The Outside World Shipwrecked in Antarctica, These South Pole Explorers Did The Unbelievable Published 8 months ago on Jul 3, 2018 By Monica Huntington Adventure, ice, disaster: This is just some of what the intrepid crew of one of the most daring expeditions to Antarctica encountered when their historic quest quickly turned a living nightmare. With ambitious aspirations to become the first people to not only sail to the South Pole, but cross the continent by foot, the crew of the fated Endurance Expedition had no idea that shipwreck in icy wastelands lay ahead. Marooned without their ship in the middle of the Antarctic winter, the sojourners were hundreds of miles away from the nearest help. There was no way to contact the outside world and their chances of rescue were dismal. Just how long they would be stranded in one of the coldest places on Earth and whether they would survive, only time could tell. 1. Portrait Of A Polar Explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton was already a well-known polar explorer by the time he set out on his most ambitious expedition yet. It was the end of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration and the British adventurer sought to land on Earth’s southernmost territory and make history by completing the first land crossing across the continent. The Telegraph The voyage would be fraught, however, and icy seas would only be part of the various challenges they’d face as Shackleton’s dedicated crew would eventually find themselves shipwrecked and stranded hundreds of miles from civilization without any means of communication whatsoever. 2. A Hazardous Journey Having already made two Antarctic voyages, Ernest Shackleton was aware that such a journey to the far reaches of the Earth meant the likelihood of unexpected and treacherous hurdles was hardly avoidable. However, he would need a full crew to accompany him and make the expedition possible. James Caird Society According to legend, Shackleton sought a crew by posting an ad in a London paper, reading: “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in event of success.” But who would answer such an appeal? 3. A Select Few Apparently thousands of people responded to the search for a courageous crew, however, expedition leader Ernest Shackleton was very particular. He ended up hand-picking a crew of 28 (and one stowaway) for his ship, the Endurance. The same amount of me would also along sail on a support ship, making preparations and laying supplies at their planned destination. soloacrossantarctica.com Along with deckhands, the party aboard the Endurance included a scientific staff of six along with a cook, an artist and photographer, Frank Hurley. Just as World War I was revving up, the expedition set out from England to Argentina on August 8, 1914, for the first long leg of the so-called Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. 4. A Minor Delay The ship reached Buenos Aires without major incident, and from there the Endurance set sail for the South Pole via the remote South Atlantic island of South Georgia. Back in those days, the island housed whaling stations but it was still at least 2,000 miles to the closest coast of Antarctica. Mashable Shackleton and his crew were eager to continue on to their destination, but heavy ice conditions required them to stay put at one of the island’s Norwegian whaling stations for a month. Finally, about four months after leaving England, the waters cleared enough for the Endurance to depart. But no one could have guessed what was to come. 5. Unforeseen Impediment Only two days into its voyage from South Georgia Island and the Endurance encountered an unexpected obstacle. The crew thought the seas would be clear enough to sail due south but they soon ran into dangerously dense patches of floating ice amassed together – known as pack ice. Mashable For the coming weeks, the South Pole-bound expedition would battle its way deep into the Weddell Sea, meticulously navigating its way through the impenetrable thickages of ice floating in the water. Shackleton hoped the pack ice would soon break up enough for the Endurance to safely forge a steady path, but fate had other plans. 6. Unsteady Progress The precarious sea conditions forced the ship to change course on more than one occasion as the Endurance made frustratingly slow progress. The vessel was built to endure icy waters, the massive passes of nearly solid surface ice made the ship completely halt several times. MSNBC.com After weeks of being at sea after casting off from South Georgia Island, it finally seemed that the waterways had opened up and the Endurance would be able to continue steadily southward. Hope abandoned until one fateful day when everything changed. 7. Land Ho! Having battled through a thousand miles of icy polar seas for some two months, the Endurance was within about a mere 100 miles of the Antarctic coast. Their destination was only about a day’s sail away and anticipation grew as it seemed they would soon be able to make a landing. Mashable Concerns quickly grew, though, as the temperature suddenly plummeted and the sea ice around the ship cemented together, closing in around the Endurance. Without warning, the ship and its onboard crew found themselves unwittingly held hostage atop the frozen surface. 8. An Unfortunate Predicament At first, the polar expedition leader Ernest Shackleton viewed the situation as a significant setback for the crew. Already five months into their voyage, the expedition party was surely experiencing a disappointment as bitter as the frigid air around them. visualhistory – LiveJournal Having found themselves in the middle of a very unfortunate predicament, the crew turned to their leader who had dealt with icebound ships in the past. Hoping the ice would soon give way and release the trapped ship, Shackleton instructed his men to do the only thing possible. 9. Unsettling Ice Drift Due to the currents under the frozen surface of the sea, the ice was quickly drifting away from the shore and with it, the Endurance. After 10 days of being lodge in the ice, it was certain that the ship was indefinitely icebound. Pinterest Previous hopes of breaking free were now low, and the fires reduced to a low burn to save fuel. Seeing that Mother Nature had no intention of releasing the ship, Shackleton ordered his men onto the ice with chisels and saws to try to cut a passage for the ship. Unfortunately, the efforts were futile and Shackleton was contemplating another, more extreme possibility. 10. The Longest Winter The crew was by now uncertain of the future as they came to terms with the fact that they were marooned and would have no way of escaping the frosty winter of the Southern Hemisphere. Hopes of achieving their initial goal were swiftly replaced with the mere aim of surviving. Reddit Shackleton and the men aboard the Endurance became increasingly unsure of where the continual ice drift would ultimately carry the ship. They also wearily noticed that mounds of ice had jutted up around the ship and were forcefully pressing closer and closer together. Not wanting to take any chances, Shackleton ordered the crew to take a drastic new measure. 11. Setting Up Camp The stranded crew of the Endurance had very few options as the dark winter months hastily approached. Left to no other choice, Ernest Shackleton instructed his men to prepare to set up camp on the ice and wait out the inhospitable winter. Burnbury Mail Supplies were taken down from the ship as were the ship’s 69 dogs that were then housed in ice kennels, or “dogloos,” The interior of the Endurance was converted into winter quarters as the men prepared to hunker down for what they expected would be a long stretch ahead. 12. Expedition Run Adrift Indeed, it would be at least four months until spring brought any chance of breaking apart the ice and freeing the stranded ship. That meant that in the meantime, all the 28 men could do was wait and hope for the best. Mashable Obviously, food was one of their main concerns. The men had to be careful not to use too much of their food rations, not knowing how long they’d be stranded. To pass the dragging time and keep morale up, the crew exercised on the ice and played games inside the ship’s cabin. Photographer Frank Hurley took endless pictures, but the wait only became even more excruciating. 13. Glacial Speed For 10 long months, the Endurance was trapped in the pack ice off the coast of Antarctica. During that time, the ship had drifted more than 1,000 miles from the position where it initially became stuck and the distant visions of land had completely disappeared for sight. Mashable Meanwhile, walls of ice further closed in around the Endurance and Shackleton ordered any gear, provisions and lifeboats that could be salvaged off the boat into their “Ocean Camp” on the ice. Then in late October 1915 – 14 months after the fated journey started – the ship was brutally crushed, splintering to death in the unrelenting pack ice. The worst, however, was still yet to come. 14. Shipwrecked In The Snow The shipwreck remained afloat and accessible, but the crew wasn’t sure for how long. The crew tried to salvage anything else that would come in handy as they struggled through the below-freezing temperatures. But soon the ice below was started to give way and they’d have to get rid of all excess weight. Pinterest Time was of the essence and photographer Frank Hurley made a dash to save what photos he could carry on his person. But with sea water creeping into the hull of the boat, Shackleton officially ordered the men to abandon ship as they waited to see what would happen. 15. Drowning Hopes About a month after the ship was crushed by ice, the frozen surface under the Endurance finally gave way and the vessel that had provided the men shelter and storage for their supplies had plunged under the ice and sunk. Wikiwand The men who made up the Shackleton expedition party had at this point been marooned for nearly a year. Without their ship, the crew prepared to embark on a march that they hoped would lead them closer to help. Now survival seemed an even more precarious task. 16. A Chilling Sight The men packed up their previous temporary camp and they strapped the lifeboats on sleds and other supplies to dog sleighs and started walking. However, the frozen surface was an uneven labyrinth of ridges and mounds, making it impossible for the crew to get very far. Antarctica expedition After a few back-breaking days, the shipwrecked crew ended up pitching their tents again in the ice. By this point, though, supplies were running dangerously low. For sustenance, the men would go on hunting expeditions for seals and penguins and at that point, they even killed some dogs. But as the months passed, warmer spring temperatures meant the men needed to take urgent action. 17. Finally Shipping Out For nearly a half-a-year, the men had essentially been floating on a solid mass of ice. But by April 1916 spring had arrived and with it, high temperatures that caused the pack ice to split and the shipwrecked crew suddenly found themselves on a small triangular raft of ice. Wikiwand A break-up of that ice meant unavoidable disaster, so Shackleton ordered the men to quickly pack up camp and crowd into their three lifeboats to navigate the perilous maze of ice and sea in the direction of what they hoped would lead them to help. 18. Hopeful Horizons As it turned out, the stranded group of South Pole explorers had already drifted so far on the pack ice that they had been in constant view of distant land for a while. As they rowed, they men prayed with all their hearts that the approaching shores belonged to an island with a human settlement. Mashable After about a week of sailing in temperatures as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit, with little food and soaked to the bone, the weary men were ecstatic when they reached Elephant Island. The island turned out to be a remote and uninhabited stretch rarely visited by ships, meaning their ordeal still wasn’t over. 19. Far From Help Still, the men were overcome with joy to have their first bit of solid ground in 497 days! The brave men of the shipwrecked Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition had already endured so much and remarkably survived thus far. But it would all be in vain unless they could find a way to be rescued. Cool Antarctica From Elephant Island, their only chance of reaching civilization was the whaling outpost on South Georgia Island – but that was still 920 miles away. Seeing it as their only hope, however, Ernest Shackleton ordered one of the lifeboats – the 22.5-foot James Caird – to be prepared for the treacherous crossing across the open sea. 20. A Desperate Attempt About a week after landing on Elephant Island, expedition leader Ernest Shackleton chose five other men to join him on a last-ditch effort. With a month of provisions, the small party boarded the James Caird for a hazardous 800-mile journey across the Southern Ocean back to South Georgia Island. Wikimedia Commons Shackleton knew that if the fortified lifeboat didn’t find land within a month the boat would be lost. As the six brave men set sail they were gripped by the possibility that they may never again see their fellow crewmen back on Elephant Island, who were now busy erecting a makeshift shelter out of the remaining two lifeboats and preparing for more possible disasters. 21. Two Weeks Of Torment For 14 grueling days, the six men aboard the James Caird endured monstrous waves and gale-force winds. Spray from the icy waters soaked everything and everyone and the lifeboat was coated in a thick covering of ice that dishearteningly slowed down its progress. Wikipedia The small lifeboat battled the elements and faced the perpetual threat of destruction and capsizing. Hope was once again frail, but the terrifying voyage would only last for two weeks until the unexpected occurred. Then, it would all suddenly end. 22. Miraculous Achievement The party aboard the James Caird were starting to wonder just how long they’d last as the struggle with the unrelenting seas drove them to their physical limits. Incredibly, though, everyone had yet again survived and land was in sight. Wikipedia It took two weeks of battling hurricane-force winds and tempestuous seas, but the men miraculously made it to South Georgia Island as the exhausted crew struggled ashore with their boat nearly in tatters. Overwhelmed with happiness for having reached their destination, they were soon humbled by the fact that there was still another hurdle ahead. 23. Weighing Options The rescue party from the James Caird had landed on the southern side of the island but all the inhabited settlements were on the north side. That meant they’d either need to boat around to the other side of the island or cross by foot through unexplored territory. Wikipedia Due to the battered conditions of the lifeboat and the physical state of the men, the party chose to walk. Much to their dismay, however, the interior of the island consisted of an extensive stretch of glaciers and icy mountains. 24. 36 Hours Straight Despite the daunting task that lay ahead of them, the men decided they had no choice. After a short rest, they set out on the arduous trek across the island and marched for 36 hours straight over the rocky crags and frozen waterfalls. Wikipedia After a day-and-a-half of walking without stopping, the party suddenly heard the sound of a steam whistle and tears came to their eyes. They’d reached their intended destination – the outpost at Stromness. The party had finally reached safety and made plans for a rescue vessel to collect the men marooned on Elephant Island – but how were they faring? 25. Elephant Island Encampment Back on Elephant Island, some of the members of the party that had been left behind was struggling with physical and mental hardships. Again winter was rapidly approaching and the party’s priority was to make a permanent shelter in preparation. Pinterest At first, the men on Elephant Island had been optimistic that the rescue crew that had set out on the James Caird would be back for them after a month. However, when that amount of time passed morale continued to sink even further. 26. Killing Time As the weeks passed, the expedition’s second-in-command Frank Wild had taken command at Elephant Island where he established a set of routines and activities to deal with the tedium. The men took turns manning a permanent lookout, hunting, cooking and housekeeping. CoolAntarctica.com Along with their work duties, the men tried to keep their spirits up in different ways. They played games, and held concerts and small celebrations, but feelings of despondency continued as the days passed without the faintest sign of a rescue ship. 27. Lives In Jeopardy Three months had passed since the lifeboat James Caird had left Elephant Island, the sea was beginning to fill with ice pack again and the medical and food stock was running out as penguins had stopped coming ashore. Things weren’t looking good. Wikipedia Unsettling thoughts purveyed as it appeared the men would have to turn to desperate measures if they had any chance of surviving much longer. As they contemplated sending another lifeboat out to find help, something unimaginable happened that stopped them in their tracks. 28. A Miracle It had been more than two years since the Trans-Antarctic Expedition had left the shores of England, but on the morning of August 30, 1916, the fog around Elephant Island lifted and a ship was spotted coming their way. Finally! Flickr It had taken Ernest Shackleton four attempts before he was able to return to Elephant Island, but the staunchly loyal South Pole explorer was determined not to leave behind anyone from his third (and not final) expedition to Antarctica. But had he made it in time? 29. S.O.S. Answered Within an hour of the first sighting of the Chilean steam tug Yelcho off the coast of Elephant Island, the entire party had safely boarded the ship. It left the stranded men no time at all to gather what they needed. MercoPress.com The men had been through so much and astonishingly everyone had survived the long two-year ordeal. Certainly, there could be no greater feeling and the men cried tears of joy and relief, hardly believing their luck as they prepared for the long journey back home. 30. Home Sweet Home Miraculously, all 28 of the rescued men from the Endurance expedition eventually returned to England. News of the return of the missing explorers astonished the nation. And although the expedition had failed to achieve its original objective it was still recognized as one of history’s most epic survival stories. LLC.com As the name of their fated ship unknowingly prophesied, the expedition team would truly demonstrate a great feat of endurance and history will forever remember them for their remarkable strength, courage and ingenuity in overcoming challenge after dismaying challenge and ultimately living to tell the tale. If you liked this article, don’t forget to SHARE it with friends! Sources: Mashable, Cool Antarctica UP NEXT Gunsmoke: Top Facts Behind The Longest-Lived Show on Television... Next Page Related Topics:adventuresAntarcticadogsElephant IslandenglandErnest ShackletongalleryhistoryICEpenguinssailingshackleton expeditionshipwrecksouth americaSouth Georgia IslandSouth Polethe Enduranceworld war iwwI Up Next Husband Hilariously (And Intentionally!) 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