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

By Thomas Orde-Lees, Quartermaster

"August 1916, 23.

No change in pack or weather.

Certain members are exhibiting obvious concerns about the present food shortage and strange to say now that there really is a shortage the imperturbable pessimists are apparently quite unconcerned and certainly are not saying anything in the nature of "We told you so." It is not unusual that pessimism and equanimity are counterparts.

Three boats sailing on icy ocean
"Endurance under full sail" - courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

The manner in which the aforesaid members exhibit their fears is in trying to overcome them assuming that the pessimists are now thoroughly scared and therefore making mocking remarks such as "Now we shall all starve" and "We shall have to eat the one who dies first" and so on, which has actually occurred before now when people have been in only very slightly worse straits than we are now. There's many a true word said in jest. To a close observer there are many other indications in the way that the fatuous optimists shout loudly to each other all manner of such remarks about the food supply question as if to keep their spirits up by the cheery loudness of their voices in much the same way psych-ologically as Chinese walking along a road at night shout loudly to each other to keep off evil spirits in other words fear by mutual encouragement.

Of course the probability is that we have ample to support us until the pack clears off again, for it has now been in for a week and the longest previous spell has been 13 days only, but when it does clear we shall have no reserve left and, should we be based again within a few days for a more we should be in a bad way.

I had gone round the foot of Penguin Hill and had reached the top in order to give a had with the rope, but as I was immediately afterwards required down on the ice foot I had the pleasure of being lowered over the precipice on the end of the rope, and subsequently ascended by the same means.

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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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