|Sir Ernest Shackleton. February 2000.
Sir Ernest Shackleton - Leader of Men |
Born in 1974,
Shackleton attended Dulwich College. He left school at 16 and at 27 became a
junior officer on Scott's 1901 expedition. By 1908 he had organised his own
expedition to the South Pole, although he had to turn back 97 miles short of the
Pole. To usher in the Year 2000, British Antarctic Territory, Falkland Islands
and South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands are each issuing stamps featuring
the celebrated 1914 expedition, 'the first crossing of the last continent.'
This legendary trip, full of incident, is depicted over nine stamps
(each territory issuing three values) and the stamps of Falkland Islands feature
17p - New Land: the Caird Coast, discovered 16th
January 1915. Halley Research Station is built here (75° South, 26° West)
Endurance left South Georgia on December 5th 1914. Two days later she
encountered the first of the pack ice near the South Sandwich Islands and
continued south towards the Antarctic Continent. Shackleton intended to take the
shore lead southwesterly towards the newly discovered Filchner Ice Shelf and
land at Vahsel Bay at the head of the Weddell Sea. This was his starting point
for the crossing of Antarctica. However, the pack ice was particularly
extensive, and it took over six weeks to force a passage to the south, reaching
the Coats Land on the 10th January 1915. From here on, Endurance cruised
southwesterly, along new coastline until she was beset on 18th January some 352
km further on. The new land was later named the Caird Coast after a principal
benefactor of the expedition.
At some stage Endurance passed what is now
the neighbourhood of Halley Research Station, identifying the chaotic grounded
ice of the McDonald Ice Rumples and the ice falls of the Dawson-Lambton Glacier.
Currently Halley Research Station is situated some 15 km from the ice cliffs of
the edge of the Brunt Ice Shelf, lying between these two ice features dicovered
by Shackleton. It will be recalled that in 1984 scientists at Halley Research
Station discovered the hole in the ozone layer which exists over the Antarctic
continent during the summer months. The ozone layer protects everyone on the
planet from the harmful effects of the sun's ultra violet rays. The depletion in
the ozone layer is now being experienced in the northern hemisphere too.
The design of the 17p stamp shows Endurance sailing southwesterly along
the ice cliffs of the Brunt Ice Shelf in the ice-free shore lead near the
present location of Halley Research Station.
45p - 'The Long, Long
Night'. Endurance beset in the Weddell Sea pack ice June 1914
Endurance, about 300 tonnes, was a 44m barquentine-rigged polar vessel
renamed after Shackleton's family motto - 'By Endurance We Conquer'. She was
built in Norway of pine and oak planking up to 0.75m thick and sheathed in
greenheart. She was reputedly one of the strongest ships ever built for the work
in the ice and was powered by a single triple-expansion steam engine giving her
8-9 knots under full steam.
The 45p stamp design uses on of the most
famous and evocative of all Antarctic images - Frank Hurley's night time flash
photograph of Endurance beset in the ice floes of the Weddell Sea. The image was
entitled 'The Long, Long Night' in Shackleton's book 'South'. It seems to
epitomise the ship's destiny - a ghostly yet beautiful image of a doomed vessel.
On 18th January 1915 Endurance was beset as she neared Vahsel Bay in the
Filchner Ice Shelf. She was trapped by a northeasterly wind which closed the ice
pack around her. At this time they were experiencing very low temperatures both
day and night. A survey of their position on the 20th January showed they were
totally beset with heavy pack ice in every direction. By the 27th January the
ships fires were drawn although further attempts were made to break out when the
pack appeared to ease, but they proved to be useless.
On 24th February
they ceased to observe the ships routine and Endurance became a winter station.
The quarters between decks were adapted for permanent occupation and became
known as 'The Ritz' and all hands settled down for a winter routine. The dogs
were put in ice covered kennels on the floe adjacent the ship. Dog training and
games of hockey and football on the ice were the mens' chief recreations. During
the winter, ferocious blizzards raged and Endurance trembled under the pressure
of the wind and constant and ominous grinding of the ice around her. As she was
caught between heavy ice floes the sides of the ship were kept clear to allow
Endurance to rise if the ice pressed heavily against her hull. However it was to
no avail because in October when the ice began its summer break up the
relentless forces buckled the ship's timbers and she began to leak badly.
Endurance was doomed.
75p - Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton: At his
fourth attempt, he rescued his men from Elephant Island in the Chilean steam tug
Shackelton was born of Anglo-Irish parentage, in Kilkee,
County Clare, Ireland and he was the eldest of two sons and had eight sisters.
The family briefly lived in Dublin before his physician father moved permanently
to London where he was educated at Dulwich College. In 1890 at the age of 16 he
joined the British merchant navy and gained his masters certificate in 1898. He
achieved the rank of third officer with the Union Castle Line in 1899. Wishing
to make a name for himself he joined Robert Falcon Scott's 1901-04 'Discovery'
expedition to the McMurdo Sound area of the Ross Sea sector of Antarctica. After
developing scurvy from a record-breaking southern trip with Scott and Edward
Wilson he was invalided home, much against his will. It was probably as a result
of this treatment that he then set about organising his own 1907-09 'Nimrod'
expedition to the same area. He attempted to be the first man to reach the South
Pole coming to within 180 km (100 nautical miles) but wisely retreating before
supplies and bodily strength was exhausted and the season deteriorated. It was
the most difficult decision he had ever made with the prize of the South Pole so
tantalisingly close. His expedition also achived the first ascent of Mt Erebus,
3794m now known to be Antarctica's highest active volcano. Members of the
expedition also reached the South Magnetic Pole.
With the South Pole
attained by Amundsen in 1911 - whilst Scott and his companions perished on their
return journey in 1912, there remained but one major feat of Antarctic
exploration to be achieved - the crossing of Antarctica from the Weddell Sea to
the Ross Sea. Thus Shackleton organised the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition
consisting the main and a supporting party. The Weddell Sea Party comprised the
main crossing party and sailed in Endurance for the newly discovered Filchner
Ice Shelf at the head of the Weddell Sea, whilst the supporting Ross Sea Party
sailed in Aurora for Shackleton's old base in McMurdo Sound. Their job was to
lay depots for the crossing party.
The Ross Sea supporting party has
since become known as the 'Forgotten Expedition', overshadowed as it was by the
loss of Endurance and the heroic efforts by Shackleton to rescue his men. The
story of this part of the expedition is of a sledging journey to lay the depots
involving extraordinary human effort, endurance and sacrifice under the most
arduous conditions to ensure the crossing party's survival. This was undertaken
despite the loss of many necessary stores after Aurora was blown out into the
Ross Sea locked in an ice floe. This left them marooned in the Antarctic with
barely enough equipment to complete their task. In fact both expedition ships
were adrift in the ice during the winter of 1915: Aurora survived the Ross Sea
pack although very battered, but Endurance was crushed.
With the loss of
Endurance in the Weddell Sea Shackleton and his men were set adrift and camped
on a solid ice floe. By early April 1916 they had to take to the ship's boats as
their floe began to heave with the ocean swell and break up beneath them. After
a week at sea they reached Cape Valentine at the eastern end of Elephant Island.
It was not a safe location and two days later they reach Point Wild. Here, 22
men survived an Antarctic winter living under the shelter of two upturned boats
whilst Shackleton sailed for South Georgia in the James Caird to obtain rescue
for his men. The voyage to South Georgia is considered to be one of the most
momentous open-boat journeys ever undertaken.
Shackleton had to organise
four relief expeditions to Elephant Island: the first three were thwarted by ice
conditions. At his fourth attempt, this time in the Chilean steam tug ss Yelcho,
Shackleton rwached Elephant Island. It was 30th August 1916, 128 days after
sailing away in search of rescue. Within an hour he had embarked the remainder
of his men and sailed immediately for Punta Arenas. They were all safe and well:
not a single man had been lost from the Weddell Sea party. Shackleton then made
his way to New Zealand to join the Aurora during the relief of the marooned Ross
Shackleton was called 'Boss' by the men under his command. It
was his drive and outstanding leadership throughout the expedition which
ultimately brought rescue for the men who were marooned on Elephant Island.
Shackleton's Elephant Island relief attempts were:
||23rd - 31st May
||South Georgia - Port Stanley
||Instituto de Pesco No 1
||10th - 16th June
||Port Stanley - Port Stanley
||12th July - 8th August
||Punta Arenas - Port Stanley
||25th August - 3rd September
||Punta Arenas - Elephant
Island - Punta Arenas |
The design of the
75p stamp depicts a portrait of Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton CVO (1874-1922). It
is taken from the photograph entitled 'The Leader' by Frank Hurley and appeared
in the book 'South' in which Shackleton told the story of the Imperial
Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-17. It also shows the ss Yelcho on her
successful return to Punta Arenas from Elephant Island with all 22 of
Shackleton's men aboard, and all flags flying.
Many regard the Imperial
Trans-Antarctic Expedition as the last expedition of what has become known as
the 'Heroic Era' of polar exploration when husky dogs, ponies or manhauling
provided the only motive power. Hereafter, expeditions were conceived with and
employed more mechanical means for their primary mode of transport. It was not
until the International Geophysical Year in 1957-58 that Shackleton's dream was
realised. Sir Vivian Fuchs with Sir Edmund Hillary led the successful
Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition making the crossing from Vahsel Bay to
McMudro Sound via the South Pole in 99 days.