Shackleton’s Blog

Note:  The following extracts from “South – The Story of Shackleton’s Last Expedition 1914 – 1917″are in reverse order and run chronologically from bottom to top.

Apr 01, 1915

In the early morning of April 1 we listened again for the wireless signals from Port Stanley. The crew had lashed three 20-ft. rickers to the mast-heads in order to increase the spread of our aerials, but still we failed to hear anything.


Mar 31, 1915

Our total drift between January 19, when the ship was frozen
in, and March 31, a period of seventy-one days, had been 95 miles in a N. 80
degrees W. direction. The icebergs around us had not changed their relative
positions. The sun sank lower in the sky, the temperatures became lower, and
the `Endurance’ felt the grip of the icy hand of winter.

Mar 24, 1915

Six days later, on the 24th, the depth was 419 fathoms. We were drifting steadily, and the constant  movement, coupled with the appearance of lanes near the land, convinced me that we must stay by the ship till she got clear. I had considered the possibility of making a landing across the ice in the spring, but the hazards of such an undertaking would be too great.

Mar 15, 1915

I had the boilers blown down on the 15th, and the consumption of 2 cwt. of coal per day to keep the boilers from freezing then ceased. The bunkers still contained 52 tons of coal, and the daily consumption in the stoves was about 21 cwt. There would not be much coal left for steaming purposes in the spring, but I anticipated eking out the supply with blubber.

Mar 14, 1915

The noon position on the 14th was lat. 76 degrees 54 minutes S., long. 36 degrees 10 minutes W. The land was visible faintly to the south-east, distant about 36 miles. A few small leads could be seen from the ship, but the ice was firm in our neighbourhood. The drift of the `Endurance’ was still towards the north-west.

Mar 6 – 8, 1915

Minus temperatures were the rule, 21 degrees below zero Fahr. being recorded on the 6th.

On the 8th we examined a spot where the floe-ice had been smashed up by a blow from beneath, delivered presumably, by a large whale in search of a breathing-place. The force that, had been exercised was astonishing. Slabs of ice 3ft. thick, and weighing tons, had been tented upwards over a circular area with a diameter of about 25 ft., and cracks
radiated outwards for more than 20 ft.

Feb 28, 1915

The wireless apparatus was still rigged, but we listened in vain for the Saturday-night time-signals from New Year Island, ordered for our benefit by the Argentine Government.  On
Sunday the 28th, Hudson waited at 2 a.m. for the Port Stanley monthly signals, but could hear nothing. Evidently the distances were too great for our small plant


Feb 24, 1915

On February 24 we ceased to observe ship routine, and the `Endurance’
became a winter station.

Feb 22, 1915

On the 22nd the `Endurance’ reached the farthest south point of her drift, touching the 77th parallel of latitude in long. 35 degrees W. The summer had gone; indeed the summer had scarcely been with us at all. The temperatures were low day and night, and the pack was freezing solidly around the ship. The thermometer recorded 10 degrees below zero Fahr. at 2 a.m. on the 22nd.  Some hours earlier we had watched a wonderful golden mist to the southward, where the rays of the declining sun shone through vapour rising from the ice. All normal standards of perspective vanish under such conditions, and the low ridges of the pack, with mist lying between them, gave the illusion of a wilderness of mountain-peaks like the Bernese Oberland.  I could not doubt now that the
`Endurance’ was confined for the winter.

Feb 21, 1915

Three crab-eater cows shot on the 21st were not accompanied by a bull, and blood was to be seen about the hole from which they had crawled. We surmised that the bull had become the prey of one of the killer-whales

Feb 17, 1915

The sun, which had been above the horizon for two months, set at midnight on the 17th, and, although it would not disappear until April, its slanting rays warned us of the approach of winter. Pools and leads appeared occasionally, but they froze over very quickly. We continued to accumulate a supply of seal meat and blubber, and the excursions across the floes to shoot and bring in the seals provided welcome exercise for all hands.

Feb 14, 1915 (Endurance at about 77° south)

Early in the morning of the 14th I ordered a good head of steam on the engines and sent all hands on to the floe with ice-chisels, prickers, saws, and picks. We worked all day and throughout most of the next day in a strenuous effort to get the ship into the lead ahead. The men cut away the young ice before the bows and pulled it aside with great energy. After twenty-four hours’ labour we had got the ship a third of the way to the lead. But about 400 yds. of heavy ice, including old rafted pack, still separated the `Endurance’
from the water, and reluctantly I had to admit that further effort was useless. Every opening we made froze up again quickly owing to the unseasonably low temperature.
The young ice was elastic and prevented the ship delivering a strong, splitting blow to the floe, while at the same time it held the older ice against any movement. The abandonment of the attack was a great disappointment to all hands. The men had worked long hours without thought of rest, and they deserved success. But the task was beyond our powers. I had not abandoned hope of getting clear, but was counting now on the possibility of having to spend a winter in the inhospitable arms of the pack. The sun, which had been above the horizon for two months, set at midnight on the 17th, and, although it would not
disappear until April, its slanting rays warned us of the approach of winter.

Feb 9, 1915

The `Endurance’ was lying in a pool covered by young ice on the 9th. The solid floes had loosened their grip on the ship itself, but they were packed tightly all around. The weather was foggy. We felt a slight northerly swell coming through the pack, and the movement gave rise to hope that there was open water near to us.  At 11 a.m. a long crack developed in the pack, running east and west as far as we could see through the fog, and I ordered steam to be raised in the hope of being able to break away into this lead. The effort failed. We could break the young ice in the pool, but the pack defied us.

Feb 6, 1915

The northerly gale had given place to light westerly breezes on the 6th. The pack seemed to be more solid than ever. It stretched almost unbroken to the horizon in every direction, and the situation was made worse by very low temperatures in succeeding days. The temperature was down to zero  on the night of the 7th and was two degrees below zero on the 8th. This cold spell in midsummer was most unfortunate from our point of view, since it cemented the pack and tightened the grip of the ice upon the ship.

Jan 31, 1915

The drift was to the west, and an observation on the 31st(Sunday) showed that the ship had made eight miles during the week. James and Hudson rigged the wireless in the hope of hearing the monthly message from the Falkland Islands. This message would be due about 3.20 a.m. on the following morning, but James was doubtful about hearing anything with our small apparatus at a distance of 1630 miles from the dispatching station. We heard nothing, as a matter of fact, and later efforts were similarly unsuccessful. The conditions would have been difficult even for a station of high power

Jan 27, 1915

On the 27th, the tenth day of inactivity, I decided to let the fires out. We had been burning half a ton of coal a day to keep steam in the boilers, and as the bunkers now contained only 67 tons, representing thirty-three days’ steaming, we could not afford to continue this expenditure of fuel.

Jan 24 – 25, 1915

Just before midnight a crack developed in the ice five yards wide and a mile long, fifty yards ahead of the ship. The crack had widened to a quarter of a mile by 10 a.m. on the 25th, and for three hours we tried to force the ship into this opening with engines at full speed ahead and all sails set. The sole effect was to wash some ice away astern and clear the rudder, and after convincing myself that the ship was firmly held I abandoned the attempt. Later in the day Crean and two other men were over the side on a stage chipping at a large piece of ice that had got under the ship and appeared to be impeding her movement. The ice broke away suddenly, shot upward and overturned, pinning Crean between the stage and the  shaft of the heavy 11-ft. iron pincher. He was in danger for a few moments, but we got him clear, suffering merely from a few bad bruises. The thick iron bar had been bent against him to an angle of 45 degrees.

Jan 20 – 22, 1915

….the ship was firmly beset. The ice was packed heavily and firmly all round the Endurance’ in every direction as far as the eye could reach from the masthead. There was nothing to be done till the conditions changed. A slight movement of the ice round the
ship caused the rudder to become dangerously jammed on the 21st, and we had to
cut away the ice with ice-chisels…

Jan 18, 1915

“The pack now forces us to go west 14 miles, when we break through a long line of heavy brash mixed with large lumps and `growlers.’ We do this under the fore-topsail only, the engines being stopped to protect the propeller. This takes us into open water, where we make S. 50 degrees W. for 24 miles. Then we again encounter pack which forces us to the north-west for 10 miles, when we are brought up by heavy snow-lumps, brash, and large,
loose floes. The character of the pack slows change. The floes are very thick and are covered by deep snow. The brash between the floes is so thick and heavy that we cannot push through without a great expenditure of power, and then for a short distance only. We therefore lie to for a while to see if the pack opens at all when this north-east wind ceases.

Jan 04, 1915

The clearer weather of the morning showed us that the pack was solid and impassable from the south-east to the south-west, and at 10 a.m. on the 4th we again passed within five yards of the small berg that we had passed twice on the previous day. We had been steaming and dodging about over an area of twenty square miles for fifty hours, trying to find an opening to the south, south-east, or south-west, but all the leads ran north, north-east, or northwest. It was as though the spirits of the Antarctic were pointing us to
the backward track—the track we were determined not to follow. In the afternoon we went west in some open water, and by 4p.m.we were making west-south-west with more water opening up ahead.The sun was shining brightly, over three degrees high at midnight,and we were able to maintain this direction in fine weather till the following noon. The position then was lat. 70 degrees 28 minutes S., long. 20 degrees 16 minutes W., and the run had been 62 miles S. 62 degrees W.

Jan 03, 1915

….at 2 a.m. on January 3 the lead ended in hummocky ice, impossible to penetrate. A moderate easterly gale had come up with snow-squalls, and we could not get a clear view in any direction. The hummocky ice did not offer a suitable anchorage for the ship, and we were compelled to dodge up and down for ten hours before we were able to make fast to a small floe under the lee of a berg 120 ft. high. The berg broke the wind and saved us drifting fast to leeward. The position was lat. 69 degrees 59 minutes S., long. 17 degrees 31
minutes W. We made a move again at 7 p.m., when we took in the  ice-anchor and  proceeded  south, and at 10 p.m. we passed a small berg that the ship had nearly touched twelve hours previously. Obviously we were not making much headway. Several of the bergs passed during this day were of solid blue ice, indicating true glacier origin. By midnight of the 3rd we had made 11 miles tothe south; and then came to a full stop in weather so thick with snow that we could not learn if the leads and lanes were worth entering.

Jan 02, 1915

After 4 a.m. on the 2nd we got into thick old pack-ice, showing signs of heavy pressure. It was much hummocked, but large areas of open water and long leads to the south-west continued until noon. The position then was lat. 69 degrees 49 minutes S., long. 15 degrees 42 minutes W., and the run for the twenty-four hours had been 124 miles S. 3 degrees W. This was cheering…I was growing anxious to reach land on account of the dogs, which had not been able to get exercise for four weeks, and were becoming run down. We passed at
least two hundred bergs during the day…

Jan 01, 1915

The first day of the New Year was cloudy, with a gentle northerly breeze and occasional snow-squalls. The condition of the pack improved in the evening, and after 8 p.m. we forged ahead rapidly through brittle young ice, easily broken by the ship.  A few hours later a moderate gale came up from the east, with continuous snow.

Dec 05, 1914

I decided to leave South Georgia about December 5, and in the intervals of final preparation scanned again the plans for the voyage to winter quarters. What welcome was the Weddell Sea preparing for us?