The British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition
Already a celebrated polar explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton coordinated the British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition with the goal of accomplishing the first crossing of the Antarctic continent.
He deeply believed that the crossing would be the last great polar journey of the "Heroic Age of Exploration".
In December 1914, Shackleton set sail with his twenty seven crew, many of whom, it is said, had responded to the following recruitment notice.
Men wanted for hazardous journey.
Long months of complete darkness.
Safe return doubtful.
Honour and recognition in case of success.
Unusually Harsh Conditions
The icy conditions were unusually harsh and the wooden ship which Shackleton had renamed Endurance after his family motto, soon became trapped in the pack ice of the Weddell Sea.
Fortitudine Vincimus — By Endurance We Conquer
For ten months, the Endurance drifted, locked within the ice, until the pressure finally crushed the ship.
With meager food, clothing and shelter, Shackleton and his men were stranded on the ice floes, on which they camped for five months.
They eventually drifted to the northern edge of the pack, where they encountered open leads of water, and using three small lifeboats that they’d salvaged they managed to reach a bleak crag called Elephant Island.
* Leads /’li?dz/ are stretches of open water within fields of sea ice.
They Finally Arrive Back On Land
The men were now on land for the first time in 497 days.
But Elephant Island was uninhabited due to its distance from shipping lanes, which meant that there was next to no chance of being found.
800 Miles In A 22 Foot Lifeboat
Recognizing the severity of the physical and mental strains on his men, Shackleton and five others immediately set out to take the crew’s rescue into their own hands.
In a 22-foot lifeboat named the James Caird, they accomplished a seemingly impossible task; they survived a seventeen day, 800-mile journey through the world’s worst seas.
They Arrive At South Georgia Island
The six men landed on an uninhabited part of South Georgia island and their only hope was to cross twenty six miles of mountains and glaciers in order to reach a whaling station on the other side.
Rescued At Last
Starved, frostbitten and wearing rags, Shackleton and two others made the trek, and in August 1916, twenty one months after the initial departure of the Endurance, Shackleton himself returned to rescue the men on Elephant Island.
Shackleton And All Twenty Eight Crew Survive
And the miracle is, that in spite of the incredible hardship and privation, not one soul perished.