Annotation of text copyright ©2008 David Trumbull for Agathon Associates. All Rights Reserved.
< Preface | TOC | Chapter 2 >
INTO THE WEDDELL SEA
I decided to leave South Georgia about December 5, and in the
intervals of final preparation scanned again the plans for the
voyage to winter quarters. What welcome was the Weddell Sea
preparing for us? The whaling captains at South Georgia were
generously ready to share with me their knowledge of the waters
in which they pursued their trade, and, while confirming earlier
information as to the extreme severity of the ice conditions in
this sector of the Antarctic, they were able to give advice that
was worth attention.
Whaler emphasized the difficulty of getting through the ice.
It will be convenient to state here briefly some of the considerations
that weighed with me at that time and in the weeks that followed.
I knew that the ice had come far north that season and, after
listening to the suggestions of the whaling captains, had decided
to steer to the South Sandwich Group, round Ultima Thule, and work
as far to the eastward as the fifteenth meridian west longitude
before pushing south. The whalers emphasized the difficulty of
getting through the ice in the neighbourhood of the South Sandwich
Group. They told me they had often seen the floes come right up to
the group in the summer-time, and they thought the Expedition would
have to push through heavy pack in order to reach the Weddell Sea.
Probably the best time to get into the Weddell Sea would be the
end of February or the beginning of March. The whalers had gone
right round the South Sandwich Group and they were familiar with
the conditions. The predictions they made induced me to take the
deck-load of coal, for if we had to fight our way through to Coats’
Land we would need every ton of fuel the ship could carry.
I hoped that by first moving to the east as far as the fifteenth
meridian west we would be able to go south through looser ice,
pick up Coats’ Land and finally reach Vahsel Bay, where Filchner
made his attempt at landing in 1912. Two considerations were
occupying my mind at this juncture. I was anxious for certain
reasons to winter the Endurance in the Weddell Sea, but the
difficulty of finding a safe harbour might be very great. If no
safe harbour could be found, the ship must winter at South
Georgia. It seemed to me hopeless now to think of making the
journey across the continent in the first summer, as the season
was far advanced and the ice conditions were likely to prove
unfavourable. In view of the possibility of wintering the ship
in the ice, we took extra clothing from the stores at the various
stations in South Georgia.
The other question that was giving me anxious thought was the size
of the shore party. If the ship had to go out during the winter,
or if she broke away from winter quarters, it would be preferable
to have only a small, carefully selected party of men ashore after
the hut had been built and the stores landed. These men could proceed
to lay out depots by man-haulage and make short journeys with the dogs,
training them for the long early march in the following spring.
The majority of the scientific men would live aboard the ship, where
they could do their work under good conditions. They would be able
to make short journeys if required, using the Endurance as a base.
All these plans were based on an expectation that the finding of winter
quarters was likely to be difficult. If a really safe base could
be established on the continent, I would adhere to the original
programme of sending one party to the south, one to the west
round the head of the Weddell Sea towards Graham Land, and one
to the east towards Enderby Land.
We had worked out details of distances, courses, stores required,
and so forth. Our sledging ration, the result of experience as well
as close study, was perfect. The dogs gave promise, after training,
of being able to cover fifteen to twenty miles a day with loaded
sledges. The trans-continental journey, at this rate, should be
completed in 120 days unless some unforeseen obstacle intervened.
We longed keenly for the day when we could begin this march, the
last great adventure in the history of South Polar exploration,
but a knowledge of the obstacles that lay between us and our
starting-point served as a curb on impatience. Everything depended
upon the landing. If we could land at Filchner’s base there was no
reason why a band of experienced men should not winter there in
safety. But the Weddell Sea was notoriously inhospitable and
already we knew that its sternest face was turned toward us.
All the conditions in the Weddell Sea are unfavourable from the
navigator’s point of view. The winds are comparatively light,
and consequently new ice can form even in the summer-time.
The absence of strong winds has the additional effect of allowing
the ice to accumulate in masses, undisturbed. Then great quantities
of ice sweep along the coast from the east under the influence of
the prevailing current, and fill up the bight of the Weddell Sea
as they move north in a great semicircle. Some of this ice
doubtless describes almost a complete circle, and is held up
eventually, in bad seasons, against the South Sandwich Islands.
The strong currents, pressing the ice masses against the coasts,
create heavier pressure than is found in any other part of the
Antarctic. This pressure must be at least as severe as the pressure
experienced in the congested North Polar basin, and I am inclined
to think that a comparison would be to the advantage of the Arctic.
All these considerations naturally had a bearing upon our immediate
problem, the penetration of the pack and the finding of a safe
harbour on the continental coast.
Departed on the morning of December 5, 1914.
The day of departure arrived. I gave the order to heave
anchor at 8.45 a.m. on December 5, 1914, and the clanking of the
windlass broke for us the last link with civilization. The morning
was dull and overcast, with occasional gusts of snow and sleet, but
hearts were light aboard the Endurance. The long days of preparation
were over and the adventure lay ahead.
We had hoped that some steamer from the north would bring news of
war and perhaps letters from home before our departure. A ship
did arrive on the evening of the 4th, but she carried no letters,
and nothing useful in the way of information could be gleaned from
her. The captain and crew were all stoutly pro-German, and the
“news” they had to give took the unsatisfying form of accounts
of British and French reverses. We would have been glad to have
had the latest tidings from a friendlier source. A year and a
half later we were to learn that the Harpoon, the steamer which
tends the Grytviken station, had arrived with mail for us not more
than two hours after the Endurance had proceeded down the coast.
"Growlers" the treacherous fragments of ice that float with surface awash.
The bows of the Endurance were turned to the south, and the good
ship dipped to the south-westerly swell. Misty rain fell during
the forenoon, but the weather cleared later in the day, and we had
a good view of the coast of South Georgia as we moved under steam
and sail to the south-east. The course was laid to carry us clear
of the island and then south of South Thule, Sandwich Group. The
wind freshened during the day, and all square sail was set, with
the foresail reefed in order to give the look-out a clear view
ahead; for we did not wish to risk contact with a “growler,” one
of those treacherous fragments of ice that float with surface
awash. The ship was very steady in the quarterly sea, but
certainly did not look as neat and trim as she had done when
leaving the shores of England four months earlier. We had filled
up with coal at Grytviken, and this extra fuel was stored on deck,
where it impeded movement considerably. The carpenter had built a
false deck, extending from the poop-deck to the chart-room. We had
also taken aboard a ton of whale-meat for the dogs. The big
chunks of meat were hung up in the rigging, out of reach but not
out of sight of the dogs, and as the Endurance rolled and pitched,
they watched with wolfish eyes for a windfall.
I was greatly pleased with the dogs, which were tethered about
the ship in the most comfortable positions we could find for them.
They were in excellent condition, and I felt that the Expedition
had the right tractive-power. They were big, sturdy animals,
chosen for endurance and strength, and if they were as keen to
pull our sledges as they were now to fight one another all would
be well. The men in charge of the dogs were doing their work
enthusiastically, and the eagerness they showed to study the natures
and habits of their charges gave promise of efficient handling and
good work later on.
During December 6 the Endurance made good progress on a south-easterly
course. The northerly breeze had freshened during
the night and had brought up a high following sea. The weather
was hazy, and we passed two bergs, several growlers, and numerous
lumps of ice. Staff and crew were settling down to the routine.
Bird life was plentiful, and we noticed Cape pigeons, whale-birds,
terns, mollymauks, nellies, sooty, and wandering albatrosses in
the neighbourhood of the ship. The course was laid for the passage
between Sanders Island and Candlemas Volcano. December 7 brought
the first check. At six o’clock that morning the sea, which had
been green in colour all the previous day, changed suddenly to a
deep indigo. The ship was behaving well in a rough sea, and some
members of the scientific staff were transferring to the bunkers
the coal we had stowed on deck. Sanders Island and Candlemas were
sighted early in the afternoon, and the Endurance passed between
them at 6 p.m. Worsley’s observations indicated that Sanders Island
was, roughly, three miles east and five miles north of the charted
position. Large numbers of bergs, mostly tabular in form, lay to
the west of the islands, and we noticed that many of them were
yellow with diatoms. One berg had large patches of red-brown soil
down its sides. The presence of so many bergs was ominous,
and immediately after passing between the islands we encountered
stream-ice. All sail was taken in and we proceeded slowly under
steam. Two hours later, fifteen miles north-east of Sanders
Island, the Endurance was confronted by a belt of heavy pack-ice,
half a mile broad and extending north and south. There was clear
water beyond, but the heavy south-westerly swell made the pack
impenetrable in our neighbourhood. This was disconcerting.
The noon latitude had been 57° 26´ S., and I had
not expected to find pack-ice nearly so far north, though the whalers
had reported pack-ice right up to South Thule.
The situation became dangerous that night. We pushed into the pack
in the hope of reaching open water beyond, and found ourselves
after dark in a pool which was growing smaller and smaller. The
ice was grinding around the ship in the heavy swell, and I watched
with some anxiety for any indication of a change of wind to the east,
since a breeze from that quarter would have driven us towards
the land. Worsley and I were on deck all night, dodging the pack.
At 3 a.m. we ran south, taking advantage of some openings that had
appeared, but met heavy rafted pack-ice, evidently old; some of it
had been subjected to severe pressure. Then we steamed north-west
and saw open water to the north-east. I put the Endurance’s head
for the opening, and, steaming at full speed, we got clear. Then
we went east in the hope of getting better ice, and five hours later,
after some dodging, we rounded the pack and were able to set sail
once more. This initial tussle with the pack had been exciting at
times. Pieces of ice and bergs of all sizes were heaving and
jostling against each other in the heavy south-westerly swell.
In spite of all our care the Endurance struck large lumps stem on,
but the engines were stopped in time and no harm was done. The
scene and sounds throughout the day were very fine. The swell
was dashing against the sides of huge bergs and leaping right to
the top of their icy cliffs. Sanders Island lay to the south,
with a few rocky faces peering through the misty, swirling clouds
that swathed it most of the time, the booming of the sea running
into ice-caverns, the swishing break of the swell on the loose pack,
and the graceful bowing and undulating of the inner pack to the
steeply rolling swell, which here was robbed of its break by the
masses of ice to windward.
We skirted the northern edge of the pack in clear weather with a
light south-westerly breeze and an overcast sky. The bergs were
numerous. During the morning of December 9 an easterly breeze
brought hazy weather with snow, and at 4.30 p.m. we encountered
the edge of pack-ice in lat. 58° 27´ S., long.
22° 08´ W. It was one-year-old ice interspersed
with older pack, all heavily snow-covered and lying west-south-west
to east-north-east. We entered the pack at 5 p.m., but could not
make progress, and cleared it again at 7.40 p.m. Then we steered
east-north-east and spent the rest of the night rounding the pack.
During the day we had seen adelie and ringed penguins, also several
humpback and finner whales. An ice-blink to the westward indicated
the presence of pack in that direction. After rounding the pack we
steered S. 40° E., and at noon on the 10th had reached lat.
58° 28´ S., long. 20° 28´ W. Observations
showed the compass variation to be 1½° less than the chart
recorded. I kept the Endurance on the course till midnight,
when we entered loose open ice about ninety miles south-east of our
noon position. This ice proved to fringe the pack, and progress
became slow. There was a long easterly swell with a light northerly
breeze, and the weather was clear and fine. Numerous bergs lay
outside the pack.
The Endurance steamed through loose open ice till 8 a.m. on the
11th, when we entered the pack in lat. 59° 46´ S.,
long. 18° 22´ W. We could have gone farther east,
but the pack extended far in that direction, and an effort to circle
it might have involved a lot of northing. I did not wish to lose
the benefit of the original southing. The extra miles would not have
mattered to a ship with larger coal capacity than the Endurance
possessed, but we could not afford to sacrifice miles unnecessarily.
The pack was loose and did not present great difficulties at this
stage. The foresail was set in order to take advantage of the
northerly breeze. The ship was in contact with the ice occasionally
and received some heavy blows. Once or twice she was brought up
all standing against solid pieces, but no harm was done. The chief
concern was to protect the propeller and rudder. If a collision
seemed to be inevitable the officer in charge would order “slow”
or “half speed” with the engines, and put the helm over so as to
strike floe a glancing blow. Then the helm would be put over towards
the ice with the object of throwing the propeller clear of it, and
the ship would forge ahead again. Worsley, Wild, and I, with three
officers, kept three watches while we were working through the
pack, so that we had two officers on deck all the time. The
carpenter had rigged a six-foot wooden semaphore on the bridge to
enable the navigating officer to give the seamen or scientists at
the wheel the direction and the exact amount of helm required.
This device saved time, as well as the effort of shouting. We were
pushing through this loose pack all day, and the view from the crow’s-nest
gave no promise of improved conditions ahead. A Weddell seal
and a crab-eater seal were noticed on the floes, but we did not
pause to secure fresh meat. It was important that we should make
progress towards our goal as rapidly as possible, and there was
reason to fear that we should have plenty of time to spare later
on if the ice conditions continued to increase in severity.
On the morning of December 12 we were working through loose pack
which later became thick in places. The sky was overcast and
light snow was falling. I had all square sail set at 7 a.m. in
order to take advantage of the northerly breeze, but it had to
come in again five hours later when the wind hauled round to the
west. The noon position was lat. 60° 26´ S., long.
17° 58´ W., and the run for the twenty-four hours
had been only 33 miles. The ice was still badly congested, and
we were pushing through narrow leads and occasional openings with
the floes often close abeam on either side. Antarctic, snow and
stormy petrels, fulmars, white-rumped terns, and adelies were
around us. The quaint little penguins found the ship a cause
of much apparent excitement and provided a lot of amusement aboard.
One of the standing jokes was that all the adelies on the floe
seemed to know Clark, and when he was at the wheel rushed along
as fast as their legs could carry them, yelling out “Clark! Clark!”
and apparently very indignant and perturbed that he never waited
for them or even answered them.
We found several good leads to the south in the evening, and
continued to work southward throughout the night and the following
day. The pack extended in all directions as far as the eye could
reach. The noon observation showed the run for the twenty-four
hours to be 54 miles, a satisfactory result under the conditions.
Wild shot a young Ross seal on the floe, and we manoeuvred the ship
alongside. Hudson jumped down, bent a line on to the seal, and the
pair of them were hauled up. The seal was 4 ft. 9 in. long and
weighed about ninety pounds. He was a young male and proved very
good eating, but when dressed and minus the blubber made little
more than a square meal for our twenty-eight men, with a few scraps
for our breakfast and tea. The stomach contained only amphipods
about an inch long, allied to those found in the whales at
The conditions became harder on December 14. There was a misty
haze, and occasional falls of snow. A few bergs were in sight.
The pack was denser than it had been on the previous days. Older
ice was intermingled with the young ice, and our progress became
slower. The propeller received several blows in the early
morning, but no damage was done. A platform was rigged under the
jib-boom in order that Hurley might secure some kinematograph
pictures of the ship breaking through the ice. The young ice did
not present difficulties to the Endurance, which was able to smash
a way through, but the lumps of older ice were more formidable
obstacles, and conning the ship was a task requiring close
attention. The most careful navigation could not prevent an
occasional bump against ice too thick to be broken or pushed aside.
The southerly breeze strengthened to a moderate south-westerly
gale during the afternoon, and at 8 p.m. we hove to, stem against
a floe, it being impossible to proceed without serious risk of
damage to rudder or propeller. I was interested to notice that,
although we had been steaming through the pack for three days,
the north-westerly swell still held with us. It added to the
difficulties of navigation in the lanes, since the ice was
constantly in movement.
The Endurance remained against the floe for the next twenty-four
hours, when the gale moderated. The pack extended to the horizon
in all directions and was broken by innumerable narrow lanes.
Many bergs were in sight, and they appeared to be travelling
through the pack in a south-westerly direction under the current
influence. Probably the pack itself was moving north-east with
the gale. Clark put down a net in search of specimens, and at
two fathoms it was carried south-west by the current and fouled
the propeller. He lost the net, two leads, and a line. Ten
bergs drove to the south through the pack during the twenty-four
hours. The noon position was 61° 31´ S., long.
18° 12´ W. The gale had moderated at 8 p.m., and
we made five miles to the south before midnight and then we
stopped at the end of a long lead, waiting till the weather cleared.
It was during this short run that the captain, with semaphore
hard-a-port, shouted to the scientist at the wheel: “Why in
Paradise don’t you port!” The answer came in indignant tones:
“I am blowing my nose.”
The Endurance made some progress on the following day. Long
leads of open water ran towards the south-west, and the ship
smashed at full speed through occasional areas of young ice till
brought up with a heavy thud against a section of older floe.
Worsley was out on the jib-boom end for a few minutes while Wild
was conning the ship, and he came back with a glowing account of
a novel sensation. The boom was swinging high and low and from
side to side, while the massive bows of the ship smashed through
the ice, splitting it across, piling it mass on mass and then
shouldering it aside. The air temperature was 37° Fahr.,
pleasantly warm, and the water temperature 29° Fahr. We
continued to advance through fine long leads till 4 a.m. on
December 17, when the ice became difficult again. Very large
floes of six-months-old ice lay close together. Some of these
floes presented a square mile of unbroken surface, and among
them were patches of thin ice and several floes of heavy old ice.
Many bergs were in sight, and the course became devious. The
ship was blocked at one point by a wedge-shaped piece of floe,
but we put the ice-anchor through it, towed it astern, and
proceeded through the gap. Steering under these conditions
required muscle as well as nerve. There was a clatter aft during
the afternoon, and Hussey, who was at the wheel, explained that
“The wheel spun round and threw me over the top of it!” The noon
position was lat. 62° 13´ S., long. 18°
53´ W., and the run for the preceding twenty-four hours had
been 32 miles in a south-westerly direction. We saw three blue
whales during the day and one emperor penguin, a 58-lb. bird, which
was added to the larder.
"I had been prepared for evil conditions in the Weddell Sea, but had
hoped that in December and January, at any rate, the pack would be
loose, even if no open water was to be found. What we were actually
encountering was fairly dense pack of a very obstinate character."
The morning of December 18 found the Endurance proceeding amongst
large floes with thin ice between them. The leads were few. There
was a northerly breeze with occasional snow-flurries. We secured
three crab-eater seals—two cows and a bull. The bull was a fine
specimen, nearly white all over and 9 ft. 3 in. long; he weighed
600 lbs. Shortly before noon further progress was barred by heavy
pack, and we put an ice-anchor on the floe and banked the fires.
I had been prepared for evil conditions in the Weddell Sea, but had
hoped that in December and January, at any rate, the pack would be
loose, even if no open water was to be found. What we were actually
encountering was fairly dense pack of a very obstinate character.
Pack-ice might be described as a gigantic and interminable jigsaw-puzzle
devised by nature. The parts of the puzzle in loose pack
have floated slightly apart and become disarranged; at numerous
places they have pressed together again; as the pack gets closer
the congested areas grow larger and the parts are jammed harder
till finally it becomes “close pack,” when the whole of the jigsaw-puzzle
becomes jammed to such an extent that with care and labour
it can be traversed in every direction on foot. Where the parts
do not fit closely there is, of course, open water, which freezes
over, in a few hours after giving off volumes of “frost-smoke.”
In obedience to renewed pressure this young ice “rafts,” so
forming double thicknesses of a toffee-like consistency. Again
the opposing edges of heavy floes rear up in slow and almost silent
conflict, till high “hedgerows” are formed round each part of the
puzzle. At the junction of several floes chaotic areas of piled-up
blocks and masses of ice are formed. Sometimes 5-ft. to 6-ft. piles
of evenly shaped blocks of ice are seen so neatly laid that it seems
impossible for them to be Nature’s work. Again, a winding canyon
may be traversed between icy walls 6 ft. to 10 ft. high, or a dome
may be formed that under renewed pressure bursts upward like a
volcano. All the winter the drifting pack changes—grows by
freezing, thickens by rafting, and corrugates by pressure. If,
finally, in its drift it impinges on a coast, such as the western
shore of the Weddell Sea, terrific pressure is set up and an inferno
of ice-blocks, ridges, and hedgerows results, extending possibly for
150 or 200 miles off shore. Sections of pressure ice may drift
away subsequently and become embedded in new ice.
I have given this brief explanation here in order that the reader
may understand the nature of the ice through which we pushed our
way for many hundreds of miles. Another point that may require
to be explained was the delay caused by wind while we were in the
pack. When a strong breeze or moderate gale was blowing the ship
could not safely work through any except young ice, up to about
two feet in thickness. As ice of that nature never extended for
more than a mile or so, it followed that in a gale in the pack we
had always to lie to. The ship was 3 ft. 3 in. down by the stern,
and while this saved the propeller and rudder a good deal, it made
the Endurance practically unmanageable in close pack when the wind
attained a force of six miles an hour from ahead, since the air
currents had such a big surface forward to act upon. The pressure
of wind on bows and the yards of the foremast would cause the bows
to fall away, and in these conditions the ship could not be steered
into the narrow lanes and leads through which we had to thread our
way. The falling away of the bows, moreover, would tend to bring
the stern against the ice, compelling us to stop the engines in
order to save the propeller. Then the ship would become unmanageable
and drift away, with the possibility of getting excessive sternway
on her and so damaging rudder or propeller, the Achilles’ heel of a
ship in pack-ice.
While we were waiting for the weather to moderate and the ice to
open, I had the Lucas sounding-machine rigged over the rudder-trunk
and found the depth to be 2810 fathoms. The bottom sample was lost
owing to the line parting 60 fathoms from the end. During the
afternoon three adelie penguins approached the ship across the floe
while Hussey was discoursing sweet music on the banjo. The
solemn-looking little birds appeared to appreciate “It’s a Long
Way to Tipperary,” but they fled in horror when Hussey treated
them to a little of the music that comes from Scotland. The shouts
of laughter from the ship added to their dismay, and they made off
as fast as their short legs would carry them. The pack opened
slightly at 6.15 p.m., and we proceeded through lanes for three
hours before being forced to anchor to a floe for the night. We
fired a Hjort mark harpoon, No. 171, into a blue whale on this
day. The conditions did not improve during December 19. A fresh
to strong northerly breeze brought haze and snow, and after
proceeding for two hours the Endurance was stopped again by
heavy floes. It was impossible to manoeuvre the ship in the ice
owing to the strong wind, which kept the floes in movement and
caused lanes to open and close with dangerous rapidity. The noon
observation showed that we had made six miles to the south-east in
the previous twenty-four hours. All hands were engaged during the
day in rubbing shoots off our potatoes, which were found to be
sprouting freely. We remained moored to a floe over the following
day, the wind not having moderated; indeed, it freshened to a gale
in the afternoon, and the members of the staff and crew took
advantage of the pause to enjoy a vigorously contested game of
football on the level surface of the floe alongside the ship.
Twelve bergs were in sight at this time. The noon position was
lat. 62° 42´ S., long. 17° 54´ W.,
showing that we had drifted about six miles in a north-easterly
Monday, December 21, was beautifully fine, with a gentle west-north-westerly
breeze. We made a start at 3 a.m. and proceeded
through the pack in a south-westerly direction. At noon we had
gained seven miles almost due east, the northerly drift of the
pack having continued while the ship was apparently moving to
the south. Petrels of several species, penguins, and seals were
plentiful, and we saw four small blue whales. At noon we entered
a long lead to the southward and passed around and between nine
splendid bergs. One mighty specimen was shaped like the Rock of
Gibraltar but with steeper cliffs, and another had a natural dock
that would have contained the Aquitania. A spur of ice closed
the entrance to the huge blue pool. Hurley brought out his
kinematograph-camera, in order to make a record of these bergs.
Fine long leads running east and south-east among bergs were found
during the afternoon, but at midnight the ship was stopped by
small, heavy ice-floes, tightly packed against an unbroken plain
of ice. The outlook from the mast-head was not encouraging.
The big floe was at least 15 miles long and 10 miles wide.
The edge could not be seen at the widest part, and the area of
the floe must have been not less than 150 square miles. It
appeared to be formed of year-old ice, not very thick and with
very few hummocks or ridges in it. We thought it must have been
formed at sea in very calm weather and drifted up from the south-east.
I had never seen such a large area of unbroken ice in
the Ross Sea.
We waited with banked fires for the strong easterly breeze to
moderate or the pack to open. At 6.30 p.m. on December 22 some
lanes opened and we were able to move towards the south again.
The following morning found us working slowly through the pack,
and the noon observation gave us a gain of 19 miles S. 41°
W. for the seventeen and a half hours under steam. Many year-old
adelies, three crab-eaters, six sea-leopards, one Weddell and two
blue whales were seen. The air temperature, which had been down
to 25° Fahr. on December 21, had risen to 34° Fahr.
While we were working along leads to the southward in the afternoon,
we counted fifteen bergs. Three of these were table-topped, and
one was about 70 ft high and 5 miles long. Evidently it had come
from a barrier-edge. The ice became heavier but slightly more open,
and we had a calm night with fine long leads of open water. The
water was so still that new ice was forming on the leads. We had
a run of 70 miles to our credit at noon on December 24, the position
being lat. 64° 32´ S., long. 17° 17´ W.
All the dogs except eight had been named. I do not know who had
been responsible for some of the names, which seemed to represent
a variety of tastes. They were as follows Rugby, Upton Bristol,
Millhill, Songster, Sandy, Mack, Mercury, Wolf, Amundsen, Hercules,
Hackenschmidt, Samson, Sammy, Skipper, Caruso, Sub, Ulysses, Spotty,
Bosun, Slobbers, Sadie, Sue, Sally, Jasper, Tim, Sweep, Martin,
Splitlip, Luke, Saint, Satan, Chips, Stumps, Snapper, Painful, Bob,
Snowball, Jerry, Judge, Sooty, Rufus, Sidelights, Simeon, Swanker,
Chirgwin, Steamer, Peter, Fluffy, Steward, Slippery, Elliott, Roy,
Noel, Shakespeare, Jamie, Bummer, Smuts, Lupoid, Spider, and Sailor.
Some of the names, it will be noticed, had a descriptive flavour.
Christmas Day, 1914.
Heavy floes held up the ship from midnight till 6 a.m. on
December 25, Christmas Day. Then they opened a little and we made
progress till 11.30 a.m., when the leads closed again. We had
encountered good leads and workable ice during the early part of the
night, and the noon observation showed that our run for the twenty-four
hours was the best since we entered the pack a fortnight earlier.
We had made 71 miles S. 4° W. The ice held us up till the
evening, and then we were able to follow some leads for a couple of
hours before the tightly packed floes and the increasing wind
compelled a stop. The celebration of Christmas was not forgotten.
Grog was served at midnight to all on deck. There was grog again
at breakfast, for the benefit of those who had been in their bunks
at midnight. Lees had decorated the wardroom with flags and had a
little Christmas present for each of us. Some of us had presents
from home to open. Later there was a really splendid dinner,
consisting of turtle soup, whitebait, jugged hare, Christmas pudding,
mince-pies, dates, figs and crystallized fruits, with rum and stout
as drinks. In the evening everybody joined in a “sing-song.”
Hussey had made a one-stringed violin, on which, in the words of
Worsley, he “discoursed quite painlessly.” The wind was
increasing to a moderate south-easterly gale and no advance could
be made, so we were able to settle down to the enjoyments of
The weather was still bad on December 26 and 27, and the Endurance
remained anchored to a floe. The noon position on the 26th was
lat. 65° 43´ S., long. 17° 36´ W.
We made another sounding on this day with the Lucas machine and
found bottom at 2819 fathoms. The specimen brought up was a
terrigenous blue mud (glacial deposit) with some radiolaria.
Every one took turns at the work of heaving in, two men working
together in ten-minute spells.
Sunday, December 27, was a quiet day aboard. The southerly gale
was blowing the snow in clouds off the floe and the temperature had
fallen to 23° Fahr. The dogs were having an uncomfortable
time in their deck quarters. The wind had moderated by the
following morning, but it was squally with snow-flurries, and I
did not order a start till 11 p.m. The pack was still close, but
the ice was softer and more easily broken. During the pause the
carpenter had rigged a small stage over the stern. A man was
stationed there to watch the propeller and prevent it striking
heavy ice, and the arrangement proved very valuable. It saved the
rudder as well as the propeller from many blows.
The high winds that had prevailed for four and a half days gave way
to a gentle southerly breeze in the evening of December 29. Owing
to the drift we were actually eleven miles farther north than we
had been on December 25. But we made fairly good progress on the
30th in fine, clear weather. The ship followed a long lead to the
south-east during the afternoon and evening, and at 11 p.m. we
crossed the Antarctic Circle. An examination of the horizon
disclosed considerable breaks in the vast circle of pack-ice,
interspersed with bergs of different sizes. Leads could be traced
in various directions, but I looked in vain for an indication of
open water. The sun did not set that night, and as it was
concealed behind a bank of clouds we had a glow of crimson and gold
to the southward, with delicate pale green reflections in the water
of the lanes to the south-east.
The ship had a serious encounter with the ice on the morning of
December 31. We were stopped first by floes closing around us,
and then about noon the Endurance got jammed between two floes
heading east-north-east. The pressure heeled the ship over six
degrees while we were getting an ice-anchor on to the floe in order
to heave astern and thus assist the engines, which were running at
full speed. The effort was successful. Immediately afterwards,
at the spot where the Endurance had been held, slabs of ice 50 ft.
by 15 ft. and 4 ft. thick were forced ten or twelve feet up on
the lee floe at an angle of 45°. The pressure was severe,
and we were not sorry to have the ship out of its reach. The noon
position was lat. 66° 47´ S., long. 15° 52´ W.,
and the run for the preceding twenty-four hours was
51 miles S. 29° E.
New Years Day 1915.
“Since noon the character of the pack has improved,” wrote Worsley
on this day. “Though the leads are short, the floes are rotten
and easily broken through if a good place is selected with care
and judgment. In many cases we find large sheets of young ice
through which the ship cuts for a mile or two miles at a stretch.
I have been conning and working the ship from the crow’s-nest
and find it much the best place, as from there one can see ahead
and work out the course beforehand, and can also guard the rudder
and propeller, the most vulnerable parts of a ship in the ice.
At midnight, as I was sitting in the ‘tub’ I heard a clamorous
noise down on the deck, with ringing of bells, and realized that
it was the New Year.” Worsley came down from his lofty seat and
met Wild, Hudson, and myself on the bridge, where we shook hands
and wished one another a happy and successful New Year. Since
entering the pack on December 11 we had come 480 miles, through
loose and close pack-ice. We had pushed and fought the little ship
through, and she had stood the test well, though the propeller had
received some shrewd blows against hard ice and the vessel had been
driven against the floe until she had fairly mounted up on it and
slid back rolling heavily from side to side. The rolling had been
more frequently caused by the operation of cracking through thickish
young ice, where the crack had taken a sinuous course. The ship,
in attempting to follow it, struck first one bilge and then the
other, causing her to roll six or seven degrees. Our advance through
the pack had been in a S. 10° E. direction, and I estimated
that the total steaming distance had exceeded 700 miles. The first
100 miles had been through loose pack, but the greatest hindrances
had been three moderate south-westerly gales, two lasting for three
days each and one for four and a half days. The last 250 miles had
been through close pack alternating with fine long leads and
stretches of open water.
During the weeks we spent manoeuvring to the south through the
tortuous mazes of the pack it was necessary often to split floes
by driving the ship against them. This form of attack was effective
against ice up to three feet in thickness, and the process is
interesting enough to be worth describing briefly. When the way
was barred by a floe of moderate thickness we would drive the ship
at half speed against it, stopping the engines just before the
impact. At the first blow the Endurance would cut a V-shaped
nick in the face of the floe, the slope of her cutwater often causing
her bows to rise till nearly clear of the water, when she would
slide backwards, rolling slightly. Watching carefully that loose
lumps of ice did not damage the propeller, we would reverse the
engines and back the ship off 200 to 300 yds. She would then be
driven full speed into the V, taking care to hit the centre
accurately. The operation would be repeated until a short dock was
cut, into which the ship, acting as a large wedge, was driven. At
about the fourth attempt, if it was to succeed at all, the floe
would yield. A black, sinuous line, as though pen-drawn on white
paper, would appear ahead, broadening as the eye traced it back to
the ship. Presently it would be broad enough to receive her, and
we would forge ahead. Under the bows and alongside, great slabs
of ice were being turned over and slid back on the floe, or driven
down and under the ice or ship. In thus way the Endurance would
split a 2-ft. to 3-ft. floe a square mile in extent. Occasionally
the floe, although cracked across, would be so held by other floes
that it would refuse to open wide, and so gradually would bring the
ship to a standstill. We would then go astern for some distance
and again drive her full speed into the crack, till finally the floe
would yield to the repeated onslaughts.|
< Preface | TOC | Chapter 2 >