This is a survival story to top all survival stories. It's about Ernest Shackleton and the Antarctic expedition he and his crew took on the Endurance. The plan was to sail to Antarctica, and cross the continent with sled dogs, That crossing would be a first. The year was 1914, WW1 had just started. Shackleton was ready to go to war and fight but the government told him to go on the trip. The planning for the trip and the financing complete, he was ready to go. On Aug 8 1914, they set off on the most amazing adventure ever. The trip was so amazing that now there are ships that go on Antarctic cruises, several every year for people who want to see where the Endurance expedition took place.
The hardships that these men went through, and the will to survive all odds and the enormous challenges that faced them, should be an inspiration to everyone to not give up when we face trials and challenges.
My first read of the story
I first read the book, Endurance, Shackleton's incredible voyage, close to 10 years ago. It was one of those books you read, and you can't put it down. Even though I knew the outcome, I was still in suspense. All the trials and unbelievable hardships they went through keeps you gripped in suspense. Several years later I picked up the audio book at the library and went through it again. Even the second time it was riveting.
The first leg of the expedition
They sailed to a Whaling station on South Georgia Island, to wait for the Ice to break up enough for them to start the expedition. On Dec. 5, Shackleton and his 27 crew members set sail for Antarctica. There were 9 crew members that kept journals to document the trip. They ran into pack ice after 3 days. After 6 weeks the ice became much heavier, and they got stuck in the ice.
After being stuck in the ice for a month, they saw open water 400 yards away from the ship. The worked for 2 days to cut and chop their way to the water. They could not make it. The ice had them stuck 85 miles from land. They got ready to spend the winter on the ice. To keep morale up, they had to work every day. They also played soccer on the ice, put on plays, and worked with the dogs.
In May, the sunset for 3 months. The ice was moving in on the ship and crushing it. The Endurance tipped to the side as the ice crushed it. They tried to chop it away so the boat would right itself but the ice was too thick. After 10 months stuck in the ice, they had to abandon the ship. The Endurance tipped over so far and crushed to the point it was filling up with water. They loaded all the supplies they could into 3 lifeboats. The temperature was -27. They move away and set up their tents. The Endurance broke up and sank 3 days later. They scavenged as much wood as they could from the ship and built a camp.
The crew was on a moving ice flow on which they had moved about 150 miles since they became stuck. The ice was breaking up as the weather warmed, so they had to get in the boats. They headed for Deception island. The food supplies were getting so low, and the weather so bad, they changed and headed for Elephant Island. They made it to Elephant Island, 497 days from the time they left the whaling station on South Georgia island.
There was a large population of seals on Elephant island so they had plenty to eat. Other than that, it was the most inhospitable and desolate place you could find. Shackleton took one lifeboat and 4 men and try to get to South Georgia Island, across 800 miles of the most violent ocean in the world.
They took food for 4 weeks. Navigation was difficult, they could only get a sextant reading 2 times because the seas were so rough. 5 men in a 22 foot rowboat going across 800 miles of violent ocean trying to find a tiny island. After 14 days, they could see land. The next obstacle was a hurricane; they took 3 more days to get to the island. Because of the storm, they had to land on the opposite side of the island. There was no way to sail around the island.
Shackleton took 2 men and left 2 where they landed. They had to cross 22 miles of mountains and glaciers to get to the whaling station. They made the trip in 36 hours of non-stop hiking and climbing. They went to pick up the other 2 men right away.
Back to Elephant island
After 3 days of resting up, Shackleton used a borrowed ship to go pick up his men. Ice stopped them and they had to turn back. 2 more times they tried and had to turn back by ice. 3 months later he got back to Elephant island. Shackleton would not even get off the ship, they picked up the rest of the crew and headed back to the whaling station. They got back to England just over 2 years after they left. Not a single one of the 28 men on the expedition died.
After the return
After they got home, several of the men went to fight in the war. 1 of the men died in fighting, 2 more injured 6 weeks later.
Shackleton took one more trip back to South Georgia Island, he had a heart attack and died on the island at age 47. His grave is there on the island. Nova made a 2 hour documentary on the Endurance expedition. The links to the 11 video clips are below. I could not embed the links. If you have the time, it is worth watching. If you can, get the audio book, or read the book. It is a great story.
A great video description of the Endurance story
Pastor_Walt from Jefferson City, Tennessee on June 07, 2010:
Always loved this story!