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The Stunning Survival Story of Ernest Shackleton and His Endurance Crew

October 21, 2020 in History

By Kieran Mulvaney

The men on the British expedition to Antarctica endured entrapment, hunger, frigid weather, angry seas—and near madness.

All year, the ship had been trapped, the ice pushing and pinching the hull, the wood howling in protest. Finally, on October 27, 1915, a new wave of pressure rippled across the ice, lifting the ship’s stern and tearing off its rudder and its keel. Freezing water began to rush in.

“She’s going, boys,” came the cry. “It’s time to get off.”

From the moment Ernest Shackleton and his crew aboard the British expedition ship, HMS Endurance had become immobilized 10 months earlier, they had been preparing for this moment. Now, those on board removed their last remaining belongings from the ship and set up camp on the ice. Twenty-five days later, what remained of the wreck convulsed once more, and the Endurance disappeared beneath the ice forever.

Endurance Is Locked in by Ice

Officers and crew of the Endurance pose under the bow of the ship at Weddell Sea Base during the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914-17, led by Ernest Shackleton.

Endurance had left South Georgia for Antarctica on December 5, 1914, carrying 27 men (plus one stowaway, who became ship’s steward), 69 dogs, and a tomcat erroneously dubbed Mrs. Chippy. The goal of expedition leader Shackleton, who had twice fallen short—once agonizingly so—of reaching the South Pole, was to establish a base on Antarctica’s Weddell Sea coast.

From there a small party, including himself, would set out on the first crossing of the continent, ultimately arriving at the Ross Sea, south of New Zealand, where another group would be waiting for them, having laid depots of food and fuel along the way.

Two days after leaving South Georgia, Endurance entered the pack ice—the barrier of thick sea ice that stands guard around the Antarctic continent. For several weeks, the ship poked and prodded its way through leads in the ice, gingerly making its way south; but on January 18, a northerly gale pressed the pack hard against the land and pushed the floes tight against each other. Suddenly, there was no way forward, nor any way back. Endurance was beset—in the words of one of the crew, Thomas Orde-Lees, “frozen like an almond in the middle of a chocolate bar.”

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They had been within a day’s sailing of their landing …read more

Source: HISTORY

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