The Endurance was sinking. As the crew of twenty-eight men watched in numb resignation from a nearby ice floe, ten million tons of ice slowly crushed her. Like a dying animal, the ship screeched and moaned as the pressure mounted. Finally her frames and planking broke with a sound that ripped like artillery fire through the frozen wilderness. It was October 27, 1915.
Ernest Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic Expedition had set out to be the first to make an overland crossing of the Antarctic continent. Now, before they even reached land, they were stranded, with lifeboats, seventy dogs, and food for a few months. They were locked in a jigsaw of ice floes, a thousand miles from civilization, with no means of calling for help.
Shackleton called all hands together. They must haul the lifeboats to the open sea, and get to South Georgia, the nearest inhabited island. It was imperative that they carry a minimum of weight. To make his point, he threw out a gold cigarette case, and a handful of gold sovereigns, then took the bible the queen had given him and laid it on the snow. A two-pound limit was set. An exception was made for meteorologist Hussey’s banjo - a little music is good for morale.
The sleds sank into the slush and refused to move. A long wait lay ahead. Penguins became their daily diet. Months passed. Ocean Camp was renamed Patience Camp. On January 26th, Shackleton wrote across an entire page in his diary: “Waiting Waiting Waiting.”
Finally, in April, the ice floe had melted to the size of a football field. Shackleton ordered the boats launched.
After seven days on the open sea, the snowcapped peaks of Elephant Island loomed before them. Camp was made on a tiny stretch of beach. Two small boats were made into huts. Shackleton decided to take the largest lifeboat and, with a small crew, try to reach South Georgia.
Ahead lay the treacherous Drake Passage. Sixteen days of hurricane-level winds and fifty-foot waves, and they washed up on the uninhabited side of South Georgia.
A climb across steep mountains followed. On May 20th they stumbled into the island’s whaling factory.
It took three months for Shackleton to rescue the crew on Elephant Island.
All the men were there, waving at him.
The expedition may have failed, but the inspired leadership of Ernest Shackleton had triumphed.
For Vicki Cobb's BLOG (nonfiction book reviews, info on education, more), click here: Vicki's Blog
The NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Committee is pleased to inform you
that 30 People Who Changed the World has been selected for Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2018, a cooperative project of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) & the Children’s Book Council
The NONFICTION MINUTE, Authors on Call, and. the iNK Books & Media Store are divisions of iNK THINK TANK INC.
a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit corporation.