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

By Thomas Orde-Lees, Quartermaster

"Hurley-Shackleton Patience Camp" - courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography
"Hurley-Shackleton Patience Camp" - courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

"January, 1916. 16 & 17.

16th: A seal came up close to the floe this morning. Wild and I went on skis and he shot it. I went on and soon found another and left a flag on a ski stick to mark the place; Wild came out and shot it and meanwhile I espied yet another from the top of the sloping berg and went on it and killed it with one of my skis and a pocket knife. All three were taken in by dog teams.

In the afternoon I again went out accompanied by Blackborrow on a spare pair of skis which were brought up yesterday from Ocean Camp.

We were lucky enough to find two seals together and after a considerable and exciting chase, stunned them both, on just on the point of entering the water, cut their throats and gutted them, the latter precaution being necessary to prevent them, the carcasses becoming unfit for human consumption in the event of our being unable to send for them for a day or two.

We were at a great disadvantage in the deep, soft snow having taken off our skis to use as weapons!

Whilst engaged upon disemboweling the seals, two Adelie penguins came up right beside us, both of which we managed to secure.

Just as we reached camp, heavy snow, and a southerly breeze sprang up. The snow lasted a short while only.

Hurley's dog team was shot today, seven fine dogs. It is heartrending to see these plucky little animals being ignominiously slaughtered, but it is absolutely unavoidable.

17th: The long desired southerly wind continues good and strong and the temperature has dropped in consequence. The cold makes itself very much felt after so much mild weather. I was out early piloting the dog teams to our captures of yesterday and to my delight we found another seal close to the carcasses. I killed him at once & then went out about a mile to the south the party came on two more seals. Just then the recall signal was hoisted at the camp so the party returned, killing an Emperor penguin on the way. Later Hurley and I went out on ski and easily killed the two seals with an ice ax and gutted them returning to camp just in time for luncheon. I had borrowed Wild's knife and carelessly left it out by the seals, so I had to go out a third time to recover it, and reckon I did the best part of ten miles during the day, but it is well worth it to capture even one seal, let alone three and an Emperor.

They were not sent for as the dogs and drivers having already brought in three seals had done enough, but the carcasses will be safe enough where they are."

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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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