Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition: A crewman’s view

By Thomas Orde-Lees, Quartermaster

“Endurance Listing” courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography 

“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.”

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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

"Endurance in Weddell sea" - courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

“Endurance in Weddell sea” – courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

“January, 1915. 29.

A dull but mild, dead calm day. The temperature went down to 9 degrees only in the night but it feels more like 40 degrees in the open air. Sensibility to cold is largely influenced by wind, humidity of the air and ones personal fitness. Unfortunately I have had several touches of sciatica varying in intensity. They commence immediately subsequent to my being thrown over the steering wheel and I think therefore that I must have fallen on the spot that overlies the origin of the sciatic nerve which is in the lumbar vertebrae. It may be only a coincidence but it looks very much as if it is due to traumatic causes again, for when I had it before it came on immediately after several falls from trees and from the roof at our house – The Priory, Hardway.

The doctor has given me certain tabloids and these seem to have benefitted me. I do hope it won’t prejudice me in anyway.

We spent the morning getting cases of dog biscuits from the hold. This gave me a god deal of restowing to do which occupied me most of the afternoon after which I took a sounding (449 fathoms) with Hudson, he had rather hard work winding in 2694 feet of wire with a 10 lb. weight and a grate (?) on it.

We are still stuck solid in the floe. This has happened to previous explorers in this region – Weddell Sea – to both Bruce and Filchner. The former just managed to escape quite late in the season, but he was much further north – off Coats Land. Filchner got stuck about 200 miles north of us but in nine months drifted nearly 600 miles north and was then able to reach South Georgia. It certainly seems not improbable that we may remain in the ice field in which we are now incarcerated. If this be the case we shall almost certainly drift north emerging about this time next year near South Georgia. Sir Ernest says he will not return to England except via the Pole and Ross Sea, but one fails to see how he can get to land in the early part of next summer, if the ship is drifting all the time. Even now it would be a matter of very great difficulty to sledge any gear for twenty miles over this hummock ice and over stretches of open water which probably intervene between us and the land, and it would be out of the question to get the hut and all our provisions ashore, some fifty tons of gear at a minimum, taking fuel and dog food into consideration.

To transport the motors over this surface would be impossible. The surface is precisely owing to the entire absence of seals on which we had mainly relied. Naturally, on finding that the ice is closing up all round them the seals make for the edge of the ice floe water, for no seal could walk a distance of more than a mile or two. We think that the flocks of seals we saw in the water must have been migrating instinctively northward. If we can secure no more seals it will certainly mean destroying about half the dogs for about 2 1/2 months only, in addition we have enough compressed dog sledging pemmican for all the dogs for about 3 months. We certainly have not enough food for ourselves to spare any for the dogs.

I think we have sufficient food for ourselves to last all hands comfortably for twelve months, but as we had relied upon penguins and seal to eke out our larder, and there are none; we shall have to exercise reasonable care.

It seems such irony that we should have seen such myriads of seals so recently. I did venture to suggest once or twice that we ought to lay in a small store of them, as we had none left, but other considerations over ruled this. One must, however, be thankful for the splendid saving that has already been effected by the almost continual use of seal and penguin meat since leaving South Georgia. Tinned meat three times a day soon makes big holes in my stores, besides fresh meats are of the greatest value as anti-scorbutics (scurvey preventatives). I do hope that we shall be able to get a few seal and penguins soon whether we land or remain frozen in.

I have been skiing a good deal out on the floe, but it is almost impossible to get anything of a run, especially as I have no sticks. The ice sticking up her and there amongst the snow causes the skies to slip about in every direction when one comes into contact with it.”

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

"The Night Ship" - courtesy of Shakcleton Endurance Photography

“The Night Ship” – courtesy of Shakcleton Endurance Photography

“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.”

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

“January, 1915. 10.

We nearly always seem to pass at least one berg each day of exceptional beauty and today we passed a fine one… Its peculiarity exists in the several sharp pinnacles and its undulating surface. I wish I could draw. There are unrivaled opportunities for an artist. Our artist, Marston, paints nicely but either he has done all he wants to or else what seems to me to be worthy “subjects” are not really so, for the spirit seldom moves him to exercise his art. He is, however, a first class bootmaker and perhaps that it what really matters most after all.

"Dogloos Endurance" - courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

“Dogloos Endurance” – courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

The pigs trouble me a good deal. They live just outside the wardroom door and they occasionally get out of their pen and make a mess about the place. Still they are growing like anything and will be most acceptable when the time comes. It must come before the winter for they could never stand the climate. The little one is now as big as the big one was when the little one came and the big one is getting on for twice as big as he was when he arrived and is almost half grown. Puzzle: how little was the little one when he came?

Opposite the pigs are 5 puppies and their mother, the “interesting event” having taken place three days ago, but so far Tom Crean, who has cared for her like a hospital orderly is the only one who has seen the little creatures though we all hear their shrill little squeaks. They will soon be fun. One would think that with seventy dogs aboard, and all living directly above the cabins the ship would be unbearable, and we fully expected it to be so and dreaded their advent accordingly, but it is not so at all.

This is partly due to the cold climate arresting any decomposition and partly due to the thorough manner in which their excreta is dealt with. One of us goes round, about every two hours, with a shovel and a squeegee and so the decks are always more or less clean. The shovel is suspended over the stern by a rope and is automatically cleaned by the water splashing against it.

We do not find this job at all unpleasant, far less so than having to scrub places where people expectorate, but since leaving South Georgia I have hardly done it at all as I am on special duty as messman.

I think it is quite probable that the ship will return to winter at Buenos Aires or at South Georgia and I am therefore writing a few letters home and also making a precis of this diary. I do so wish sometimes I could just pop home for an hour or two as easily in the flesh as in spirit. No doubt the explorers of 2015, if there is anything left to explore, will not only carry their pocket wireless telephones fitted with wireless telescopes but will also receive their nourishment and warmth by wireless means and also their power to drive their motor sledges, but, of course, there will be an aerial daily excursion to both poles then, and I suppose it will be the bottom of the Atlantic, if not the center of the earth, that will form the goal in those days.

We “live” well, but perhaps it is that hunger is the best condiment. Even the fact that our seals and penguins are full of internal parasites of the nastiest and most loathsome kind does not deter us. We have nothing else to eat and so we have first got to put squeamishness aside and eat them. I never thought I could bring myself to do such things so easily. Often there is such a run on certain dishes, that there is nothing left for the messman and then I quite cheerfully eat up scraps from other peoples plates, without the shadow of a wince, though I am usually very discriminating as to whose leavings I have, avoiding those off the plates of certain people.”

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.  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

“January, 1915. 6.

(skips a page)…The difficulty was enhanced by the danger, we were all in of the ice at the bottom of and around the pool giving way and immersing us all. I ended up holding lying on my back on the edge of the pool, holding back another dog – Samson – with my left hand, pulling Sailor’s left hind leg with my right hand, pushing my left foot in Satan’s mouth to make him leave go and with Clark whacking me hard on the knee with a long bamboo. I think everyone was pretty much the same, but one hasn’t time to take note of details in these “scraps.” They are always so sudden and strenuous. Someone, Marston, I think, however, had hold of Sailor’s tail and was pulling for all he was worth and how the tail and the ear stood the strain is a puzzle, for there were comparatively little damage done when we chained the culprits up and examined them.

"Endurance rear port Side 1" - courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

“Endurance rear port Side 1” – courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

After this we took a sounding, 2400 fathoms. We take turns at winding the winch doing about 200 fathoms (1200 feet) each. Owing to the heavy weight on the end of the wire, this is rather tiring work and it takes about half an hour per thousand fathoms at the quickest.

Heaving seen a seal on an adjacent floe the Captain and I set off in a boat (the Norwegian pram) to capture it. I took a revolver with me. We soon found our victim and, at about three yards only I fired for his brain, making no apparent effect, as he reared up rather menacingly; so I gave him another bullet, he then turned and made for the water, and fearing we should lose him I gave him the remaining bullets, but even then he took very little notice of them, though we know he was wounded by a slight blood stain on the floe. As he seemed to lie quietly we left him to attend to his wife who was lying at a respectful distance from him. As I had no more ammunition on me, we stunned her by a blow with an oar and then cut her throat with a blunt knife, a proceeding she protested against by snapping vigorously and one had to dodge her sharp teeth. It was a disgusting piece of butchery, but we need the meat and it is immaterial how we get it so long as we do not inflict, willfully, unnecessary torture. Meanwhile Mr. Crabeater had died of a broken heart, for when I cut him up and skinned him in the afternoon I found that a shot had penetrated his heart. This was probably the one which I aimed at his brain! The accuracy of the aim matters but little, however, so long as a vital part is hit!! Our work then commenced for we had to pull the two seals about 100 yards to the edge of the floe over some very hummocky ice, and as the male weighed about 300 lbs. it was as much as we could do, for we are all very much out of training through lack of proper exercise. At the edge of the floe we made the seals fast to the two ends of a line which we passed over the gunwales of the boat. To our surprise the male sank, but only with a very slight negative buoyancy so that the rope prevented him from sinking altogether. In this way we towed them both back to the ship where we were received with strains of “See the conquering hero comes” and good-humoured derisive cheers and one or two ribald remarks from members who had watch the sanguinary proceedings with binoculars.

On our way back I heard a curious blowing sound and at first thought it was one of our poor victims showing signs of returning animation, but on its being repeated we saw only about 50 yards off the fin of a whale just disappearing, and fearing it might be one of the dangerous killer whales, who will swallow a seal or a man whole or scrunch up a small boat, we considered discretion the better part of valour and as he appeared to be making directly for us, we prepared to propitiate him by casting off the seals and rowed close along the edge of the ice so as to be ready to jump on to it if he came alongside. Of course it may have been only an inoffensive blue whale or humpback but Sir Ernest who was watching us all the time said we were quite right to take the precautions we did as he was not at all sure that it was not a “killer”.”

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.  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

“Endurance Distant” courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography 

“December, 1914. 31. New Year’s Eve

It has been mostly a dull overcast day with a chilly Northerly wind blowing and snow squalls in the afternoon which I spent below for “our annual stock-taking,” so as to arrive at some idea as to exactly how much provisions. Such an easy date to remember.

My thoughts this evening are again very much with those at home. The war causes us some anxiety, though I do not think that anything worse than a rise in the price of foods can affect non-combatants, but that would be bad enough if the rise was a serious one.

We have had much trouble with the ice this morning. During practically the whole of my watch this morning we were jammed in between two converging floes. Probably these floes were drifting along and each of them rotating towards each other and grinding their adjacent edges together, or it may have been that a drifting iceberg was pushing one of them against the other; anyhow we got tightly nipped and could not extricate ourselves for a long time. Immediately after we did get clear, the “dock” we had made closed with almost a snap and the sides of it crumpled up into pressure ice, showing clearly what great pressure there must have been on the ship! Sir Ernest seemed quite relieved when he saw what we had got clear of, though he did not exhibit any undue apprehensiveness at the time.

Whilst we were stuck fast an Emperor penguin appeared on the scene only to appear later on the table, thanks to Lt. Hudson’s Munchausian exploits as a penguin lurer. Later a whole troupe of young Adelie penguins came up to look at us; some discussion took place amongst them as to what the ship really was. This developed into an altercation and ended in a fight, meanwhile a stalking party was already heading off the combatants, but just when it seemed certain that the whole troupe were as good as cooked, they took alarm and to their heels, tobogganing off in all directions, with the result that the four explorers baffled three only of the troop, two again falling to the large but deft hands of our worthy navigator!”

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, 1914. 25.

Xmas day at last, and spent under conditions so different from any Xmas I have ever spent before, but under conditions which it has been almost a lifelong ambition to experience.

When I look back it seems strange that I should be here at all, for I had no previous Antarctic experience and apparently but little to recommend me when I first applied to Sir Ernest, and I am quite aware that there must have been hundreds of more competent motor-mechanics than myself. I often wonder, even now, whether I come up to all Sir Ernest’s requirements.

I certainly, unintentionally, incurred his displeasure a few days ago, by, as he put it, exceeding my duty.

"The James Caird" - courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

“The James Caird” – courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

The sailors had been hinting that they did not get their fair share of little luxuries, such as sauces, etc., for by their agreement they are on the same rations as we are. I had always taken scrupulous care to see that they did get fair treatment, and recently Sir Ernest ordered me to give them one quarter of the contents of every case of delicacies I opened. The next day I opened a case of 24 bottles of Heinz’s chutney, gave the bo’sun 1/2 doz. and asked him to initial the receipt of them in my issue book, or rather I gave the articles to another man and told him to tell the bo’sun this.

This man told the bo’sun that I wanted him to write out a receipt for the goods.

This seemed to hurt his feelings and he complained to the chief officer and by the time it reached Sir Ernest it was said that I wanted each man to sign for each course of his dinner every day, or some exaggeration of that sort. This was unfortunate be I did not think it worth wasting Sir Ernest’s time with useless explanations, especially as he was very nice about it, but he said that it was contrary to the spirit of the expedition and of the merchant service, but I could see that he was displeased and that he considered that I had made a blunder.

It seems such a trifle, yet I would have given a lot for it not to have occurred.

Of course I cannot get out of “service” ways. In the “service” it would have been far more serious to have omitted to have obtained a receipt.

Thus do we sometimes err in striving to do right.

But Xmas, Ah Xmas so full of thoughts for those so far away, but to know so well that most of them at this very moment are thinking of and talking about one brings lumps of consolation to one’s throat.

Are they happy, I ask myself over and over again, do they suffer by this damnably conceived war, of if they only knew how well and happy I am, in spite of bottles of chutney and bo’suns and receipts! But these are riddles which will not be solved ‘ere another Xmas has passed and more, another six months or so as well, then all will once more be reunited.

I drink to the day then, true any beverage is only raspberry vinegar which our kind Norwegians friends gave us at South Georgia and which Sir Ernest and I and one or two others have substituted for whiskey this festive day, but Sir Ernest is splendid where intoxicants are concerned, he gauges exactly how much is suitable to the occasion – necessary to satisfy without permitting of unreasonable and objectionable indulgence, and he permits to be issued just so much and no more, hence we have general satisfaction without those regrettable debauches that do so much to mar the solemnity of the celebration and the measure of the general enjoyment of the whole party.

The little girls were greatly appreciated this morning and were genuine surprises as I contrived to conceal them under the colored Japanese paper napkins with which I decorated the breakfast tables.

For breakfast we simply had tinned herrings in tomato sauce, followed by honey. For dinner we really had a terrific “blow-out,” Tinned Turtle Soup, Tinned Whitebait, Tinned Jugged Hare, Plum pudding with lots of brandy on it (called Teetotalers Delight), Brazil nuts. Altogether a glorious feed and I feel pleasantly painfully replete; but the clearing up – laying table with real starched napkins, folded bishop’s mitre pattern, involved a lot of extra work. Unfortunately we had no crackers! nor could make any.

My wheel this morning was pleasant enough and we got heaps of open water with very few ice-isthmi and made splendid progress again – 71 miles in the 24 hrs. and are now in Lat. 65, 42 close on the Antarctic circle, but since noon we have very conveniently been jambed up against impenetrable ice, waiting for it to open out but are now just getting a move on.

The saloon windows I am writing by are all covered with most beautiful ice-ferns. It is cold at night now, often below freezing.”

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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

“December, 1914. 5.

We have been ready to leave South Georgia for the last week but Sir Ernest has been waiting for the arrival of a steamer – the “Harpoon” – from B.A. which would bring us our last news of the war, etc. As she had not arrived by today, Sir E. decided to lear forthwith and at 9 a.m. we set sail for the Antarctic, the goal of my life’s ambitions. Shortly before sailing two little live pigs arrived on board and were accommodated with a neat little pen.

What thoughts are our, setting out thus at such a time, with no chance of news from dear ones at home who are passing through the greatest national crisis of modern times.

What may we expect to learn on our return. The map of Europe may be greatly altered but God grant that England may stand where she is this day and that all those dear to me may be spared from any privations or sufferings.

"Ice Flowers" - courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

“Ice Flowers” – courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

It is a fine day and the sea is not very rough though I have been sea sick three times, but I have learned to take it philosophically and it will soon be over.

We passed our first iceberg – a beauty about noon. This is the first real large berg I have ever seen.

The sea got rougher in the afternoon and I got worse.

The upper deck is heavily encumbered with coal; there is coal everywhere and at present it completely blocks the main deck between the cabins and the wardroom.”

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

“November, 1914. 4.

Last night we had a short smoking concert in our cabin everyone was present. Sir Ernest, Mr. Wild, Martson (the artist), Hurley (cinematographer), Tom Crean, the sailor who was with Scott, Dr. McIllroy, Dr. Macklin, Clark (biologist), Wordie (geologist), James (physicist), Hussey (meteorologist), and myself comprising the shore party and Captain Worsley, Lts. Hudson and Greenstreet R.N.R. the ships officers. Marston and Wild who were both on Shackleton’s last expedition, were the principal vocal contributors to the program. Hussey played the banjo as accompanist which he does beautifully and I the Ocarina – vilely.

"Ocean Camp" - courtsey of Shackleton Endurance Photography

“Ocean Camp” – courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

Today I spent the whole morning in the coal bunkers with Wild, the chief engineer and two others, “trimming” the coal – shifting it along to the stoke hold door. This afternoon I had a good bath and did my washing at the same time, 1 shirt, 1 pair socks, 5 handkerchiefs, 1 pillow slip, 4 hand towels, and 1 bath ditto. The bath ditto is a job to was. I would willingly give a laundry 6d to do it. I must admit washer-women early their money except perhaps in Buenos Aires where I was charged 1/6 for the following: 2 white shirts, 1 pr white trousers, 2 singlets, 4 collars, 2 soft collars and 3 pair socks; which gives you an idea of the prices of things in B.A.

We have done 186 miles today. We quite expected to have done more as we have all sail set. We now have only 150 to go to South Georgia, however, and shall be in by noon tomorrow at the latest.

We had a fearful scrum at dinner today; a big roll sent about five of us flying into the middle of the room with plates, mugs, etc., such a mess, but I was not among the scrimmage this time, merely an amused spectator.

We have already met a good many penguins swimming about and there are always several Albatross, blue-petrels, whale-birds and Cape-pigeon-petrels accompanying us; we have seen a good many whales too.”

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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

“October, 1914. 19.

Another hard day’s work, nominally in charge of dogs for the day but had to turn to and get the motor sledges out of their cases on board the lighter; one of the cases is about the size of a [ ] and it took several hours work to break it open without damaging the wood. The case alone cost 7.10.0 sterling and it was so large that one side of it was used to make a new deck extending from the roof of the wardroom to the quarter deck as to have more room for the dogs. There are four other enormous cases containing motor sledges or parts of them, propeller, etc., but I expect I shall be able to unpack some of them before getting them on board. We are getting the kennels on board by degrees but it is awkward and difficult work.

“Dogloos & Endurance” courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography 

We were all invited to a representative luncheon today given by the English Colony here, but Sir Ernest could not let us go as there is still so much work to be done. We are also invited to a sing-song on board S.S. Uruguay tonight. They are all going except myself as I have to stay with the dogs, thank goodness, but I got someone else to look out for me from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and went and dined with Rev. Brady and Mr. Mackie, the British Consul General, just a simple dinner in Mr. Brady’s flat. Everyone here lives in flats and there are some very fine blocks of flats. They call them Departments.”

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.