South - the story of Shackletons last expedition 1914-1917
by Shackleton, Sir Ernest
pub. by Konecky and Konecky, NY, 2004 - isbn 1-56852-252-5 - 380 pages.
also pub by Carroll Graff, NY, 2001 isbn 0-7867-0597-3 (paperback) - 380 pages.
alternative, and probably original sub title = A memoir of the Endurance Voyage
This is a modified version of Sir Ernest Shackletons diary, of his last (and failed) expedition to Antarctica. The intention was to travel straight across Antarctica from the Weddll Sea side to the McMurdo Sound side. While Shackleton sailed (and steamed) on the Endurance south into the South Atlantic and stopped at South Georgia Island before leaving on 5 December 1914 steaming as far south as possible. The Endurance froze into the ice and drifted about until it was crushed on 21 November 1915, 11 months and 16 days after they left their last anchorage. They spent the next 4 months and 19 days towing their lifeboats and sledges - and drifting on the ice - north to the edge of the ice. From launch of the life boats they spend 6 days moving north, finally finding a place to land on Elephant island (a very mountainous, ice covered, island with very little approachable land which was not ice covered. It had been 16 months and 12 days since they had last been on solid ground. It was a miserable existence but at least it was not moving, and would not sink, melt or break apart under them.
Since Elephant Island was never visited Shackleton decided to take one of the lifeboats, the James Caird and sail through the roughest seas on planet Earth to South Georgia Island where there were whaling stations and where he could get a rescue mission started. The James Caird was reinforced with among other things a canvas deck and was then sailed over 500 miles to South Georgia, landing on the west side. Three of the 5 men hiked and mountain climbed over the island in 36 hours to the whaling station in Stromness Bay, arriving after a 36 hour march on 19 May 1916. A number of rescue attempts were attempted before the yelcho got lucky and found the pack ice had drifted off and it could approach the camp at Elephant Island and rescue the rest of the original crew of the Endurance . ALL SURVIVED. Most became involved in WWI and a few did not survive the war. This narrative contains considerable detail on what they ate, how they slept, and how they kept their spirits up.
Then the book shifts to the adventures and narrative of the ship Aurora which was sent to the McMurdo Sound part of Antarctica to establish supply depots for the part of the expedition which was to be coming (by dog sled) from the Weddle Sea side of Antarctica via the South Pole. These people did their task surmounting great difficulties. The Aurora was also frozen in ice and after some damage managed to sail/steam to New Zealand. The ship was repaired and with Shackleton aboard went back to rescue those left behind on the McMurdo Sound side of Antarctica. In January 1917 they were picking up the remaining party and by 9 Feb 1917 the ship was back in Wellington, New Zealand. The party with the Aurora was not as lucky as the party on the Endurance the leader McIntosh and Hayward traveling with him had cut across a bit of frozen-over sea before it was solid enough. A storm blew the ice out and destroyed it. They were never seen again.
The book has a -Final Phase- chapter which describes what became of some of the survivors of the expedition with respect to their action in WWI.. Other appendices describe their scientific work, and the supply depots left behind for the benefit of later explorers.
This is the story of super-human effort, and excellent management in the face of nearly impossible odds. They just do not make people like this in the modern age. I thoroughly expect that future first visitors to the planet Mars might have such adventures. Nothing less than interplanetary travel could match what this expedition managed. Lastly, it should be noted that while both ships had radio equipment, it was not powerful enough to be of any assistance, either receiving or sending. This is unimaginable in the modern age.... to be totally cut off from news of the rest of the world for well in excess of a year.
This is a slow read, if you read it all. As it is essentially a diary there is a lot of what would be unnecessary verbiage, but for the detail it provides... it is priceless.
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