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By Thomas Orde-Lees, Quartermaster

"August, 1914. 10 & 14.

10th: Very seasick and homesick. Ship does everything but sink which is the only thing I pray for, to put me out of my misery, unless a large German battleship comes along and rescues us. It was suicidal of me to come along on the mad jaunt.

Ice_Floe
"Endurance bow with Crew" courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography

14th: Still feel a little funny but quite able to do work. I signed on the ship's books as Motor Mechanic and my official pay is one shilling a month, but that is only technical, of course, for out of that one would have to pay 1/4 insurance tax! We have been sailing only all day on a starboard tack in a N.W. direction. Am eating better but sparingly. It got quite calm in the afternoon so I went down into the hold and restored a lot of our shore party gear. Day's run only 52 miles to the good."

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One hundred years ago this August, Ernest Shackleton rescued his crew after the failure of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.  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.

By Thomas Orde-Lees, Quartermaster

"Endurance the return of the Sun" courtesy of Shackleton Endurance Photography 

"August, 1914. 8"

Had a good night, was very tired, slept in the large 8 berth cabin with Hussey, Marston & Clark. Rather a scramble this morning getting up, no one could find anything. All rather dirty. We have to get everything for ourselves, etc. Sausages for breakfast. The very worst West country weather, blowing hard and drizzling rain. The ship was alongside Millay wharf when we went on board and she left there sharp at noon today with Sir Ernest on board. Just a very small crowd to see us off, but enthusiastic enough. Just before sailing I went ashore and bought 2 lbs. of dry biscuits and 2 yards of cheap calico for purposes of cheap calico for purposes of sea sickness.

Sir Ernest slept at Duke of Cornwall's Hotel, he offered me a bed there very kindly, but I declined as I thought it best to get into the routine as quickly as possible. Before we get outside Plymouth breakwater, Sir Ernest left the ship in a picket boat lent him by the Commander in Chief. He returned to London, I suppose, meanwhile we proceeded to Cawsand(?) Bay where we have anchored for the night as we are not quite ready to go to sea yet. I understand that there are one or two things to be done to the anchors, etc. This only suspends the agony for agony. I know there is going to be for me for the weather outside is apparently very rough. It is blowing a gale, cold & misty. How am I going to get all the way to the Antarctic in this tiny ship I don't know. I expect I shall die of exhaustion long before I get to Buenos Ayres. It is bad enough in a battle ship but in this minute thing I must die. I am beginning to funk it as usual & wish I had not come. I don't see the use of Polar exploration at all.

There is still time to get ashore, I am half inclined to seize the opportunity & go. We have had a small torpedo boat cruising round us all day & her captain came aboard to see ours.

There are signs of war all round. The boom is out across the entrance to the Hamoaze (?) (naval harbor) & battleships keep steaming in & out and searchlights at night. We are to leave here at 3 a.m. in the morning. Very tired and homesick."

Next entry  |  Go to introduction

One hundred years ago this August, Ernest Shackleton rescued his crew after the failure of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. 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.

Shackleton Exhibition Poster

“For scientific discovery, give me Scott; for speed and efficiency of travel, give me Amundsen; but when you are in a hopeless situation, when you are seeing no way out, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton.” – Raymond Priestley

In 1914, Ernest Shackleton led a crew of twenty-six Britons south to attempt the first crossing of the entire Antarctic continent. The excursion was formally titled the Imperial Trans-Arctic Expedition, but was more familiarly known as the Endurance expedition (the name of the explorers’ ship). Although the mission started with high hopes, those dreams quickly died when the Endurance became trapped in and then slowly crushed by massive shelves of sea ice.

Shackleton ultimately chose to prioritize the survival of his men over the expedition’s original goal of crossing Antarctica. After dragging three small lifeboats many miles across the ice shelf, the crew made a harrowing voyage across open water to the uninhabited Elephant Island. From there, once rescue seemed unlikely, Shackleton and five other crewmen made an eight-hundred-mile journey in a single lifeboat to a whaling station on South Georgia Island. After three abortive attempts to return by ship to Elephant Island, Shackleton eventually reached his marooned crew on August 30, 1916 and brought them home. Not a single man was lost.

One hundred years later, fifty-one Dartmouth students in Ross Virginia’s Spring 2016 “Pole to Pole” class shared their research to produce an exhibit exploring Shackleton and the Antarctica of his time. The exhibit, a learning collaboration with Rauner Special Collections Library, is installed in their Class of 1965 Galleries exhibit space from June 28th until September 2nd. In conjunction with the exhibit, Library Muse is blogging a selection of personal diary entries written by Thomas Orde-Lees, a member of the Endurance expedition, from the start of the voyage until the Elephant Island rescue. Follow along as Orde-Lees provides an intimate and candid perspective on the challenges, fears, and eventual exhilaration that defined the rescue of the Endurance’s crew.

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