By Thomas Orde-Lees, Quartermaster
“January, 1915. 24.
A most beautiful warm dry sunny Sunday. Most of us took the opportunity to air our sleeping bags, turning them inside out and hanging them over the broom in the sunshine.
Last night after I had finished wiring we espied a seal behind a hummock on the floe about 150 yards from the ship.
As we need all the fresh meat we can get and as we are not likely to have many seals at this spot so far from open water Mr. Wild shot it from the deck with a rifle – a very good shot, through the heart, and I was sent off on skis with a life line round me to take out a rope and secure it to the seal so that the others on board could pull it in.
After much stumbling and cautious circumambulation to avoid weak and slushy depressions in the floe, I accomplished my errand and holding on to the line I was pulled, still stumbling, over the small hummocks, toward the ship. About half way, the seal’s weight broke through a spot that I had just managed to avoid and we nearly lost her as she began to sink, but by taking off my skis, making a bridge over the hole with one and a lever of the other I managed to get her head up sufficiently to enable us to pull her on board, A very large old female.
It is not for me to say it but one cannot fail to perceive that we are in a position of considerable disadvantage, though, I should say of very little peril unless the whole field of ice of which we seem to form the centre should subsequently be subjected to considerable pressure; even then it is expected that the ship would rise so that the ice would pass downwards under her bottom. When we got in here first we were merely in a pool in an area of loose pack ice. The recent gale caused this to congeal into one great field of ice without a rift or lead to be seen anywhere as far as the eye can see from the mast-head. No doubt it will open up, as it always has for us and most previous ships, in a week or two, but if this should not occur before the end of March, we should have to remain frozen in until next November probably, which would rather be rather trying.
No one contemplates, for moment that this is at all likely and Sir Ernest, least of all, exhibits the slightest sigh of anxiety about it. In any case we have ample provisions though not too much coal.
The temperature is about 19 degrees Farh., but it is so dry that it does not feel unpleasantly cold.”
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.