Ernest Shackleton : The James Caird Society



               On the l9th January l915, after a five-week sail from South Georgia and three days after sighting land, Sir Ernest Shackleton's ship Endurance was beset by early pack ice at the extreme south east corner of the Weddell Sea. Shackleton, who had aimed to achieve the crossing of the Antarctic continent from west to east in the wake of Amundsen's conquest of the South Pole, was forced to abandon his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition in the face of a more immediate and dangerous challenge.


After nine months wedged on the floating pack ice, Endurance was finally crushed and sank. Saving as many supplies as they could (including Frank Hurley's precious photo archive), the crew of twenty-eight set up camp: initially Ocean Camp, located on the solidly packed ice, from October l915 to January l9l6; and after the sinking of Endurance, Patience Camp, on the volatile ice floes, January-April l916.


                On 9th April, as the ice thawed, Shackleton and his men hastily abandoned all non-essential supplies and took to the three lifeboats, which Shackleton christened the James Caird, the Dudley Docker and the Stancomb Wills, after the expedition's sponsors. After a voyage fraught with peril and in appalling icy conditions they arrived at the desolate Elephant Island six days later, on l5th April. It was the first time they had set foot on land since leaving South Georgia nearly a year and a half previously.

Yet the joy at setting foot on Elephant Island was tempered by the grim fact that there was no chance of rescue. No ships passed that way. No radio at that time was capable of summoning help.

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