Sir Ernest Shackleton braved the brutal arctic weather to save his shipwrecked crew. Over 100 years on, adventurer and environmental scientist Tim Jarvis tells Smith Journal why he decided to experience Shackleton’s thoroughly unpleasant journey for himself.
Interviewer Taz Liffman
In November 1915, when much of Europe was doing all it could to end the war that didn’t end all wars, Sir Ernest Shackleton and 27 of his men were milling about on an Antarctic ice floe, watching their ship, the Endurance, slowly sink.
For the past 10 months, they had been living aboard the stricken vessel, which had become trapped in thick pack ice en route to the Weddell Sea coast. During this period of enforced ennui, Shackleton employed various strategies aimed at keeping his men’s morale buoyed. He sent his scientists out to collect specimens, scheduled evening social activities, and instructed his sailors to keep swabbing the decks so their vessel would be ship-shape for the coming summer thaw that – it was hoped – would set them free. By October, though, it became apparent that the Endurance could, well, endure no more. Under amassing pressure from the building ice, the ship’s hull was breached and she began to take on water.
“Shackleton, knowing the game was up, gave the order to abandon ship.”
Standing amid his stranded men and their salvaged provisions, watching their passage home crunch up and sink from sight, he’s said to have turned to them calmly and proclaimed: “So now we’ll go home.”