This note accompanies the follow episode(s):
The Writer’s Almanac for April 24, 2017: What Have I Learned

Apr. 24, 2017: on this day: Sir Ernest Shackleton sets out in a lifeboat to get help for his Antarctic expedition

On this date in 1916, Sir Ernest Shackleton (books by this author) set out in a lifeboat from Elephant Island to get help for his shipwrecked Antarctic expedition. Shackleton had set sail from London on the Endurance on August 1, 1914, intending to be the first party to cross the continent of Antarctica. Four months later, the ship encountered pack ice — large masses of ice that are not attached to land — for the first time. They crossed the Antarctic Circle in January 1915, but the ship was soon trapped in the ice pack. The crew had no control over the vessel’s movements, and they drifted aimlessly along with the ice for more than nine months. Eventually, the Endurance was so damaged by the ice that Shackleton ordered his men to abandon ship. Each man was allowed to bring two pounds of personal items from the ship, with two exceptions: photographer Frank Hurley’s photographic plates, and crewmember Leonard Hussey’s banjo. They set up camp on an ice floe, where they watched their ship gradually sink into the frigid waters. They camped on the ice for several months, hoping that they would hit a lucky current and drift northward to safety, but finally, in April 1916, Shackleton and some of the men set off in three lifeboats. They landed on Elephant Island, which was uninhabited. A few days later, Shackleton set off in one of the lifeboats, the James Caird, to South Georgia Island, where there was a whaling station. In August, he finally arrived at the ice camp and rescued the survivors, one of whom later wrote, “I felt jolly near blubbing for a bit & could not speak for several minutes,” when he saw Shackleton’s ship appear on the horizon.