Thursday, June 2, 2016

Shackleton's Last Expedition

In one of his podcasts for his series on World War I, Dan Carlin referenced the British polar explorer Ernest Shackleton and his "Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition" begun in early 1914. The purpose of the expedition was to travel the continent of Antarctica over land from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea.

At the outbreak of World War I, Shackelton volunteered his ships and crew to the British war effort. Thinking that the war would be short, First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill directed Shackelton to proceed with the expedition as planned.

On 19 January 1915, Shackelton's ship, Endurance became frozen fast in an ice floe.


"On 24 February, realising [sic] that she would be trapped until the following spring, Shackleton ordered the abandonment of ship's routine and her conversion to a winter station.She drifted slowly northward with the ice through the following months. When spring arrived in September, the breaking of the ice and its later movements put extreme pressures on the ship's hull."
"Until this point, Shackleton had hoped that the ship, when released from the ice, could work her way back towards Vahsel Bay. On 24 October, however, water began pouring in. After a few days, with the position at 69° 5' S, 51° 30' W, Shackleton gave the order to abandon ship, saying, 'She's going down!'; and men, provisions and equipment were transferred to camps on the ice. On 21 November 1915, the wreck finally slipped beneath the surface."

The time line of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, from Jan.1915 (Endurance trapped in ice) until the crew's rescue from Elephant Island in Aug 1916, is outlined on the map created during "DensityDesign Integrated Course Final Synthesis Studio" at Polytechnic University of Milan, organized by DensityDesign Research Lab in 2015. Image is released under CC-BY-SA licence. Attribution goes to "Luca Ferrario, DensityDesign Research Lab". - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Shackleton's book on the expedition [South! The Story of Shackleton's Last Expedition, 1914-1917] can be found at Project Gutenberg. At this writing, I've read the first chapter and can highly recommend this book to history buffs.

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