to a world gone mad by war.

Shackleton's tale is a well known one at this point. In August of 1914, he and his men set sail from London for the Antarctic where he and several of his men had hoped to launch an attempt to cross the frozen continent. As they left Europe behind, the first shots of what would become World War I were just taking place on that continent as well.

In December of 1914, Shackleton's ship – the aptly named Endurance – departed South Georgia Island for the Weddell Sea off the coast of Antarctica. Once there, the crew discovered more ice than they had expected, and by January 19, 1915 the ship was fully enveloped in ice, not allowing it to move forward or backward. For months, the Endurance and her crew were stuck in place, until the ship finally succumbed to the pressures being applied to its hull and sunk beneath the waters on November 21, 1915.

But the ordeal for Shackleton and is men were far from over. For weeks they camped on an ice floe before it cracked and broke up, forcing them into the Endurance's lifeboats in a desperate attempt to reach Elephant Island. They reached that point and stepped foot on solid ground for the first time in 497 days.


Knowing that he and his men couldn't hold out forever, Shackleton came up with a desperate plan to make an open water crossing to reach South Georgia again. On April 24, 1916 he and a few hand-picked men set out once again, surviving high seas, storms, and frigid conditions to reach their destination on May 8. They then made a harrowing trip across the island on foot to reach a whaling station on the other side where they could begin mounting a rescue operation at long last.

But once again the conditions in the Southern Ocean thwarted their plans and poor weather prevented them from going back to Elephant Island. On two separate occasions rescue missions were forced to abandon their attempts, although Shackleton persisted in his efforts to save his men. It took until August 30, 1916 to complete the rescue operation, retrieving 22 men who had remained in that desolate place for five more months. But in the end, not a single man perished on that expedition, which remains a remarkable feat to this day.

It took until May of 1917 for Shackleton to return to England, but but that point the war was at its most brutal. A small conflict that was breaking out when he and his men left for the Antarctic had turned into the bloodiest and most costly war that the world had ever seen. Millions had lost their lives since the Endurance had set sail, and hundreds of thousands more would perish before it was through. Some of them were men who had survived all those months on the ice.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. The story of Shackleton and his crew is one of the greatest stories of adventure and survival that we've ever seen. It is a testament to his leadership skills that they managed to stay alive at all, and I can't even imagine what it was like to be stranded under those conditions for so long.

Major thanks goes out to the Adventure Journal for reminding me of this important date in history.

Re-Tweeting Ernest Shackleton

A century ago famed British explorer Ernest Shackleton was in the midst of his legendary Endurance expedition to the Antarctic. He and his crew had departed the U.K. in the summer of 1914, and headed south with grand schemes of crossing the Antarctic for the first time. But if you're familiar with the story, you know that things didn't go exactly as planned, and Shackleton and the rest of the crew faced one of the most challenging survival stories of all time.

Now, you can relive that amazing story through a series of tweets on Twitter. The Shackleton Company, a British travel and outdoor apparel manufacturer, is sharing entries from the famous explorer's diary that correspond with the current date. For example, today's entry says:


While a few days back we got this post:

These tweets add a bit of history to your Twitter feed, and give us some insight into what Shackleton and his men were going through in the Antarctic. Strangely enough, his diary entries seem tailor made for the 140 character format of Twitter. These entires have certainly been a worthy addition to my daily feed. I hope you enjoy them too.

Shackleton's Antarctic Reading List Revealed

Ever wonder what Ernest Shackleton did to pass the time while his ship the Endurance was stranded in the Arctic ice for months on end? As it turns out, he did a lot of reading, and according to the Adventure Journal, the books that he took with him on his fateful journey back in 1914 have been revealed at last.

The contents of Shackleton's library was determined recently when the Royal Geographical Society commissioned a Dutch tech company to examine a photo of his office. Using digital enhancements, they were able to read the titles of the books for the first time, giving us some insight into what the famous explorer read, and how it would impact his ability to keep his men safe in the Antarctic. For instance, as Adventure Journal points out, one of the books in his collection was The Rescue of Greely by Commander Winfield Scott Schley. This book told the tale of Adolphus Greely, an American explorer whose team ended up stranded in the Arctic back in 18881, leading them to a grueling survival mission that lasted for over three years.

So what else did Shackleton have on his bookshelf? The entire collection has now been revealed. Here is the entire list:

Encyclopedia Britannica
Seven Short Plays by Lady Gregory
Perch of the Devil by Getrude Atherton
Pip by Ian Hey
Plays: Pleasant and Unpleasant, Vol 2 Pleasant by G B Shaw
Almayer’s Folly by Joseph Conrad
Dr Brewer’s Readers Handbook
The Brassbounder by David Bone
The Case of Miss Elliott by Emmuska Orczy
Raffles by EW Hornung
The Grand Babylon Hotel by Arnold Bennett
Pros and Cons: a Newspaper Reader’s and Debater’s Guide to the Leading Controversies of the Day by JB Askew

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Woman’s View by Herbert Flowerdew
Thou Fool by JJ Bell
The Message of Fate by Louis Tracy
The Barrier by Rex Beach
Manual of English Grammar and Composition by Nesfield
A Book of Light Verse
Oddsfish by Robert Hugh Benson
Poetical Works of Shelley
Monsieur de Rochefort by H De Vere Stacpoole
Voyage of the Vega by Nordenskjold
The Threshold of the Unknown Region by Clements Markham
Cassell’s Book of Quotations by W Gurney Benham
The Concise Oxford Dictionary
Chambers Biographical Dictionary
Cassell’s New German-English English-German Dictionary
Chambers 20th Century Dictionary
The Northwest Passage by Roald Amundsen
The Voyage of the Fox in Arctic Seas by McClintock
Whitaker’s Almanac
World’s End by Amelie Rives
Potash and Perlmutter by Montague Glass
Round the Horn Before the Mast by A Basil Lubbock
The Witness for the Defence by AEW Mason
Five Years of My Life by Alfred Dreyfuss
The Morals of Marcus Ordeyne by William J Locke
The Rescue of Greely by Commander Winfield Scott Schley
United States Grinnell Expedition by Dr Kane
Three years of Arctic service by Greely
Voyage to the Polar Sea by Nares
Journal of HMS Enterprise by Collinson

That's it. Start building your own Shackleton book collection today. 

10 Tough Old School Explorers and Adventurers

You think today's explorers are tough? How do you think they compare to some of the toughest in history? All things considered, modern gear, satellite communications, and better training have all helped to give today's adventurers a leg up on those from the past. But lets face it, some of the pioneers of exploration were incredibly resilient, resourceful, and darned near impossible to kill. You'll find a lot of men who resemble that description on Popular Mechanics' list of the 10 toughest old school explorer and adventurers, including a number of figures that we have written about on occasion on this blog.

I won't spoil the whole list for you, but to give you an idea of the type of man we're talking about here, Ernest Shackleton rightly earns a spot amongst this pantheon of incredibly tough men, as does Douglas Mawson, both of whom are polar explorers of course. Others making the list include Tenzing Norgay, who was with Edmund Hillary when they both were the first to summit Everest, and  Hugh Glass, who is the subject of the new movie The Revenant starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Glass is best known for surviving  bear attack while exploring the American west, only to drag himself 200 miles over open country after he was left for dead by his companions.

Of course, there are other great examples of explorers and adventurers surviving incredibly wild experiences to come back and tell their tales. This list has six others that are certainly worthy of mentioning as well. The article is worth reading just to here a brief synopsis of each of their stories, but you'll probably eventually want to just find out more about each of them when you can.

And who did they leave off the list? As one commenter says, what about Roald Amundsen whose polar journeys are the stuff of legend. Or Thor Heyerdahl who sailed across the South Pacific on a tiny boat called Kon-Tiki? Who got snubbed, and probably should have made the cut?

100 Years Ago Today Shackleton Lost the Endurance

Today is a particularly auspicious date in Antarctic history. It was exactly 100 years ago to the day that Ernest Shackleton's ship, the Endurance, succumbed to the crushing ice that had trapped it off the coast of the frozen continent, eventually sinking into the depths at long last. The vessel was suppose carry Shackleton and his team to Antarctica, where they would attempt to become the first men to traverse the continent. They never made it to their destination however, as the Endurance became surrounded by thick ice, thus starting one of the greatest survival stories of all time.

The expedition began back in August of 1914, just as the first World War was getting underway. Shackleton and his crew sailed to South America, before eventually setting out across the Southern Ocean for the frozen continent itself. On December 5 of that year, the Endurance left South Georgia Island to cross the Weddell Sea. The ship encountered thicker than expected ice during that crossing, and by January 19, 1915 it had become completely frozen in place.

Shackleton soon realized that his vessel was stranded, and would remain stuck in the ice until spring arrived. So he ordered the crew to create a camp around the Endurance on the ice floe that they had become stuck in. But as the entire platform drifted north, the warmer temperatures began to put pressure on the sides of the ship. Its wooden hull began to buckle under the strain, and started to take on water. On October 27, 1915 Shackleton wrote in his journal that all was lost, and the Endurance was beyond repair. He and his men abandoned the vessel altogether, and on November 21 it slipped into the icy waters of the ocean for good.

Of course, the story was far from over for Shackleton and his men, who continued to live on the ice floe for months to come as it continued to drift north. In March of 1916, their frozen home began to crumble, so the crew piled into life boats left behind from the Endurance, and spent five harrowing days out on the open water before reaching Elephant Island. It was the first time any of them had set foot on land in 497 days, and they were now 336 miles (557 km) from where their ship had gone down.


Elephant Island was no place for the crew to stay however, as few ships passed by and the weather was inhospitable to say the least. So, on April 24, 1916 Shackleton and a few men boarded one of the life boats and set off for South Georgia island in the hopes of finding help. They had to cross 720 nautical miles of frigid open ocean to reach that point, finally arriving at their destination on May 8. But the journey wasn't over yet, as they had to then traverse South Georgia on foot in order to reach a whaling station on the other side of the island.

Eventually, Shackleton was able to mount a rescue operation to retrieve his stranded crew. The entire team had to live on Elephant Island for more than four months before being picked up by a pair of British ships on August 30, 1916.

Most impressive of all, is that not a single man perished during the long months that they had spent surviving in the Antarctic. That is a testament to the strength of the crew, and the man who led them.

Shackleton and his men finally returned to England in May of 1917. World War I was in full swing, and the brutality of that conflict was staggering to the crew of the Endurance, many of whom were pressed into service upon arrival back home. They had survived the challenges of the Antarctic, only to go into the meat grinder that was the most devastating war that the world has ever seen. It must have been a horrific experience for all of them, who were likely just looking forward to being home with their families.

In the coming months, you're likely to hear a lot more about Shackleton's story as we reach similar milestones to the one like today. It is still an inspiring tale 100 years on, and I think there is a lot that can still be learned from the explorer's leadership abilities. The Endurance expedition was one for the  history books, even if it didn't accomplish the task that it had originally set out for.

British Adventurer to Attempt First Solo, Unsupported Antarctic Crossing

As mentioned yesterday, the 2015-2016 Antarctic season is still a few weeks away from getting started, but as we speak, eager adventurers across the globe are preparing to head south to take on the frozen continent. One of them is veteran British polar explorer Henry Worsley, who is preparing for an epic challenge to say the least.

During the upcoming season, Worsley will be attempting the first ever solo and unsupported crossing of the Antarctic continent, a journey that will cover approximately 2735 km (1700 miles) and will take upwards of 80 days to complete. He is undertaking this incredibly grueling challenge to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Ernest Shackleton's Endurance expedition, which was to have attempted the first ever crossing of the Antarctica back in 1915. In honor of that event, Worsley hs dubbed his journey Shackleton Solo.

Henry has already set out for Chile, and should arrive in Punta Arenas today. He'll spend a bit of time organizing his gear and packing all of the food and supplies he'll need for the expedition, but hopes to fly out to the Union Glacier base in Antarctica on October 27, weather permitting. From there, he'll spend a few days preparing for the start of the journey before traveling to his starting point. If everything goes as expected, he hopes to be underway by November 10 at the latest.

The route that Worsley plans to take starts in Gould Bay on Berner Island, not far from where Shackleton had intended to launch his traverse as well. Henry will then proceed across the Antarctic continent to the Geographic South Pole located at 90ºS. When he reaches that point the journey will only be half over however, as he'll then continue to the Ross Ice Shelf, becoming the first person to descend the Shackleton Glacier as well.


Since this is a solo and unsupported expedition, Worsley will have to travel completely by himself, and receive no outside help along the way. That means he'll need to carry all of the gear and supplies that he needs with him as he goes. He'll ski under his own power, while pulling heavy sleds filled with food, equipment, and emergency supplies with him the entire way. Henry says that he is hoping to wrap up the expedition in just 75 days, but is carrying 80 days of food just in case.

As he makes this crossing of Antarctica, Worsley will face some serious challenges. In addition to the endless miles of open, frozen, expanse, he'll endure incredibly cold temperatures, high winds, whiteout conditions, and more. At times, the surface will be covered with sastrugi – ridges made of ice and snow – that will impair his progress, and make it very difficult to drag those heavy sleds. But, Henry has been in these conditions before, and knows what lies ahead of him.

And lest we forget, Shackleton never even got the chance to attempt this crossing himself. His ship became trapped in the ice, preventing his team from ever setting out. After the Endurance was eventually crushed by ice, the crew spent months waiting for a rescue, before eventually launching their own desperate bid to cross the Southern Ocean to seek help. All told, they spent nearly two years trying to survive in the Antarctic, without a single man losing his life. But they returned to civilization to a world gone mad, as World War I was in full swing.

I'll be following Henry's expedition closely in the days ahead. Something tells me he'll have a bit more lock that Shackleton did.

Shackleton and Scott Antarctic Huts Saved From Ruin

Three small huts used by Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott as part of their Antarctic expeditions have been saved from destruction thanks to a major conservation effort that began nearly ten years ago. A team of 62 experts from 11 countries have worked hard to preserve these 100+ year old relics that are described as time capsule from a bygone era of exploration. Now, those efforts have payed off, and the huts have been restored to a point that they are accurate representations of the structures that were used as shelters for some of the most important expeditions in history.

The huts were used to launch both Scott's ill-fated Terra Nova expedition as well as a for Shackleton's  famous Nimrod Expedition. They had been mostly abandoned and left alone for nearly a century until efforts to preserve them began in 2005. Two of the huts belonged to Scott – one at Cape Evans and the other at Hut Point – while the third was used by Shackleton at Cape Royds.

Without these conservation efforts it is likely that the three huts would have deteriorated so much that they would have been lost altogether. That is not surprising considering the conditions in which they have persisted for more than 100 years. It took a decade of work, and more than $6 million, to restore the huts, with the project being spearheaded by the Antarctic Heritage Trust - New Zealand.

Inside the shelters researchers found more than 18,000 artifacts including scientific instruments, notebooks, canned foods, and clothing. All of those items gave the team a glimpse into the past, and what explorers of that era had to endure in the Antarctic. That was something the restoration team got a taste of as well as they faced sub-zero temperatures while working on the exteriors of the three huts. That work included replacing the roofs, removing large chunks of ice, and waterproofing the walls against future damage. They also worked tirelessly to preserve most of the items found inside the buildings too, and placed them back in their original places to better restore the structures to their former glory.

While obviously none of the huts will see that many visitors, the conservationists felt that it was still worth all of the effort to preserve these historic places. These huts were a part of an important time in human history, and they will now continue to stand as monuments to the need for humans to explore our planet, and beyond.


Shackleton 100 Celebrates The Greatest Survival Story of All Time

100 hundred years ago this month, Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 27 men, set out from Plymouth in the U.K. aboard their ship, the Endurance. Their destination was Antarctica, where Shackleton and his team hoped to become the first men to make a land crossing of the frozen continent. But fate had other plans for the veteran polar explorer and his men. That crossing would never take place, and they would soon find themselves in a fight for survival that seems hard to believe, even a century after it took place.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Endurance Expedition, an organization called Shackleton 100 is organizing a series of events that will commemorate the historic journey. Over the next two years, the group will recognize some of the major milestones that occurred on the expedition. The first of those events was a re-enactment of the launch of the Endurance a century earlier.

It would take weeks for the Endurance to reach the Southern Ocean, with the ship and her crew reaching South Georgia Island, where they resupplied and sent back word of their progress, before proceeding onward. They left the island on December 5, 1914, and approached the Antarctic continent soon there after. Heavy ice slowed progress for a time, but they pressed forward. Shackleton was eager to begin the traverse, as it was summer in the Southern Hemisphere. But on January 19, 1915, the ship became stuck in the ice, completely surrounded, and unable to move in any direction. Disaster had struck.

Shackleton and his crew stayed aboard the Endurance, for a few weeks before he realized that the only way the ship would break free would be to wait for the spring thaw. That was still months away, so in February, the crew disembarked from the ship, and set up a temporary base on the ice flows. There they stayed through the long Antarctic winter, waiting for someone to come rescue them, or for their own ship to break free from the ice at last.

It would be September before the thaw would begin, but the pressure that the shifting ice placed on the Endurance was too much. On October 24, her hull was breached, and it soon became clear that the ship was lost. All of the supplies for the expedition were offloaded onto the ice, and on November 21, the vessel sunk beneath the surface. The men truly were stranded, hundreds of miles from the closest human settlement.



The crew of the Endurance stayed on the ice for nearly two months, hoping that it would flow close enough to Paulet Island that they could retrieve a supply cache that they had left there. But the Southern Ocean wasn't cooperating, and thick ice continued to block their way. Forced to move their base of operations to another ice flow, and set up a camp called "Patience," the men continued to wait, but in April of 1916 that ice flow began to break apart, and Shackleton ordered his men into lifeboats. They survived five long, and very difficult, days at sea, crossing nearly 350 miles (560 km) of open ocean, before landing on the remote Elephant Island, exhausted and without hope.

Knowing that their supplies were running low, and that Elephant Island was far from the shipping lanes, Shackleton made a bold move to try to find help. Taking just five men, he took one of the lifeboats, and set off on an open-water crossing of the Southern Ocean in an attempt to reach South Georgia, where a whaling station was maintained year round. It took 15 days to cover the 800 nautical miles (1480 km) to reach the island, and when they did, the men were on the wrong side. Rather than risk returning to the sea, Shackleton, along with two of his men, force marched for 36 hours, covering 32 miles over very rough terrain to reach the whaling station, and the help they were desperately searching for. That was on May 20, 1916.

Fearing for the safety of his men still on Elephant Island, Shackleton immediately went to work organizing a rescue. But, just like everything else on this expedition, it didn't go as planned. Heavy ice blocked the approach to the island, and it took three tries before a ship was able to locate the crew of the Endurance. They were rescued on August 30, more than two years after they had set sail from Plymouth.

Through this entire ordeal, Shackleton remained steadfast in his leadership, and always looked out for the safety of his men. After all they had been through – the loss of they their, ship, living for months on the ice, the long ocean crossings, the lack of supplies, etc. – not a single member of the crew was lost. That is a fact that continues to amaze me to this day.

Shackleton and his men returned to a world that they could barely recognize. When they had set out on their expedition in August of 1914, a war was on the verge of breaking out in Europe. The predominant feeling at the time was that it wouldn't last long, and that life would return to normal in a matter of months. That conflict escalated into the first World War, and in 1916 a stalemate of sorts was underway. By that point, millions of lives and been lost, as new weapons of mass destruction, including poison gas, flame throwers, and machine guns, were introduced on the battlefield for the first time. Europe was in chaos, and madness had gripped a world of sanity that Shackleton and his crew had left behind.

Many of the men would recover from their ordeal, only to be pressed into service in the war. Some of them would not survive. Shackleton himself volunteered for duty, and requested an assignment in France. He was denied that request, and was instead sent to South America in an attempt to rally other countries to help fight the war. It was a job he was ill suited for.

After the war, he went on the lecture circuit, and later organized one last expedition to the Antarctic. During that final voyage, Shackleton suffered a fatal heart attack and died. He is buried on South Georgia Island today.

The Shackleton 100 group plans to commemorate all of these milestones, and more, in the weeks and months ahead. You can find a full calendar of events on the organization's website, with a schedule that runs through October of 2016.

As I've said before, Shackleton's story is perhaps the greatest survival story of all time, and I definitely feel it is one that should be retold for a generation that probably knows little about this famously doomed expedition. Hopefully, the efforts of the Shackleton 100 will help share that story.