Television in Our Lives: Insights from the Journal of E-Media Studies 2016

Kevin Warstadt, Edward Connery Lathem ’51 Digital Library Fellow at the Dartmouth College Library, muses on his experiences with television, inspired by articles in the latest issue of the Journal of E-Media e-media_logo-2Studies.

In the recent special issue (vol. 5, 2016) of the Journal of E-Media Studies published by the Dartmouth College Library, contributors explore the early history of television from a number of different angles, promoting a comprehensive view of the medium and its societal impact.

I can only inadequately express the impact of television on my own life. How many nights I spent camped out, snacks in hand, mesmerized by those flickering images on the wall, I can’t say. Though often taken for granted, television was a persistent presence in my life. It entertained and informed, provided continuity and structure.

Beyond my personal interactions with television, it was also a social thing. I remember when my family would gather around the screen weekly to watch the latest big show. It became a ritual, a time to think about people and morality. It became a kind of instant mythology that gave meaning to a world which often seemed frightening and inconsistent. When I grew older I watched “The Sopranos” with my father, one of the few things we were able to bond over. And it left the home as well. We spoke about the goings-on of our favorite shows over the water cooler. We saw horrors and beauty. It was hatred and fear and love and hope, everything art should be. We felt pride when we saw men walk on the moon. We felt the terror as the twin towers fell. We had these visceral, unifying experiences, all because of television.

Elihu Katz discusses this unifying effect of television in his interview with Doron Galili. “…television truly lived up to its promise—the occasions of uniting a whole nation, allowing everybody to feel part of some great national event, burying differences for the moment, feeling a thrill of simultaneity—of actually being there.” He also makes note of the formation of hegemony, the drawback of such a powerful force. As the founding director of Israeli television, Katz can speak to that power as much as anyone.

Television_EMedia_Image1

Television weatherman Nils Curry Melin painting a van Gogh-inspired weather forecast. Skit from Multikonst—hela Sverige går på utställning (1967). Still image: SVT—Sveriges Television AB.

Whereas Katz covers the social influence of television, Åhlén writes about the medium as a tool for cultural education. In the case of the Swedish program, Multikonst, television proved an innovative means of spreading appreciation of modern art. However, the creators of Multikonst saw television as only this; a tool. Åhlén writes, “Television was thought to be able to become an important part in the contact-making but never to actually substitute this contact; it could provide information about art, bolster engagement for and create interest in art, but it could never actually be art, because art was chiefly considered a product of an artist’s work.” They can hardly be blamed for failing to recognize the potential of the fairly young medium, but to the contemporary eye it’s clear that television can be art in its own right.

It seems that the devotees of the high arts are quick to dismiss television. I must admit that when I talk about its influence on my own development I do so with a hint of shame. Even the word itself, television, seems disconnected from the old, artisanal world. It’s a product of mechanization, of industry, and it’s easy, especially with the advent of ubiquitous reality television and product placement, to dismiss it as a kind of opiate of the masses. But it’s so much more than that.

It is surreal to look through the images of old TV sets on McVoy’s website for the Museum of Early Television, and see the art deco style of them. They have the whisper of optimism, straight lines going up up up to the skies, suggesting infinite possibilities. There is magic in those old boxes, that made living rooms, homes, and neighborhoods center around them. Even in photos they possess an inexplicable weight, and in their dim glow is the specter of a past wonder that was lost in the trudge through postmodernism.

Television_EMedia_Image2.jpg

Image from La photographie électrique à distance, directed by Georges Méliès, 1908, Star Film Co., France

It is enchanting to peruse Koszarski and Galili’s filmography and watch the dancing ghosts of Georges Méliès and Fritz Lang. The figures within seem alive with their explosive movements and exaggerated facial expressions, and yet, in silence, they seem so far away, trapped in the past.

And there they remain. As visual media advances they’ll grow farther away, moving ever nearer the first shadows on the wall. But they’re not lost. The studies of early television presented within this edition of the Journal of e-Media Studies and others like them allow us to hold on to the optimism of the past. And like those artists who dreamt of a technological age, we can use that past to look in new ways ever toward the future.

About the author:
Kevin Patrick Warstadt holds the Edward Connery Lathem ’51 Digital Library Fellowship for 2016-2017 at the Dartmouth College Library. He studied film and history at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and holds a BA in Science, Technology, and Culture.  He is a student in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program at Dartmouth, and is completing his thesis on Theodore Roosevelt and American Expansion in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Recent publications include the short story “In the Desert” and the poem “Response to Xanadu,” both published in The MALS Journal.
In his work as Digital Library Fellow, Kevin handled the mark-up for each of the articles in this issue, and this article was inspired by that deep work with the texts!

About the Dartmouth College Library Publishing Program:
The Dartmouth College Library’s Digital Publishing Program focuses on providing open access, online publishing of scholarly publications that are created by Dartmouth faculty or students, or are published by Dartmouth.

 

Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition: A crewman’s view

By Thomas Orde-Lees, Quartermaster

“May, 1916. 15.

A cold night followed by a calm day with a calm open sea. Ninety penguins came up and all were killed. Wild asked me, sarcastically, if I was satisfied. He seems to think that I am personally afraid of having to starve. This is not exactly the case, it is rather the whole party that I am concerned about. I should not like to see a repetition of the Greeley disaster, and upon my word, I think we are asking for it.

"Endurance under Full Sail" - courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

“Endurance under Full Sail” – courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

We are now burning nothing but penguin skins on our indoor stove and nearly all the cooking is being done on it. It requires about fifteen skins per day and it behooves us to get all the penguins we can if only for the value of their skins as fuel.

To burn them it is necessary to cut them into thin strips which are laid over the two cross bars of the stove. The heat of the burning oil on the bottom of the stove causes the oil to “render” from the strips of skin; it drops on to the heap of ash and debris at the bottom and in due course ignites and helps to render the oil our of the next two strips and so on. It is necessary to replenish the strips every five or ten minutes. We leave the feathers on the skins just as they are and being very oily there is no unpleasant smell such as burning feathers usually make. The fire is lighted by a few wood-shavings and splinters derived from the little wooden “sweet-boxes” in which every ten pieces of nut food are packed.

There are therefore ten of these wooden boxes in a case of 100 blocks of nut food or seventy of them in all and, as each box will light two fires we have enough to get our stove going for a period of four months at least. We could quite easily light the fire by pouring seal oil on to the ashes of the previous night and inserting a wick when the whole lot would soon be in a blaze, but as the wood is available and blubber scarce we use the former for the present.

We are fortunate in having a good supply of matches, but even if we had none we could easily manage to get a light, in the first instance, with a “burning glass” on one of our rare sunny days and thereafter maintain a constant flame night and day with a blubber lamp.”

Previous entry  |   Next entry  |  Go to introduction

One hundred years ago this August, Ernest Shackleton rescued his crew after the failure of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Rauner holds a complete transcript of the diary and the manuscript diary from March 24th, 1915, through April 16th, 1916.” These entries are a selection from the diary of the expedition’s quartermaster Thomas Orde-Lees.

Rauner Special Collections Library in Webster Hall holds a complete transcript of the diary and the manuscript diary from March 24th, 1915, through April 16th, 1916. To see them, come to Rauner and ask to see MSS-185 or Stefansson G850 1914 .O7 1997 during normal hours of operation.  An exhibit on Shackleton’s Antarctic explorations will be on display in Rauner from July 1-September 2, 2016.

Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition: A crewman’s view

By Thomas Orde-Lees, Quartermaster

“May, 1916. 12.

A nasty dump day with a mild easterly blizzard.

A good many paddies were caught. They seem very plentiful just now.

The ice foot proved too much for the penguins today. Large numbers landed on a rock which can be reached form the shore by a round about way. They inspected the route ashore, decided it was no good and turned back. I observed three batches do this and thinking later arrivals might be similarly deterred I crept round and lay in wait and, on another batch coming up, I cut off their retreat and compelled them to go ashore.

"Shackleton on Ice" - courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

“Shackleton on Ice” – courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

I was not so successful with a second batch, several eluding me, but I managed the third batch all night. In this way I coerced ashore 51 birds of which Wild considered 21 sufficient for our needs. I really have no patience with these methods and am at a loss to know what inspires them. It certainly is not due to humaneness. The situation is too critical to take such liberties. I dare say we shall get penguins as long as we have to stay here, but there is no guarantee that we shall and no advantage whatever in leaving it to chance.

The only expedition that has previously wintered in this neighbourhood (Bruce at the South Orkneys) report that the penguins all left at the end of April and if analogy is worth anything they may quite likely leave here soon too.

We have now let seven hundred birds slip through our fingers, if we ever go short we shall have only ourselves to blame. So we shall be under the painful necessity of killing them rather more regularly in future.

One wonders just why these birds visited us in such great quantities. Were they driven up from Graham’s Land by the ice and are they “en passage” migrating to islands further west more free from ice?”

Previous entry  |   Next entry  |  Go to introduction

One hundred years ago this August, Ernest Shackleton rescued his crew after the failure of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Rauner holds a complete transcript of the diary and the manuscript diary from March 24th, 1915, through April 16th, 1916.” These entries are a selection from the diary of the expedition’s quartermaster Thomas Orde-Lees.

Rauner Special Collections Library in Webster Hall holds a complete transcript of the diary and the manuscript diary from March 24th, 1915, through April 16th, 1916. To see them, come to Rauner and ask to see MSS-185 or Stefansson G850 1914 .O7 1997 during normal hours of operation.  An exhibit on Shackleton’s Antarctic explorations will be on display in Rauner from July 1-September 2, 2016.

Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition: A crewman’s view

By Thomas Orde-Lees, Quartermaster

“May, 1916. 5.

Overcast. Temperature 31 degrees. Mild, slushy.

There were some cold penguins to skin. It was cold work. When freshly killed it is easy, almost agreeable, work executed as follows: lay the penguin on his back, slit him from his neck to his tail with a knife, insert the hand and withdraw the stomach and other “utensils” taking care not to break the gall bladder, before doing this the windpipe and gullet has to be cut by holding it with one hand and passing the knife up with the other. Next tear the skin apart at the breast and work it off the carcass and legs, articulating the wings with a knife and cutting the skin round at the leg joints just above the gut (the penguin has feathers right down to, but not on, its feet). The tail is then articulated at its root and by holding on to it and pulling whilst standing on the penguins feet it can be skinned off the back and head all in one operation like pilling off one’s vest inside out. What remains looks rather like a skinned rabbit. The two sides of the breast are easily cut off and the legs articulated, these portions are stored in the snow and the hearts and livers are all put into a box where they freeze into a solid cake. The skins are laid out flat and stored for fuel, but when one comes to one’s last bird for the day one generally uses the blubbery inside of the skin to wash some of the blood off one’s hands and even gives one’s face a good wipe, using the feather side as a towel to dry oneself with. The blubbery nature of the inside of the skin forms quite a passable soap, but our hands and faces are always so black that it doesn’t make any perceptible difference.

"Dogloos Endurance" - courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

“Dogloos Endurance” – courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

We practically never wash now except for this and it is surprising how soon one becomes reconciled to this state of affairs.

The penguins usually come up from the sea about 3 p.m. They roost here and go off to sea the first thing in the morning to fish. It seems probable that it is mostly different birds that come up every day and as if they were making a passage from one spot to another and using this as a half way house for however many we kill, just about the same number come up the next day. Were it not so, we should soon exterminate them. Today as many as 118 came up and we secured them all.

Our daily routine is now as follows. Cook turns out at 7 a.m. and goes out to galley to cook steaks. The inside stove is lighted and water heated up on it for milk. As the pungent blubber fumes pervade the atmosphere we all get well inside our bags and cough oil 9:30 or 10:00 a.m. when the order comes to “lash up and snow” whereupon we turn out fully dressed all but our boots, which we put on at once, and the ground floor people roll up their bags and bundle them up on to the bags of the protesting occupants of the thwarts who, by this time are generally down on the floor.

Two”seat placers”, told off daily in rotation, place the Venesta provision cases round in a rough circle amidst the execrations of the remainder on whose toes the cases fall. We sit down disconsolate and liverish until the cooks of groups ( the groups remain the same as the original tent’s crews and are maintained owing to the necessity of dividing the food up into all the available receptacles) stumble in with their precious burdens. “Whacking out” these proceeds the old “whoseing” process being rigidly adhered to. This operation has to be carried out on the knees of one of the members of the group and the balancing of the pot and all the eight tin plates is matter of no little skill.

As breakfast proceeds tongues are gradually loosened just as used to be the case in the ship, which proves that the psychological reaction of food even under such circumstances of destitution as ours still persists. Breakfast over we go out, if fine enough, and do such works as may be required of us. Luncheon is ready at 12:45 p.m. Today we had boiled penguin’s carcasses and they weren’t at all bad, being boiled in sea water to salt them a bit. It is dangerous to use sea water too freely on account of the likelihood of dysentery occurring from the magnesium salts in solution.

About 2 p.m. we again go out and work or walk about to keep our bodies and especially our feet warm. It is unfortunate that we have only such a very short walk the length of the spit. It gets monotonous and the people one meets are always the same and all so dirty looking and the snow covered pebbles are difficult to walk on, but one gets too cold sitting in the hut and as there is only four feet of head room beneath the thwarts of the boats it gets very crampy. By 4 p.m. most of us are in the hut again and at 4:30 supper is served.

It invariably consists of stewed seal or penguin meat. At both luncheon and supper we have ice cold water as a beverage. It is always ice cold because of the necessity of economizing fuel and therefore having to put rather more ice into the pot than can possibly all be melted. Should the water be warm by any chance we add more ice to it in order to increase the amount of water to the utmost. We nearly all get thirst during the night and have a drink of water at midnight.

At 6 p.m., the “seats” are replaced in the centre of the hut for the cook to sleep on, bags are laid out, we get into them and chat or read if possible until 7:30 p.m. by which hour nearly every one is asleep. Some wrangle.

We sleep from 7:30 p.m. to 9 a.m., at least that is the time we have to spend in our bags and most of sonly wish we could sleep for all that long time for it is very wearying lying awake hour after hour as many of us do, thinking most of the time of how much better we might be off if only this – and only that and so on. Of course we ought really to be only too thankful that we are here at all after the peril and uncertainty of our life on the floe. Our only source of danger here is lack of food. I suppose Mr. Wild knows what he is doing all right but I certainly think that until we are certain of a stock enough to last all the winter we ought to economize more now; we could quite well do with rather less than we are having, at least I could; the penguin steaks at breakfast are huge. One would rather economize now than risk going short later on which may or may not the base. I have seen too much improvidence on this expedition, it is a well known characteristic of the Esquimaus, perhaps a polar climate engenders it in certain people, but I must say that in all polar books I have read the narrators lay stress on the expediency of laying in a proper store for the winter; thus Scott, Greeley, Nordenskiold, Amundsen, Campbell. Living from hand to mouth may suit some natures, not mine. Mr. Wild is evidently relying too much upon an early relief. It is counting your chickens before they’ve hatched.

An adult sea elephant spent an hour or two on a small floe in West Bay, not more than fifty yards from the shore but the pack was too intersected to permit of approaching it. Some could have done it with oars to bridge the gaps but Mr. Wild thought it too risky.”

Previous entry  |   Next entry  |  Go to introduction

One hundred years ago this August, Ernest Shackleton rescued his crew after the failure of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Rauner holds a complete transcript of the diary and the manuscript diary from March 24th, 1915, through April 16th, 1916.” These entries are a selection from the diary of the expedition’s quartermaster Thomas Orde-Lees.

Rauner Special Collections Library in Webster Hall holds a complete transcript of the diary and the manuscript diary from March 24th, 1915, through April 16th, 1916. To see them, come to Rauner and ask to see MSS-185 or Stefansson G850 1914 .O7 1997 during normal hours of operation.  An exhibit on Shackleton’s Antarctic explorations will be on display in Rauner from July 1-September 2, 2016.

Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition: A crewman’s view

By Thomas Orde-Lees, Quartermaster

“April, 1916. 23.

The blizzard has subsided but there is now very heavy snow and still a strong wind. The difference between the present conditions and a blizzard is not quite easy to define and, indeed, a blizzard is always an arbitrary standard. It is a matter of comparison with conditions prevailing at the locality. We do not usually term it a blizzard unless the air is thickly charged with snow powder and the wind is blowing at over 40 miles per hour.

The snow powder of a blizzard is mainly that which is picked up from the surface by the wind and whirled along in suspension. Falling snow and wind such as we have today produce rather more of a snow storm than a blizzard. Breathing is not interfered with in a snowstorm but in a blizzard it is sometimes nearly impossible to breath facing the wind, and even with one’s back to the wind one is partly choked by the ice particles which fill the air exactly like dust in a dust storm.

“Frank Hurley under the Bow” – courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

It is much colder today.

The “James Caird” is now completed for Sir Ernest’s latest venturesome undertaking.

The carpenter had contrived wonderfully with the very limited resources at hand. Amongst the very few spare pieces of wood that we had was a sledge that had been taken to pieces for convenience in sowing into the boat. With the two runners of this he made fore and aft pieces for the deck and then fixed pieces of 3 ply Venesta wood across from gunwale to gunwale and laid canvas over this.

The whole forms a really neat job and a square hatch has been introduced aft.

Although I would rather die than undertake such a journey. I think her crew should be able to keep fairly dry.

She has been strengthened in the hull by having the mast of the “Dudley Docker” lashed along her keel inside. In fact the other boats have been freely denuded to provide for her to the very best advantage.

Today the “Stancomb Wills” was turned upside down in the same way as the “Docker” in order to provide a residence for the sailors, and they all trooped into it like rabbits, and proceeded to make it as snug as possible. They used the remains of their tent to make a front wall with.

By this afternoon there was about six inches of snow all over everything. During a blizzard snow gets no chance to settle though it may run into big drifts and also penetrated into boxes and so on.

At 2 p.m. the sun came out and I was tempted to hang my bags out with a view to drying them a bit, but whilst I was employed upon the other work a sharp snow storm came on and before I could get them in they were half filled with snow. The moisture in it had meanwhile frozen and the bags were as stiff as boards. I shook out most of the snow but some got down into the base of the hairs and could not be eradicated, but I got the full benefit of it at night when they were, if possible, wetter than ever.

We have not been getting many seals yet. Two on the 21st inst. and a big one yesterday, all Weddells.

Shelter of some sort for all hands is imperative but how to achieve it has been a matter of much cogitation. The stones here are mostly rounded and therefore unsuitable for building and the only substance available for weatherproofing i.e. caulking the interstices between stones, is now snow and the mud-impregnated grit that forms the foreshore. The other alternative is to excavate and ice cave in the glacier slope at the shore end of the spit, and this was decided upon and commenced today. A spot was selected about sixty feet up the slope and a pick and shovel party set to work. The ice was extremely hard and slow progress was made, but by nightfall an excavation 6 ft. high by 3 ft. wide and 4 ft. deep had been made. I have seen artificial ice grottoes in the Swiss Glaciers made for the entertainment of tourists but never expected to have it live in one! Now we’re going to, and glad of it too.

The “Caird” being ready for sea, Sir Ernest is only waiting for fair enough weather to launch her. At present there is far too much surf. The following have been selected to accompany him. Captain Worsley, Crean, the carpenter and the two sailors Vincent and McCarthy.

The distance is seven hundred and fifty miles in a straight line. The object of undertaking the journey is to obtain relief at the earliest possible moment. Bravo! brave leader.”

Previous entry  |   Next entry  |  Go to introduction

One hundred years ago this August, Ernest Shackleton rescued his crew after the failure of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Rauner holds a complete transcript of the diary and the manuscript diary from March 24th, 1915, through April 16th, 1916.” These entries are a selection from the diary of the expedition’s quartermaster Thomas Orde-Lees.

Rauner Special Collections Library in Webster Hall holds a complete transcript of the diary and the manuscript diary from March 24th, 1915, through April 16th, 1916. To see them, come to Rauner and ask to see MSS-185 or Stefansson G850 1914 .O7 1997 during normal hours of operation.  An exhibit on Shackleton’s Antarctic explorations will be on display in Rauner from July 1-September 2, 2016.

Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition: A crewman’s view

By Thomas Orde-Lees, Quartermaster

“April, 1916. 22.

This is now the fifth day of continuous blizzard, and it is even worse today than it has been. It is quite impossible to do any work for it is as much as one can do to even stand up in the wind. We have spent all day in our bags except when our few duties compelled us to be up and about for the sake of shelter rather than for warmth.

We have our meals under great difficulties beneath the boat sitting up in our bags in the limited space available. Where I sleep there is no sufficient head room so I partake of mine eating of my elbow and very awkward it is especially as it is pitch dark under the boat owing to the necessity of keeping the blanket door tightly closed to keep out the drift as much as possible. Every time anyone passes in or out of a tent a whirl of drift flies in through the door covering everything and before one can brush it off much of it has thawed so that in spite of the most stringent precautions one cannot avoid getting wet even inside the tents. Anyone going out, even for a minute, brings in on their persona and boots a great deal of snow and in the small space at the door it is very hard to get rid of it; it collects on the pieces of sailcloth board and so forth with which we have partially covered the pebbles and freezes on to them until it is again thawed out by the sleeping bags lying on top to it. The sleepers nearest the doors have by far the worst time of it in this respect.

“Endurance Listing” courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography 

The temperature inside our tents varies from a little above to a little below freezing so that the flooring is in a state of perpetual delignescence, in other words, the sail cloth and other sundry scraps that comprise it are constantly wringing wet and further absorb the moisture due to the thawing of the ice amongst the pebbles underneath.

Another source of wetness is the thawing of the snow at the back of the boat along the gunwale where we placed it to make a weather tight joint. This was unavoidable for there was no other material to be had and without it the blizzard would come flying in and soon overwhelm us, for, naturally, we have set the boat up with its back to the wind as far as possible.

It is anything but a pleasant life just at present and I have heard Mr. Wild and several others who ought to now assert that if this sort of thing continues for much longer some of the party will undoubtedly go under. As it is, the vitality of all of us must already be much lowered for no constitution can be quite immune to days of this sort of thing, wet through all day and all night in a low temperature and on a low diet. We are using our sledging foods rather freely but dare not reduce the ration yet, for this is just the very occasion for which we have revered them and when they become a most valuable factor in retaining our vitality. For breakfast we are having a good hoosh of Bovril sledging ration nearly three quarter strength (6 oz. each), one biscuit and a slice of cold raw blubber for luncheon and a seal stew for supper. Considering our circumstances this is not at all bad.

We find the raw seal’s blubber at luncheon very acceptable, and are now quite unconscious of its rank taste, indeed, cut into thin slices we fancy that it forms quite a passable substitute for butter and our only regret is that we cannot afford to have a second helping of it. Foods are appetizing or not according to the degree that the system insensibly demands them. What we lack here is heat, our systems therefore demand heat producing fuel and fat is the best heat giving food so that anything in the ay of fat or oil seems most acceptable to us just now and the necessities of the system overcome the nauseating flavour.

Yesterday we rounded up and killed thirty five penguins, but today, although there were a couple of hundred up, the weather was altogether too severe to hunt them.

The force of the wind was tremendous and a lot of valuable gear that had been carefully brought here was picked up by the wind and blown out to sea. I saw one of the large ten gallon aluminum cookers hurtling through the air and finally fell into the sea a long way out. A large number of socks, mitts and other small articles of clothing were thus lost, two or three ground sheets, a blanket, several pieces of wood and even some boots. Things were whisked out of people’s hands and it was not safe to put a saucepan down for a minute. The sailors lost theirs in this way.

I had placed my Burberry blouse out to try and dry it, and had placed it on a rock with two heavy stones as large as my head on the top of it. Almost before I had turned around, a gust of wind whisked off both the stones and that was the last I saw of my blouse. Immediately after a large canvas boat cover flew past me and landed in the sea.

It will seem that we were very slack not to take steps then and there to obviate this, but the weather was so thick and the party so dead beat that so long as people had sufficient clothes on them they were indifferent as to what happened to the spare stuff outside. It was a great pity because there certainly was a lot of stuff lost of which we should later have been glad. It is worthy of note, however, that it was all quite carefully stowed and covered with a sail, but the wind seemed out for sport and to be able to pick out the things it wanted to play with from under the sail.

All the tents had been pitched well above high watermark though the sailors tent was nearest to the sea. Tonight we were visited by an abnormally high tide which compelled the sailors to hurriedly strike their tent as the tide threatened to inundate it. Simultaneously we were all called out and spent a wretched hour or so in the dark pulling the “Stancomb Wills” and “James Caird” up to the summit of the spit out of reach of the water. The sailors passed the rest of the night in the latter boat which was by now entirely decked over for her journey to South Georgia.”

Previous entry  |   Next entry  |  Go to introduction

One hundred years ago this August, Ernest Shackleton rescued his crew after the failure of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Rauner holds a complete transcript of the diary and the manuscript diary from March 24th, 1915, through April 16th, 1916.” These entries are a selection from the diary of the expedition’s quartermaster Thomas Orde-Lees.

Rauner Special Collections Library in Webster Hall holds a complete transcript of the diary and the manuscript diary from March 24th, 1915, through April 16th, 1916. To see them, come to Rauner and ask to see MSS-185 or Stefansson G850 1914 .O7 1997 during normal hours of operation.  An exhibit on Shackleton’s Antarctic explorations will be on display in Rauner from July 1-September 2, 2016.

Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition: A crewman’s view

By Thomas Orde-Lees, Quartermaster

“April, 1916. 7 & 14.

7th: A fine day again an the island is sight part of the morning.

We got another sea leopard but no stomach-fish this time. These, undoubtedly, indicate that we are near the pack edge for they prey on the penguins which resort to the edge of the pack about this time of year. The floe split again suddenly just after we had turned in. The watchman calls out “crack” and we are all out in a moment or two, but this frequent splitting up of the floe gets on one’s nerves a bit for one never knows whether the ice is going to open underneath one’s sleeping bag during the night.

The boats were cute of from the rest of the camp for a time but the crack kept opening and closing and whilst it was closed we got the boats across in safety on their sledges.

"The Night Ship" - courtesy of Shakcleton Endurance Photography

“The Night Ship” – courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

14th: It was a truly magnificent sunrise, as beautiful a one as we had seen and the brightness and genial glow put new warmth into our half frozen bodies and raised new hopes in our hearts. The spray during the night had frozen on our outer clothing and our Burberry blouses were as stiff as parchment on us. As they thawed out they became correspondingly wet, but when the sun got higher in the sky its warmth, aided by the breeze was sufficient to dry things and we hung out our mitts, socks, etc., on the stays of the mast and got them fairly dry during the day.

During the whole voyage, even on the coldest nights, we found that in spite of our mitts being so sopping wet that we had to take them off from time to time to wring the water out of them, they kept our hands reasonably warm. Or if not exactly warm, they did get so cold as to be in danger of frost bite, though they felt wet and cold all the time, as was only to be expected. In the case of our socks, however, this did not apply and we had to resort to every possible expedient to keep our feet fairly dry.

As it grew lighter, Elephant Island loomed up through the mist on our port hand and for various reasons, thenceforth, became our goal.

It was considered that the precipitousness of Clarence might preclude a landing thereon, and, should we be carried by adverse winds or currents to the eastward we might fail to weather it altogether and Elephant Island was approximately no further off.

If, on the other hand, having set our course for Elephant Island, we should fail to weather it we should still have Clarence Island under our lee to the eastward, and various other small islets if we should be carried to the westward. A lot might happen in a run of forty miles, and we were not for taking any risks just then, so that decision, to run for the central point of the group, received general endorsement.

This morning was a truly beautiful one, we all got quite warm again rowing, Marston in the “Docker” enlivened us with songs and we all felt much happier then we had for several days, confident this time of making the land. If the S.E. wind, which had sprung up, was maintained throughout the day it seemed probable that we should make the land before night fall. Except for sucking ice chips, we had had nothing to quench our thirst with since the milk of the evening of the 12th inst., as whilst waiting for the poor old “Stancomb Wills” to catch up, the “Docker” drew up to a small lump of ice and tried to secure it with an ice axe, but it proved, on closer acquaintance, to be bigger than at first supposed and the attempt to take it in tow by means of impaling it with the business end of the ice axe all but resulted in the loss of that valuable implement. Not having slowed down they overshot it by so much that by the time they had checked their was the “growler” was far astern of them that it was not worth while “going about” to retrieve it, but coming on another piece they commenced preparations to secure it in a more systematic manner. Just then the “Caird” came up and Sir Ernest, being anxious to proceed, ordered them to desist. This proved unfortunate for, save for a very small fragment of ice in the “Docker”, and part of which was subsequently given to the “Caird”, we did no encounter any more ice and were thereafter without means of quenching our thirst. We had too, to wait about of half an hour for the “Stancomb Wills” to catch us up. She had been the lame duck all along, and though her presence added enormously to our resources and carrying capacity, yet she seriously impeded the progress of the other two boats. We could but sympathize with her occupants as, having a wholly inadequate spread of canvas, she was heavily handicapped and her crew had the harder work on the oars, besides which , her low gunwale rendered her much the wettest boat of the three. We never pulled more than four oars at a time in any of the boats so as to work the crews in two watches by half hour spells.

This was a very satisfactory arrangement as it gave one a complete rest between spells but not long enough to get chilled through; one was generally glad enough to get back on the oars, after a resting spell, to get warm again. Signs were not wanting that we were beginning to have about enough of it. More than one of the party in the “Wills” was suffering from general exhaustion, but nothing could be done for them just then. We had to go on. The ultimate safety and resuscitation of the party depended upon our reaching terra firma at the earliest possible moment. Delay was dangerous – dispatch imperative.

Blackborrow, one of the sailors in the “Wills”, reported that he thought there was something wrong with his feet, and examination proved this to be only too true; but it was impossible to do much for him under the circumstances, so he had to grin and bear it.

Fortunately severe frost-bite itself is unaccompanied by pain; it is the revival that is painful. There was little likelihood of Blackborrow’s feet reviving at all until we reached the land when proper means could be supplied. Earlier in the morning, Greenstreet in the “Docker” had found that one of his feet had “gone”. On taking off his sock he revealed a foot as white as a tallow which I eventually succeeded in restoring to vitality in the classic manner by alternately massaging it and placing it against my bare stomach inside my shirt. Quite the “little hero” that time.

We sailed on and on all morning before a fresh breeze passing a couple of bergs in one of which into which the swell was rolling and breaking against the steep slopes of the berg, with a fine roar. Another berg rather resembled a Red Indian’s feathered headgear, but still the land did not seem to get appreciably nearer.

Of pack or drift there was none. It was evident that we had a clear run to the land. All depended on the wind. At 3 p.m. it died down. Two hours later heavy lowering skies to the N.W. betokened a storm brewing and at 5 p.m. the sot burst upon us with a strong S.W. wind. We were apparently about 8 miles from Elephant Island before the gathering darkness shut if off from view; in reality we were more like 18 miles off, but we were able to see the details and configuration of the land very cleary, though we afterwards found out that what we took to be rocky cliffs a couple of hundred feet high were actually mountains as many thousands.

For some time we had been feeling the affects of thirst, and, having no ice left, we now took to chewing raw frozen seal meat for the sake of the moisture in it, and very good it seemed to be at that juncture.

It now grew very dark, the gale increased, the seas, lashed into foam by the wind, dashed over us in spray chilling us through to the marrow, and we were not wrong in supposing that we were in for yet another night of extreme exposure. But all the while, we felt we were nearing land, the land that would dispel all our troubles. The wind now veered round to N.W. and this brought the sea full on our port beam. We were able to sail well enough on this “slant” but the change of wind caused more and more water to break over the boats and we had to resort to almost continuous bailing.

Before the night had fairly set in, the “Caird” took the “Wills” in tow and henceforward never let go of her. Sir Ernest hailed the “Docker” and she drew up along side him, he shouted out some directions but his voice was almost wholly inaudible above the storm, though, as we correctly assumed, he was enjoining them to follow and keep in sight of the ‘Caird” all night. Practically ever since we had first started Sir Ernest had been standing erect all day and night on the stern counter of the “Caird”, only holding on to one of the stays of the little mizzen mast, conning our course the whole time the boats were underway.

How he stood the incessant vigil and exposure is marvellous, but he is a wonderful man and so is his constitution. He simply never spares himself if, by his individual toil, he can possibly benefit anyone else.

A characteristic instance of his unselfishness in this was occurred in the boats. Hurley lost his mitts, Sir Ernest seeing this, at once divested himself of his own, and in spite of the fact that he was standing up in the most exposed position all the while, he insisted upon Hurley’s acceptance of the mitts, and on the latter’s protesting, Sir Ernest was on the point of throwing them overboard rather than wear them when one o this subordinates had to go without; as a consequence Sir Ernest had one finger rather severely frost bitten.

Captain Worsley in the “Docker” too stuck to his post gallantly hour by hour steering his boat skillfully to safety, sitting up in the stern wet through to the skin. Lt. Hudson and Crean who steered the Wills alternately are likewise deserving of the highest praise.

We again did the best we could during the night pulling the tent clothes over us to afford some protection from the cold and wet. We were under reefed sail all night, rowing became out of the question early in the evening owing to the roughness of the sea.

We had to bail almost continuously and as this was much hindered by the encumbrance of baggage over the well in the stern we several times contemplated throwing certain articles overboard as the necessity of access to the well became more and more urgent and finally in the “Docker” we ejected the greater part of the sack of seal meat. About midnight, Cheetham, our old sailor-officer in the “Docker”, thought he heard the boat’s back cracking and so there was nothing for it but to shift some of the cases from forward aft, a task of no small difficulty under the circumstances, and thereafter they had all to crowd down in the stern and keep on shifting every time that bailing was in progress. Wave after wave dashed its spray over us and we got miserably wet.

The “Docker” had no light but the “Caird” had a lamp which she exhibited from time to time and by means of which the former were able to keep in touch with her for some time.

Having no light and only a pocket compass which was quite invisible in the dark, Captain Worsley elected to keep his boat as close to windward as possible, so as to keep both the land and the “Caird” under his lee. He feared too that the wind might have veered still more to the northward. As a result, he finally failed to the “Caird’s” intermittent light any more and thereafter was, so to speak, “on his own”.

The boat made a great but more leeway than headway. After, we wondered whether we might not ultimately overshoot the land, if we had not indeed already done so, by passing between Elephant and Clarence Islands, so much longer was the way than we had expected it to be. At times we thought we saw the faint “blink” of Elephant’s snow cap right ahead of us.

About 3 a.m. the moon rose and some diffused light penetrated the barge but the moon itself was not visible. Only twice during the night and after repeated efforts, did we succeed in keeping matches alight long enough, under the tent cloth, to see the little compass and so enable Captain Worsley to verify his course and the wind.

One of two of her crew now noticed that he was showing signs of succumbing to his unceasing vigil; several times he did not seem to hear them speaking to him, finally they could get no replies from him, his head sunk on to his chest and he seemed on the point of collapse, so they persuaded him to lie down for a bit and let Greenstreet take the helm.

Now the night was nearly done; the worst experience of all our trip was coming to a happy conclusion, but just what the issue would be we were still in some doubt as we could not yet certainly see the land.”

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One hundred years ago this August, Ernest Shackleton rescued his crew after the failure of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Rauner holds a complete transcript of the diary and the manuscript diary from March 24th, 1915, through April 16th, 1916.” These entries are a selection from the diary of the expedition’s quartermaster Thomas Orde-Lees.

Rauner Special Collections Library in Webster Hall holds a complete transcript of the diary and the manuscript diary from March 24th, 1915, through April 16th, 1916. To see them, come to Rauner and ask to see MSS-185 or Stefansson G850 1914 .O7 1997 during normal hours of operation.  An exhibit on Shackleton’s Antarctic explorations will be on display in Rauner from July 1-September 2, 2016.

Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition: A crewman’s view

By Thomas Orde-Lees, Quartermaster

"Hurley-Shackleton Patience Camp" - courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

“Hurley-Shackleton Patience Camp” – courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

“January, 1916. 16 & 17.

16th: A seal came up close to the floe this morning. Wild and I went on skis and he shot it. I went on and soon found another and left a flag on a ski stick to mark the place; Wild came out and shot it and meanwhile I espied yet another from the top of the sloping berg and went on it and killed it with one of my skis and a pocket knife. All three were taken in by dog teams.

In the afternoon I again went out accompanied by Blackborrow on a spare pair of skis which were brought up yesterday from Ocean Camp.

We were lucky enough to find two seals together and after a considerable and exciting chase, stunned them both, on just on the point of entering the water, cut their throats and gutted them, the latter precaution being necessary to prevent them, the carcasses becoming unfit for human consumption in the event of our being unable to send for them for a day or two.

We were at a great disadvantage in the deep, soft snow having taken off our skis to use as weapons!

Whilst engaged upon disemboweling the seals, two Adelie penguins came up right beside us, both of which we managed to secure.

Just as we reached camp, heavy snow, and a southerly breeze sprang up. The snow lasted a short while only.

Hurley’s dog team was shot today, seven fine dogs. It is heartrending to see these plucky little animals being ignominiously slaughtered, but it is absolutely unavoidable.

17th: The long desired southerly wind continues good and strong and the temperature has dropped in consequence. The cold makes itself very much felt after so much mild weather. I was out early piloting the dog teams to our captures of yesterday and to my delight we found another seal close to the carcasses. I killed him at once & then went out about a mile to the south the party came on two more seals. Just then the recall signal was hoisted at the camp so the party returned, killing an Emperor penguin on the way. Later Hurley and I went out on ski and easily killed the two seals with an ice ax and gutted them returning to camp just in time for luncheon. I had borrowed Wild’s knife and carelessly left it out by the seals, so I had to go out a third time to recover it, and reckon I did the best part of ten miles during the day, but it is well worth it to capture even one seal, let alone three and an Emperor.

They were not sent for as the dogs and drivers having already brought in three seals had done enough, but the carcasses will be safe enough where they are.”

Previous entry  |   Next entry  |  Go to introduction

One hundred years ago this August, Ernest Shackleton rescued his crew after the failure of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Rauner holds a complete transcript of the diary and the manuscript diary from March 24th, 1915, through April 16th, 1916.” These entries are a selection from the diary of the expedition’s quartermaster Thomas Orde-Lees.

Rauner Special Collections Library in Webster Hall holds a complete transcript of the diary and the manuscript diary from March 24th, 1915, through April 16th, 1916. To see them, come to Rauner and ask to see MSS-185 or Stefansson G850 1914 .O7 1997 during normal hours of operation.  An exhibit on Shackleton’s Antarctic explorations will be on display in Rauner from July 1-September 2, 2016.

Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition: A crewman’s view

By Thomas Orde-Lees, Quartermaster

“December, 1915. 29.

After a further reconnoitre Sir Ernest pronounced the ice ahead to be quite unnegotiable and so at 8:30 p.m. last night to the intense disappointment of all, instead of forging ahead, we retired half a mile so as to get onto stronger ice and by 10 p.m., we had camped and all turned in again without a further meal.

The extra sleep was much needed however disheartening this check may be. I slept soundly until 5 a.m., Blackborrow was nightwatchman from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. kindly lighting the fires for me at that hour.

Breakfast same as yesterday at 7 a.m., after which we began to settle down & several dog teams & myself on skis went out seal hunting.

We had only been out a short time when suddenly up went the recall flag on the boat’s mast and we al came in at once to find that Sir Ernest had decided to retire another 1/2 mile to a still safer old floe where we camped at 11:30 a.m.

“Ice Flowers” – courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

I first aid two relay trips with the boats all the way and lastly pulled over the galley and served luncheon of tea & 2 bannocks & cold suet (1 oz. per man) which we have been having lately.

Three seals were captured so we have enough meat to go on with for a day or two, but I must say that the general apathy with regard to catching seals now that we may have to settle down for a bit is rather curious.

Unless we get a big store of them it means breaking into our reserve sledging rations and even killing the dogs for want of food and either of these things just now would be fatal to our success, though we shall, of course, have to kill the dogs as soon as we take to the boats.

I spent the afternoon stacking provisions, not that there is much of them now, alas. The weather is pleasant enough, mild in the shade & even hot in the sun, but it has its disadvantage in rendering the surface very soft so that one sinks down to one’s knees at every step and one’s feet are therefore continually wet. At night the surface freezes but it will seldom support one’s weight, & therefore it doubles the weight of the sledge.”

Previous entry  |   Next entry  |  Go to introduction

One hundred years ago this August, Ernest Shackleton rescued his crew after the failure of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Rauner holds a complete transcript of the diary and the manuscript diary from March 24th, 1915, through April 16th, 1916.” These entries are a selection from the diary of the expedition’s quartermaster Thomas Orde-Lees.

Rauner Special Collections Library in Webster Hall holds a complete transcript of the diary and the manuscript diary from March 24th, 1915, through April 16th, 1916. To see them, come to Rauner and ask to see MSS-185 or Stefansson G850 1914 .O7 1997 during normal hours of operation.  An exhibit on Shackleton’s Antarctic explorations will be on display in Rauner from July 1-September 2, 2016.

Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition: A crewman’s view

By Thomas Orde-Lees, Quartermaster

“Night Ship Port Side” courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography 

“November, 1915. 21.

Maximum +37. Temperature +30.

A wretched day, high temperature & rainy sleet all day. Wind S to S.W increasing about 6 p.m.

Before going further I had intended to more fully describe our cooking & feeding arrangements, but today has been so full of incident that my intentions will have to be postponed in favour of more pressing matter. This morning I went over to the wreck with a sledging party – Wild, Crean, Hurley, Hudson & McIlroy to cut another section of gunwale of the motor boat with which the carpenter is to raise the siding of the other sledging boat, the Dudley Docker, in the same clever manner as he has raised those of the James Caird.

Whilst we were working at the motor boat, I went over to the Dump camp and with the end of an ice axe discovered several useful articles: a box of 25 cartridges, hair clipper, some reels of thread, pairs of socks, a plate & mug, a pillow, and a Jaeger sleeping bag. With this heavy load, I returned part of the way alone rejoining the other party further on. I had to cross a good deal of open water and whilst “dog-trotting” over the lumps of floating slush & ice fell in well over my knees just before reaching the opposite edge of the floe of one lead & got miserably wet in consequence, but luckily I did not lose my ice axe or my booty.

Just previously a seal had come up right alongside me. He seemed rather astonished to see me & was making for the open water again. I was just in time to head him off & felled him with a lucky blow from an ice axe killing him instantaneously & then cutting his throat to bleed him. This was the first seal killed otherwise than by shooting.

Some of the ice was moving very fast, all opening up, no pressure.

This evening as we were mostly taking it easy & reading we heard Sir Ernest call out, “She’s going.” We were all out in a second & up on the lookout station & other points of vantage & sure enough there was our poor ship a mile & a half away breathing her last. She went down bows first, her stern raised up in the air. It gave one a sickening sensation to see it, or mastless & useless as she has been she yet formed a welcome landmark and has always seemed to link us with civilization. Without her our destitution seems more acute, our isolation more complete.

Breakfast – Seal steak, 2 bannocks, tea.

Luncheon – Dry figs & custard, tea (1 tin figs – 2 lbs. – per unit of 4), 1 bannock.

Supper – Seal hooch, beetroot (1 lb. tin per unit), cocoa, 1 bannock.”

Previous entry  |   Next entry  |  Go to introduction

One hundred years ago this August, Ernest Shackleton rescued his crew after the failure of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Rauner holds a complete transcript of the diary and the manuscript diary from March 24th, 1915, through April 16th, 1916.” These entries are a selection from the diary of the expedition’s quartermaster Thomas Orde-Lees.

Rauner Special Collections Library in Webster Hall holds a complete transcript of the diary and the manuscript diary from March 24th, 1915, through April 16th, 1916. To see them, come to Rauner and ask to see MSS-185 or Stefansson G850 1914 .O7 1997 during normal hours of operation.  An exhibit on Shackleton’s Antarctic explorations will be on display in Rauner from July 1-September 2, 2016.