By Thomas Orde-Lees, Quartermaster
“February, 1915. 9.
Last night we played the simple game of “questions,” answering “Yes” or “No.” We each had a turn as “guesser.” The subjects were all rather difficult ones, such as the first pip in the apple Eve gave Adam, the hilt of Nelson’s sword on the Nelson column, the first gold coin staked at the baccarat table at Monte Carlo in 1914.
Sir Ernest had to guess the left eye of the snake who tempted Eve and I had the dorsal fin of the second fish in the miracle of the five loaves and three small fishes. It is a simple game but provided the conundrums set are sufficiently exacting it becomes really interesting and educative. It passed the two hours after tea pleasantly enough and I hope we shall have more of it during the long winter, now approaching.
We all guessed our tasks eventually.
During the game, in response to a cry, we all ran up on deck just in time to see and hear a number of seals break through the thin ice of the frozen pool in which we lie to “blow” i.e. to recuperate themselves with fresh air after what, to judge from their apparent distress, must have been a long journey under the ice and before proceeding on another long spell to open water.
Today we made a desperate effort to get the ship free from this wretched floe.
Owing to the temperature having been below zero a good deal lately the pool in which we were lying is now all frozen over. In the morning some cracks opened up leading towards some open water, but before we got steam up the crack had closed again, and, as Sir Ernest said, it is better to be in an open pool than a closing crack, for that means pressure, the greatest peril that a polar ship has to face.
As it was we took nearly two hours turning the ship around, as the young ice in the pool is very tough and the pool is not more than twice as wide as the ship is long. It is hard times getting thwarted again just when things were beginning to improve. Sir Ernest accepts the inevitable with his customary inscrutable composure. One wonders what he really does think with so much anxiety concealed beneath so clam an exterior.
This evening a particularly fine specimen of an emperor penguin came up alongside we secured it. Hurley subsequently took a colour photograph of it.
I overate myself slightly at tea and indigested something so retired early but it was tomorrow before I slept.”
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.