Friday, March 11, 2022

A Diary of 'Endurance'

Earlier this week, a search expedition successfully located the intact wreck of Endurance, a ship sunk in the Weddell Sea in 1915 during the course of Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. This seems as good an excuse as any to show off one of our favorite items in the collections: the diary of one Thomas Orde-Lees, kept during his time as a member of Endurance's crew. 

Endurance never met its mission of landing at Vahsel Bay in order to launch a march across the Antarctic continent. Instead, the ship became trapped in ice and drifted for months, eventually being crushed and sinking under the pressure exerted by the ice. Its crew took to their lifeboats when the ice no longer supported their stranded camp, managing to reach the uninhabited Elephant Island. From there, Shackleton and five others took one of the lifeboats out onto the open ocean to retrieve help. Amazingly, they made it and the entire crew was rescued. Orde-Lees' diary contains many notes on the weather, encounters with wildlife, the expedition's food stores, and other everyday facts of the crew's bid for survival.

His entry for the October 27th 1915 recounts the actual breaking of the ship:

"Our little ship was stove in, hopelessly crushed and helpless amongst the engulfing ice. Nothing that we could do for her was any more good, and as before our eyes she commenced to settle down first by the bow then by the stern, we bade her good bye with our hearts. Having accomplished its deadly mission the ice seemed then to play with her like a cat with a mouse, now hoisting her a little now letting her subside once more and having wrested from us our stronghold dangled it before us, as it were, in mocking irony... For the first time it came home to us that we were wrecked - that we had abandoned our ship; but we were not beaten." 

It's been 106 years since it sank, but the Endurance has been found again! Come take a look at this firsthand account of its fate in the Antarctic by asking for Stefansson Mss-185