“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success. —Ernest
The Endurance sails for Buenos Aires then South Georgia and into Antarctic Circle, plowing into 1000 miles of ice stream water towards its goal of a base camp on the Antarctic continent, which the men will still have to track. Everything was going great until within a day sail of land the endurance was caught in ice like an airman in a chocolate bar and refused to barge.
The free wind and strong current gradually dragged the ship north for 10 months, just as it seems the ice was loosening up, the floor caught the ship in a vike like squeeze. The endurance was damaged and the men were forced to camp on ice. Three weeks later they watched in horror as the shattered remains of the ship sank to the bottom of Weddel Sea.
They would now spend months on frozen sheets, which threatened to crack open at a moment’s notice. All of this happened 1000 miles from any civilization and they were without any form of contact. Not least of shackleton’s many challenges were boredom and isolation, if they happen to survive surely they would go mad. After months of the shifting pack of the Weddel Sea using up their rations the men realized they would have to move closer to land and the attraction of other ships if they were going to live.
Throwing gold coins, books and expensive equipments into the ice, they set off, dragging 3 small life boats across the ice fields making a series of camps. The time came when they knew they had to make a break for an inhabited storm swept elephant island, which they managed to do.
It was a miserable place and they knew their supply of food would quickly run out so shackleton and a small party in a leaky wooden life boat named the James Caird made 800 miles 17 days dash over cold temperature sea to reach South Georgia where they knew there was a whaling station.
This trip including a giant wave and a hurricane is now considered one of the epic boat journeys, but even then, the ordeal was not over, the men had landed on the wrong side of the island and faced a freezing track across mountains and glaciers to finally find the station.
The six men landed on an uninhabited part of the island, however, so their last hope was to cross 26 miles of mountains and glaciers, considered impassable, to reach the whaling station on the other side. Starved, frostbitten and wearing rags, Shackleton and two others made the trek and, in August 1916, 21 months after the initial departure of the Endurance, Shackleton himself returned to rescue the men on Elephant Island. Although they’d withstood the most incredible hardship and privation, not one member of the 28-man crew was lost.
In addition, in an attempt to help his crew get over the trauma of abandoning theEndurance, Shackleton literally served his men: Rising early in the morning, he made hot milk and hand-delivered it to every tent in the camp.
Shackleton’s Leadership Role
During the brutal, seven-day lifeboat journey to Elephant Island, Shackleton literally stood tall, boosting the morale of his suffering men by standing at the tiller, hour after hour. Later, during the 17-day sail to South Georgia Island, Shackleton monitored the health of his five companions constantly. Captain Frank Worsley later wrote, “Whenever Shackleton notices that a man seems extra cold and shivering, he immediately orders another hot drink served to all.” Worsley explained that Shackleton was careful not to single out the man suffering the most, for he would not want to frighten him about his condition.
In the face of changing circumstances and constant danger, Shackleton remained positive and decisive, which buoyed his crew. Further, throughout the 22-month Enduranceexpedition, Shackleton was able to bring the best in each of his men.
Each crew member contributed to the team’s survival, from Captain Frank Worsley, whose exceptional navigation guided the men to both Elephant and South Georgia Islands; to carpenter Chippy McNeish, who reinforced the lifeboats; to cook Charles Green, who created meals day after day with limited resources; to Alexander Macklin and James McIlroy, the two doctors, who saved steward Perce Blackborow from gangrene resulting from frostbite; to second-in-command Frank Wild, who served as leader of the 21 men on Elephant Island after the departure of Shackleton and companions for South Georgia.