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Rescue of the ship that went furthest south (1904)

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As incredible as it is, this first-person account by polar explorer Ernest Shackleton is really just the beginning of his story. In 1914, another of his voyages south resulted with Shackleton and and 27 other men being stranded when their ship — The Endurance — was crushed by ice. But with endurance remaining the theme throughout, his team managed to survive the treacherous journey — but it was nearly two years before they were home again. (Read more about that adventure here.)

the steamship Discovery

The rescue of the ship that went furthest south

Thrilling stories of the men who spent two years in the far Antarctic seas on the polar expedition ship Discovery

After being imprisoned for two years in the least known spot in the world, in the Antarctic,further south than man had ever been before, the English exploring expedition aboard the steamship Discovery has just returned to civilization.

Away down there, surrounded by gigantic hillocks of ice, with a great range of mountains creeping on as far as the eye could reach toward the South Pole, with a volcano 12,500 feet high, spouting clouds of smoke and, at times, flame, the English flag was planted below the 82nd parallel.

Two years members of the expedition spent — always in the biting cold, at times in hunger, awaiting relief which, it seemed, would never come; two years of wandering where ice chasms threatened every step; seeing fellow members plunge into crevasses, one to his death in unfathomable depths. These were, some of the hardships suffered by the men who went furthest south.

They were rescued by two ships, the Morning and the Terra Nova, sent from New Zealand in search of them. The stories of the rescuers and of the rescued are told here, and are illustrated by actual photographs, the most remarkable ever taken in the Antarctic.

The steamship Discovery, bearing the exploring party, under Captain Scott, in quest of the South Pole, left England on August 6, 1901, three years ago. On February 8 she reached a land containing two volcanoes, Mount Erebus and Mount Terror, and there she remained, ice-bound, for more than two years, sending scouting details hither and yon.

It was not until December 26, 1903, that the Morning and the Terra Nora set out from New Zealand to the rescue of the Discovery. When the two ships encountered solid ice on January 5, 1904, they found the Discovery still eighteen miles to the south, frozen hard and fast. Then they began to blast and butt, working a way through, almost foot by foot.

“About 4.30 P.M. each morning,” writes one of the officers of the Terra Nova, “we began butting, and did an hour at it. At 6 P.M. we resumed. There was a lead of open water off what the expedition aboard the Discovery had named Hut Point, and it was our object to burst through the intervening ice and get up there. Once there we should be quite close to the still ice-bound Discovery. As we kept on butting the Discovery’s crowd began to gather round the flagstaff at Hut Point, and watched us eagerly as we gradually, but persistently, got nearer to the goal.

“The Morning was on our port side and was kept busy poking into the cracks which we made when we came full speed up against the solid floe. The Terra Nova did some really good work, and on one specially well remembered occasion she broke a big piece off on her port side.

“We kept on ahead in spite of the damage, however; chewing the ice up, then almost stuck for a little, when away we went crashing through the last few yards and entered the open water at Hut Point on February 14. As soon as we got through the crowd on Hut Point cheered lustily and hoisted the blue Union Jack, while all aboard our ship gave three ringing cheers. The Morning soon followed, and both ships tied up to the fast ice not many hundred yards from the Discovery.”

In spite, of blizzards, more terrific than any person other than an explorer can realize, the far journeys through the bitter cold, and, at periods, the biting hunger, every member of the Discovery expedition, except the man who fell into the chasm, was alive and well.

The most important detail sent out from the Discovery during the two years was unquestionably the one made toward the south. It is best described by Lieutenant E H Shackleton, one of the three officers who comprised it.

By Lieutenant Ernest Shackleton

The minor expeditions sent out preliminary to the main journey to the south were hampered by the extreme cold and the unsuitable conditions of the weather. It was during the return of a portion of one of these parties under Lieutenant Barne, RN, that the only fatal accident occurred. One of the men, in a furious blizzard, fell over an ice cliff and was killed.

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One must be on the spot to realize what these blizzards mean, when nothing can be seen, while the wind lasts, and it is fortunate that more were not lost throughout the whole expedition. In spite of the most careful management and attention to detail in the work of sledging, these accidents are liable to occur. All that man could do for the safety of his party was done on that occasion by Lieutenant Barne. He himself suffered most severely, being badly frostbitten.

At the beginning of October, Captain Scott, with a couple of officers, laid a depot beyond the bluff about sixty miles south of the ship, doing the journey there and back in eight days, through soft snow and across dangerous crevasses.

Into one of these crevasses some of the sledges fell, and a man was lowered down in a bowline, when he unpacked the sledge, the others hauling each article up on top and then pulling the sledge after. The blue sides of the crevasse disappeared into darkness far below, and had the span which connected the sledges not held, we should have lost the main part of our stores.

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