Category Archives: Exploration

Elephant Island Rescue – 1916

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A few days ago we covered the rescue of 22 men (of Ernest Shackletons Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition) stranded on Elephant Island in 1916 – there is much more material on this subject in our library – and we found the story so compelling we decided to publish another press clipping on the rescue.  This excerpt was published in Nature magazine taken from the Daily Chronicle 5th September 1916.

The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-1917) – Rescue

Ernest Shackleton – Ice FieldGREAT satisfaction is felt by everyone in the news published in the Daily Chronicle on September 5 that Sir Ernest Shackleton had succeeded in rescuing the twenty-two members of his Antarctic expedition marooned on Elephant Island since April 15.

Three previous attempts to reach the island were unsuccessful, but with characteristic persistence Sir Ernest continued his efforts to relieve the men, and sailed from Punta Arenas on August 26 in the Yelcho, a small Chilian steamer. On August 30, after steering in a fog through numerous stranded bergs, he reached Wild’s camp at 1 p.m., and at 2 p.m. the vessel was homeward bound.

On September 3 Punta Arenas was reached, and the message “All saved. All well,” was dispatched to the Daily Chronicle, from which the following summary of Mr. Frank Wild’s report is taken:

“On April 25, the day after the departure of the boat, the island was beset by dense pack-ice. The party was confined to a narrow spit of land, 250 yards long and 40 yards wide, surrounded by inaccessible cliffs and ice-laden seas. We were forced to abandon our ice-hole, which was made untenable by the snow.  We made a dwelling of our two boats, supported by rocks, and set up as far as practicable from the sea. The weather continued appalling.  In May a heavy blizzard swept much valuable gear into the sea.  Fortunately, owing to the low temperature, an icefoot formed on the seashore, and this protection was the means of saving us from total destruction.  From June onwards the weather was better as regards wind, but we were under a constant pall of fog and snow.  At the beginning of August we were able to collect seaweed and limpets, which formed a valuable change in our diet, but the deep water, heavy seas, and ice prevented us from fishing.  On August 28 the gale drove the ice-pack from the island, and on August 30, through the lifting fog, we caught sight of the Yelcho steering through a maze of stranded bergs.  An hour later we were homeward bound.”

Sir Ernest Shackleton has announced the safe return of the party in a telegram to the King, who has replied:

“Most heartily rejoice that you have rescued your twenty-two comrades all well. Congratulate you on the result of your determined efforts to save them, and that success crowned your third attempt. I greatly admire the conduct of their leader, Frank Wild, which was so instrumental in maintaining their courage and hope. I trust you will soon bring them all safely home. – GEORGE R.I.”

 

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Further Reading and External Links

Nimrod Expedition   The Endurance Expedition    Ernest Shackleton

Discovery Expedition   The Terra Nova Expedition   Robert Falcon Scott

The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition – Rescue

 

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Excerpt from The Outlook 13th September 1916 – about the plight and rescue of the men of The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-1917) – also know as the Endurance Expedition – stranded on Elephant Island.

The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-1917) – Rescue

Welcome news came from Chile last week, of the success of Sir Ernest Shackleton in rescuing the twenty-two men of his party who have been isolated on Elephant Island, in the South Shetland group, since last April.

This was the fourth attempt made by their commander to save these men from starvation.  Previous attempts failed because of the impossibility of finding a suitable ship; the first was actually made in an eighty-ton whaling vessel.  Finally, the Chilean Government lent Shackleton a small Government steamer, the Yelcho, and he sailed in her on August 26 from Punta Arenas, on the Strait of Magellan, the southernmost town in the world.  The sea and ice must have been favorable, for a week sufficed for the rescue and return voyage.  Great fear had been felt for the lives of the men, who had only five weeks rations when Sir Ernest left them on the island.  The chief hope for sustaining life was that they might kill penguins; and that not very palatable bird, in fact, saved their lives.

The story of the early disasters which had befallen both sections of the Shackleton expedition to the Antarctic continent has already been told in The Outlook, as also of the terrible crushing in the ice of Sir Ernest’s own ship, the Endurance, its abandonment, the distressing journey in small boats driven through raging seas and dragged over ice to the inhospitable little bit of land called Elephant Island, and the further journey of Shackleton and five men in a single boat from Elephant Island to the coast of South Georgia to seek for help. 

When the full story is narrated, it will assuredly form one of the most thrilling tales of hardship, courage, and adventure in all the annals of polar exploration.

Excerpt from The Outlook 13th September 1916

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Further Reading and External Links

Nimrod Expedition   The Endurance Expedition    Ernest Shackleton

Discovery Expedition   The Terra Nova Expedition   Robert Falcon Scott

The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-1917)

 

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Excerpt from The Outlook – Volume 113  – published on 12th July 1916 – about the plight of The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (also know as the Endurance Expedition) (1914-1917).  It took Shackleton four attempts to return to Elephant Island to rescue the party stranded there, they were eventually rescued on 30th August 1916 – after more than three months.  This article was written while the men were still stranded – between the second and third rescue attempts.

Starving on Elephant Island

A few months ago The Outlook told of what it called “The Strange Plight of the Shackleton Expedition.”  The latter part of the story, then unknown, makes it still more strange and deepens one’s recognition of the many kinds of deadly dangers which surround the polar adventurers.

Shackletons first relief ship stuck in the ice on route to Elephant IslandIt will be remembered that the plan of the Shackleton expedition was that Sir Ernest in his ship Endurance should land on the Antarctic continent somewhere on the coast of the Weddell Sea, while his other ship, the Aurora, under Captain McIntosh, should land on the opposite side of the Antarctic continent at Ross Sea.  Both landings were made.  The plan was that the Aurora’s crew should stay where they were until the Shackleton party either made their way across the continent, perhaps actually reaching the South Pole midway (although that was not an essential design), or, should this fail, until the Endurance should skirt the continent and reach Ross Sea. But disaster attacked both parties, and in a most unexpected way.

First, the Aurora was suddenly caught in a pack of ice and borne out to sea, leaving part of her crew on shore.  She could not break away from the ice, was carried hundreds of miles away, and finally, in a seriously damaged condition, reached islands near New Zealand.  At first it was thought that the Aurora’s men on shore would starve unless Sir Ernest reached them, but later it was said that they had some provisions, and it is hoped that a relief ship which has been despatched to their aid will reach them.  

But what of Shackleton and the Endurance?  The attempt to cross the continent was abandoned.  The Endurance put to sea, was battered by great icebergs, crushed by ice-fields, tossed and strained beyond endurance.  The crew was forced to abandon her and to take to the ice, dragging their small boats with them.  They nearly starved; they were nearly frozen.  At last, after unprecedented struggles and sufferings, they reached Elephant Island, three hundred and forty-six miles away from the spot where they abandoned the ship.  When the story of this journey across the ice is told, it must certainly be one of the most thrilling of the many stirring tales of polar adventure.  

To reach Elephant Island was not to reach civilization.  No ship was likely to find its glacial shores.  Food for the twenty-two men of the party had fortunately been saved in considerable quantity, and they could kill penguins to eke out their rations.  But, looking at the future of months and possibly years before them, their case was desperate.  Shackleton believed the only chance was to open communication with inhabited islands.  He therefore set out in a small boat with five volunteers, hoping to reach South Georgia, seven hundred and fifty miles away.  The start was made on April 24 of this year amid blizzards and high seas.   Almost miraculously, the attempt succeeded.  Shackleton reached land on May 15.  Soon after a little whaler (eighty tons only) started south for Elephant Island.  This relief expedition failed utterly.  The whaler was too small to fight the terrible ice and weather conditions.  Then Sir Ernest himself organized a second relief expedition, and this in turn failed, as has quite recently been told in cabled despatches from Port Stanley, in the Falkland Islands, in which port the relief vessel was forced to take refuge.  That Shackleton did everything in his power no one can doubt who reads the despatches.   He still hopes – almost against hope – that his comrades on Elephant Island may be reached and that their desperate condition may not end in their starvation and physical collapse.

Excerpt from The Outlook – Volume 113  – published 12th July 1916

Picture Caption: Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Relief Ship in the Ice-Pack.  The Outlook has already (issue of July 19) told the story of the misfortunes of the Shackleton Antarctic Expedition. Sir Ernest himself has twice headed relief expeditions to save his twenty-two comrades who reached Elephant Island with him after they had been forced to abandon their ship, the Endurance, at sea.  He is now engaged in a third effort to rescue his crew.  The ship above shown in the ice-pack is the small whaler in which the first attempt was made in vain.  The photograph comes from Sir Ernest, who says that the ship was often in even worse position than this.

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Further Reading and External Links

Nimrod Expedition The Endurance Expedition Ernest Shackleton

Discovery Expedition The Terra Nova Expedition Robert Falcon Scott