Friday, March 22, 2013

The Rest of the Story


By Julie Rahm


"MEN WANTED: FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY. SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS, CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOUR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS. SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON."

For the previous two weeks I have written about Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914. I received a lot of kudos and comments about his story. I confess to omitting some lesser details about the saga. Our kind editor only allows me 500 words and it was difficult to squeeze a 21-month Antarctic survival story into a 12 by 3 inch column. So, as requested, here are a few other interesting tidbits.
Yes, it is believed Shackleton placed a “help wanted ad” in the newspaper to recruit his crew for the expedition. I have placed Shackleton’s “help wanted” ad on my blog at www.blog.AmericasMindsetMechanic.com. Check it out!
Yes, most of the dog teams were paid for by donations from public school children in England and Scotland.  Shackleton named the dog teams after each school that had helped to buy them. The dogs were divided up into six teams of nine dogs each. All but two of the dog teams were shot in December 1915, before the expedition left the ice floe, so the men could eat their food. After the party set up base at Elephant Island, the last of the remaining dogs were killed and eaten by April 1916. All of the men aboard the Endurance survived thanks (largely) to the dogs. Apologies to PAWS! (Pamlico Animal Welfare Society)
Yes, there were two ships. For Shackleton to accomplish his goal of crossing Antarctica overland from west to east he needed two parties on two ships. The "Endurance", with Shackleton's party, was to sail up the Weddell Sea and then come overland, using dog sleds, near the Vahsel Bay. The supply ship "Aurora" party would come up the opposite side of Antarctica, up the Ross Sea, and arrive at McMurdo Sound. This party would then come inland planting caches of supplies for Shackleton's party. The Aurora expedition was inexperienced and struggled in the Antarctic. However, they persevered through the loss of most of their sled dogs, extreme weather, personnel disputes, illness, and the deaths of three members. Worse however, the Aurora was torn from its moorings during a severe storm and was unable to return, leaving the shore party stranded. They remained stranded until January 1917, when Aurora, which had been repaired and refitted in New Zealand, arrived to rescue them.
Yes, Shackleton had a photographer along named Frank Hurley. The photos are incredibly interesting. You can find some on my blog.
Yes, news of Shackleton was overshadowed by the war news in the British newspapers. The expedition returned home in piecemeal fashion, at a critical stage in the war, without fanfare. Shackleton’s return was barely noticed. He organized one final Antarctic expedition, which left London on 17 September 1921. Sadly, Shackleton died of a heart attack on 5 January 1922, while his ship was anchored at South Georgia Island.  He is buried there.
Yes, Shackleton was Irish. Hope your Saint Patrick’s Day was great! 

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