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Shackleton in Punta Arenas (1916)
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"The Magellan Times", 6 July 1916

"Round the Town"

Sir Ernest Shackleton, the famous South Pole explorer, arrived here on Tuesday [4th] by the Orita. He has been in Port Stanley for some time arranging for the rescue of the men stranded on Elephant Island, South Shetlands. Unfortunately, up to the present time, all efforts to aid these men have ended in failure owing to the ice. Sir Ernest has come over here to arrange for another attempt, which we sincerely hope will be successful. He is staying at Captain Milward's house & hopes to get away south in a few days time. We extend him our heartiest welcome and hope that he will return shortly with the other members of the expedition from Elephant Island.

Sir Ernest Shackleton is accompanied by Captain F. A. Worsley and Mr. Tom Crean. This is the third expedition of the latter, who received the Albert Medal from the King for saving the life of Captain Evans, whom he pulled for 200 miles over the ice.

Sir Ernest Shackleton has kindly consented to give a lecture on his Antarctic Expedition in the Municipal Theatre on Sunday evening next [9th] at 9 o'clock. The entire proceeds will be devoted to charity. Tickets may be obtained at the office of this paper.

A Personal Interview with the Great Explorer

Of average height, broad in the shoulder, deep in the chest, with face much wind-burned, square of chin, with heavy brow over-arching deep-set blue-grey eyes telling a tale of strain and constant care, but brightening not seldom with joviality and good humour; solid, forceful and infinitely determined, -- such is Sir Ernest Shackleton.

To meet one who has wrested fame from the incalculable chances of death, and unrecorded, unimaginable suffering is no mean honour, but to meet the greatest of explorers is more - it is a pleasure for, greatly daring though he be, his greatness and his daring are equalled by another quality - his modesty. He carries with him no visible consciousness of his world-wide fame, and the words which follow - his own, for the most part frankly and graciously given, suggest (we had almost said conceal) an endurance and a courage no less than the best of our race have shown in the battlefields of France, Galipolli and Mesopotamia, or in the starker place where Captain Oates walked out into the blizzard and a lonely death.

The Aurora

Of the two ships taking part in Sir Ernest Shackleton's expedition, one, the «Aurora», had been employed on a previous exploration, the other the «Endurance» was new. The former under Captain McIntosh left New Zealand in November 1914, the latter under Sir Ernest Shackleton, left Buenos Aires in October of the same year, so that both entered the Antarctic about the same time. The «Endurance» was to penetrate as far as possible into the Weddell Sea, land the exploration party who were to cross the Antarctic Continent to McMurdo Sound, there to be picked up by the «Aurora». Fate, however, proved doubly adverse. The «Aurora», our readers will remember, broke away from her base in the Ross Sea during a blizzard in May 1915 and after drifting about in the Antarctic ice for nearly twelve months, at last reached Dunedin some three months ago. Captain McIntosh is stranded in the Great Barrier near McMurdo Sound together with nine companions, who were ashore when the «Aurora» broke adrift.

Sir Ernest himself has recounted the misfortune of the «Endurance».

The Endurance

« We left South Georgia on the 5th of December 1914, entered the ice on the 8th and remained in the ice from that day until the 24th of April 1916. Never before had I experienced or heard of worse ice conditions than those prevailing throughout the expedition. On entering the Weddell Sea we found it in places from forty to fifty feet thick. And a series of north-east gales increased our difficulties by driving the ice more thickly around us.

Abnormal Summer

On the 17th of January 1915 we reached a point at Latitude 76.32, expectantly awaiting the opening of the ice, for it was now summer. But, instead of opening, so abnormal was the summer, it still thickened around us. At the beginning of February the temperature dropped below zero. By the 19th of February it went as low as nineteen degrees below zero Fahrenheit and the sea was solid. It was then that the «Endurance», locked in ice, began to drift to the south-west, passing more than 200[?] miles of hitherto undiscovered coast clad with glaciers discharging into the sea.

Sun Disappears

On the 15th of April the sun disappeared and was not seen for 109 days. With the beginning of June came the first menace of the ice. In the distance we heard the sounds of pressure, and going out in sledges saw great masses of ice thrown to a height of thirty and forty feet. The sounds drew nearer. There was every chance of the ship becoming involved. All the sledging rations were put on deck. The teams - we had sixty trained dogs - and everything needful were kept in readiness in case of sudden pressure. The danger steadily approached, and it was common enough to see great blocks of twenty or thirty tons weight thrown up within half a mile of the ship. By the middle of July the pressure was only 300 yards from us and in a blizzard on the 1[..?] of August it caught the ship. The «Endurance» was hove out of the water and driven along in the seething mass till the pressure ceased and she came to rest with split rudder in a chaos of ice. From then onward we were constantly being nipped by the ice. The gravity of the situation increased daily, but the final shock came with tremendous suddenness. On the 15th of October without warning, in the space of ten seconds, the ship was thrown on her beam ends onto the ice. Her stern-post was strained, and falling backwards into the water she began to leak badly. Our pumps just managed to keep the water under. But the [coffer] dam was no sooner built than the ice nipped us again, and our work went for nothing.

Breaking up of the "Endurance"

On the 26th of October the pressure recommenced, and on the following day the ship's bows were driven into one flow, and, the natural movement taking place, her sides opened out six inches to every ten feet. Then the end came. The ship twisted. Her stern-post and rudder were torn out, and the keel at the after part. The decks buckled up and broke. The pressure was rising ten feet above the ship on the port side. Spurs of ice pierced her sides. The cabins and quarters were smashed like matchwood; motors and galley were driven through into the wardroom. The beams and 'tween-decks gave away and boiler and engines were thrown to one side.

The Ship Abandoned

Providentially, dogs and stores had been put on the floe the night before and now all hands were ordered to the ice. At five o'clock I abandoned the ship. During that night the thermometers registered sixteen degrees below zero Fahrenheit and a strong wind blew. Twice we shifted camp, owing to the splitting of the ice right beneath us. Next morning the cinematographer was at work picturing the breaking ship. The water was about flush with her decks. There came an extra nip, and the mainmast was twisted out and thrown within ten feet of the man, who never budged in his work.

The March

The nearest land where there was any possibility of food was Pollard Island, a depot - and it was 346 miles away. We set out on the march, but with fifty days provisions and three boats, and owing to the frequent splitting of the ice and the number of ridges to be cut through, made no more than one mile all the day. To reach Pollard Island was impossible, so we made a permanent camp, and, by cutting through the ice and using long prickers, broke through the deck of the ship and salved over one hundred cases of provisions. On the 20th of November the «Endurance» sank by the head until only the funnels were showing. The mizzen had long before broken off.

On the Ice Floe

We drifted in the ice-floe all November and December. At the end of the latter month we tried to march but after accomplishing nine miles in five days, encountered rotten ice and retreated to a big floe about two acres in area. We passed all January, February and March of 1916 on the same floe, which steadily grew smaller owing to collisions with bergs and unaccountable splitting, until eventually we were encamped on a cake of ice one hundred yards square. While there we had a narrow escape from annihilation, for a great berg just missed us by 200 yards, leaving in its wake great areas of upturned ice. On the 9th of April our little floe split up and at noon we were forced to leave it, twenty eight men in three boats, one twenty two feet long and the others twenty one feet. A tide rip driving the ice before it caused us grave anxiety and only by dint of hard pulling did we escape being swamped. That night we pulled up our boats but the increasing swell split the ice right under the men's tent. One man was thrown into the water, and I just managed to pull him out in his sleeping bag. There on the rocking floe we awaited daylight.

Bound for Deception Island

Next day a strong gale blew from the east and sailing and pulling we made west towards Deception Island. That night we drew up again on a floe but the weather worsened and we had to save the boats by cutting the painters and drifting off. In the morning we were surrounded by a crashing mass of ice. At noon however, an opening occurred and we pushed through. That night was spent in our boats for no place could be found to pull up on. At noon next day we discovered that in spite of our efforts and the wind, the current had set us nine miles east of our starting place, and recognising the futility of further efforts to reach Deception Island we turned and headed to the north. The temperature was still below zero and our people suffered much from exposure. Next morning we again held northerly but in the bad light our boat was holed above the water-line. Soon afterwards we came to the open sea and ran till night when we hove to.

Elephant Island

Next day the peaks of Elephant Island came in sight but the wind veered ahead; taking one boat in tow we beat all night through heavy snow squalls. The low temperature weighted the boatloads and we were constantly compelled to break off the ice. On the morrow we landed on a lea shore and enjoyed our first hot food and first drink (the boats contained no water when we cut adrift from the ice-floe), for two days. On examination many of our men were found to be suffering from frostbite and exposure, and I decided, in spite of the fact that the spring tides would overflow the beach, to allow the men one day's sleep at our landing place. The island was inaccessible with high cliffs all around except for one narrow strip. On the following day we moved seven miles along to a better place but even there could not find suitable access, and were forced to make a sheltering hole in the snow slope.

The long Pull to South Georgia

On the 24th of April, with five companions, I started in the twenty-two foot boat on the chance of making South Georgia. We patched her up with bits of boxes and canvas. Throughout the long journey of 750 miles the Antarctic winter lived up to its evil reputation. Snowstorms and gales swept over us, only three times did we see the sun. We were forced to jettison even our spare oars and much of our sleeping gear, and we baled continually. On the fourteenth day we sighted South Georgia, but the seas were breaking on uncharted reefs and we held off. Next morning a north-west hurricane almost forced us on a lee shore and we had to lay on more sail to keep away. The wind however shifted at night and saved us. We could not see but heard the loud roar of the sea breaking on the cliffs.

Next night we beached the boat, being too weak to pull her up. We recuperated in a cave, living on young albatross for four or five days. Then we crossed to the head of the bay, and I decided, as two of our men were unwell, to try and cross the island for assistance from the Whaling Station at Stromness.

At 3 o'clock on the 19th of May, three of us set out, and after thirty six hours incessant marching, at heights varying from two to four thousand feet above the sea level, over glaciers, through soft snow, up and down mountain sides where our steps had to be cut, and finally lowering ourselves down a twenty foot waterfall, reached Stromness Bay. Thence a whaler was despatched for the other three men, returning with them in two days.


On the 23rd of May we made an attempt to reach our comrades on Elephant Island but were unable to approach nearer than within sixty miles of them, the ship being of steel and wholly unsuitable for the conflict with the ice. We returned to the Falkland Islands and from there went to Montevideo. A trawler belonging to the Uruguayan Government was placed at our disposal and we again made an attempt at rescue but again we failed although this time we reached within twenty miles of the spot. »

Thus were fifteen months - from October 1914 to May 1916 - passed in Antarctic wildernesses and unspeakable hardships and dangers that came momently [sic]. The brief account (the first of any fullness, we may add, hitherto published in South America) is silent on much we eagerly desire to know. But in all its brevity and plainness, it is the record of indomitable heroes battling against the odds of mischances and abnormalities.

[6 July 1916]

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