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Shackleton’s <i>Endurance</i> 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."

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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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