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Shackleton’s <i>Endurance</i> Expedition: A crewman’s view

By Thomas Orde-Lees, Quartermaster

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"Tom Crean & Husky Pups" courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography 

"June, 1915. 15.

Still very mild, foggy and almost quite dark.

Much excitement was afforded us today by the dog drivers settling a controversy as to whose team was the fastest by putting them to the test.

The start was fixed about half a mile away from the ship and the teams raced home against time.

Sir Ernest acted as starter and competent time keepers checked the starting and arrival times.

The teams consisted of seven dogs each with a total weight of about 700 lbs. including the driver.

The orders and times were Wild 2 min. 16 sec., Hurley 2 min. 26 sec., Crean 2 min. 39 sec., McIllroy 3 min. 2 sec., Macklin 3 min. 19 sec., Marston scratched.

The star was taken from the driver's order "Mush."

There are only four order one gives to dogs: "Mush" (probably a corruption of March or Marches) to start; "Ha", to turn left; "Gee", to turn right and the usual "Whoa" for stop. There are generally a good many unofficial orders and expletives added, but whether they really do any more than give relief to the driver's exasperation when the dogs go wrong one is unable to say.

It is extraordinary how responsive a good leader is to the order "Ha" and "Gee".

It is only the leaders who are trained to understand this order. They are no doubt selected from a very large number of dogs as being the most intelligent and they must require very considerable training. Probably they start as team dogs and the fact, that they pick up the "Ha" and "Gee" order independently of their leader is noticed by the driver, and from then onward they receive special training until proficient."

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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.

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