The group gathered to listen to Emma Brook tell the incredible story of Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.
Emma started her talk with Shackleton and his crew setting off on the 8th August 1914 onboard the Endurance heading towards South Georgia. At this time World War I had started but Churchill gave them the go ahead with their expedition.
Arriving at South Georgia on 5th November the whaling captains told Shackleton about the icy conditions between South Georgia and the Weddell Sea. Endurance left South Georgia on the 5th December 1914 and made her way through 6 weeks of packed ice. The Endurance became stuck in the Weddell Sea ice and sustained damage to her stern-post, springing a leak. The crew had to abandon ship so set up camp on the floating ice.
The men pitched five tents 100 yards from the ship but were forced to move when a pressure ridge started to split the ice beneath them. 'Ocean Camp' was established on a thick, heavy floe about a mile and a half from what was fast becoming the wreck of the Endurance.
The Endurance was 346 miles from Paulet Island, the nearest point where there was any possibility of finding food and shelter.
The Endurance broke up on the 21st November 1915 and sunk. She remains there today.
The men had saved as many supplies as they could (including Frank Hurley's precious photo archive) before she disappeared.
28 men were now on floating ice, drifting. With spring fast approaching the ice was beginning to break up. They needed to get to land as soon as possible for help. On December 20th 1915 Shackleton decided that the time had come to abandon their camp and march westward towards where they thought the nearest land was, Paulet Island.
They had three lifeboats named after patrons of the expedition who had donated funds. Two of these were now man hauled in relays, the James Caird and Dudley Docker. If the ice began to disappear under them, the men would take to the 20 foot boats. Dragging the little boats over the icy ridges was exhausting!
Hurley had to argue with Shackleton about keeping all his photographic equipment to show the world their epic journey, in the end Shackleton agreed in the end to keep the equipment Hurley needed. Harry McNeish also fell out with Shackleton as they decided to shoot and eat his pet cat, Mr Chippy.
They had traveled 30 miles with the lifeboats and now they could see Elephant Island. It had been 497 days since they had last set foot on land. They settled on Point Wild, named after Frank Wild, Shackleton’s second hand.
Shackleton had decided they need to make the epic journey to South Georgia which was 800 miles away and the water were treacherous. The waves where 50-foot-high with only a 22-foot-wide boat the James Caird. Taking five crew members, Shackleton went to find help. Their only navigation was by a sextant and a chronometer. Tents & sails were used to line out the James Caird to keep her water proof.
Frank Wild stayed behind to manage the crew left on Elephant Island. Frank kept the crew busy by hunting every day for penguins, seals the odd bird and collected eggs. This was their main diet, which was all cooked on a small oil fire. This also kept the men warm in the freezing temperatures.
The men spent 16 days crossing 1,300 km of ocean in the James Caird to reach South Georgia. The first bit of land they came across was King Haakon Bay but the land was far to rugged to moor. They came across Peggety Cove where two men stayed behind because they were exhausted and hypothermia had set in. Harry McNeish had been forever repairing the boat as waters were so vicious she was starting to break up, but he managed to keep her afloat and in tack. Before Shackleton, Hurley & Creen trekked across the island to a whaling station. MacNeish attached nails to the bottom of their boots for grip to the snow & ice. After reaching South Georgia whaling station and rested they went around in a whaling boat to rescue MacNeish & Vinsent? The remaining men from the 'Endurance' were rescued in August 1916. Not one member of the expedition died. Stowaway Perce Blackman was the only person to lose his toes through frost bite. Shackleton's fourth expedition aimed to circumnavigate the Antarctic continent but on 5 January 1922, Shackleton died of a heart attack off South Georgia. He was buried on the island.
Unfortunately, a lot of Shackleton’s crew joined the front line after returning and didn’t make it back home. How sad after the epic journey of survival.
After Emma’s talk the group got creative and made a model of the James Caird out of paper, sellotape & string.
They engaged thoroughly and asked lots of questions and talked about the heroism. Thank you to Emma Brook for a fantastic talk & slide show.