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

By Thomas Orde-Lees, Quartermaster

"December, 1915. 29.

After a further reconnoitre Sir Ernest pronounced the ice ahead to be quite unnegotiable and so at 8:30 p.m. last night to the intense disappointment of all, instead of forging ahead, we retired half a mile so as to get onto stronger ice and by 10 p.m., we had camped and all turned in again without a further meal.

The extra sleep was much needed however disheartening this check may be. I slept soundly until 5 a.m., Blackborrow was nightwatchman from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. kindly lighting the fires for me at that hour.

Breakfast same as yesterday at 7 a.m., after which we began to settle down & several dog teams & myself on skis went out seal hunting.

We had only been out a short time when suddenly up went the recall flag on the boat's mast and we al came in at once to find that Sir Ernest had decided to retire another 1/2 mile to a still safer old floe where we camped at 11:30 a.m.

"Ice Flowers" - courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

I first aid two relay trips with the boats all the way and lastly pulled over the galley and served luncheon of tea & 2 bannocks & cold suet (1 oz. per man) which we have been having lately.

Three seals were captured so we have enough meat to go on with for a day or two, but I must say that the general apathy with regard to catching seals now that we may have to settle down for a bit is rather curious.

Unless we get a big store of them it means breaking into our reserve sledging rations and even killing the dogs for want of food and either of these things just now would be fatal to our success, though we shall, of course, have to kill the dogs as soon as we take to the boats.

I spent the afternoon stacking provisions, not that there is much of them now, alas. The weather is pleasant enough, mild in the shade & even hot in the sun, but it has its disadvantage in rendering the surface very soft so that one sinks down to one's knees at every step and one's feet are therefore continually wet. At night the surface freezes but it will seldom support one's weight, & therefore it doubles the weight of the sledge."

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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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