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

By Thomas Orde-Lees, Quartermaster

"June, 1916. 15"

Mild but wet. Temperature 31 degrees. I am tired of stating that the pack is still in; but it is.

Poor Blackborrow had to have his toes amputated today.

The doctors worked under difficulty.

We were all ordered outside except the doctors and Wild, who stayed as a privileged spectator and Hurley who has a reputation as a stoker and who therefore kept the fire going to maintain an equable temperature. He managed to get up and keep a temperature of 80 degrees for an hour, not so bad for the Antarctic, nothing but blubber and penguin skins for fuel.

"Shackleton on Ice" - courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

As it was drizzling we all went and took shelter in one of the caves. It was pretty wet and damp there. We cut each other's hair to pass the time away and pretty good frights we made out ourselves. As we had to sit on a block of ice during the process, nothing else being available for a seat, we mostly got rather wet where our clothing came in contact with the ice.

The caves are now easily accessible owing to the icefoot having bridged the gap that formerly intercepted out approach.

They form very useful shelters and if only their floors were above high water level and they were on the East side of Penguin Hill they would be of great value to us as shelters for penguin-skinning and as storehouses. To reach them it is nearly always necessary to go right round Penguin Hill although the caves are not more than twenty yards from the hut, but the short cut is seldom negotiable, and when it is, it is only effected by the thin coating of ice adhering to very steep rock faces. Steps have been cut in this ice but a slip would entail a ducking in deep water.

It was nearly three hours before we were again able to get back into the hut by which time we were bored, cold and hungry.

The operation had been successful in spite of difficulties and when we got back into our cosy bags the patient was sleeping off the effects of the anaesthetic [sic].

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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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