Argument

“To detail the whole of what I said to Cheetham would merely bore the reader; suffice to say that the conversation turned upon whether we would reach England by May of this year, and I expressed my opinion that that was practically impossible. What in the world Crean, of all people, wanted to put a spoke in my wheel for, one cannot imagine.

“It is well to record these little sidelights on expeditionary life as they are usually expunged from the published books, or at the most left to be read between the lines. That they occur, nevertheless, on all expeditions is a matter of fairly common knowledge and herein an endeavour has been made to refer to them truly and impartially, irrespective of who is to blame.”

— Thomas Orde-Lees

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Eothen

eothen

“The first night of your first campaign (though you be but a mere peaceful campaigner) is a glorious time in your life. It is so sweet to find one’s self free from the stale civilisation of Europe! Oh my dear ally, when first you spread your carpet in the midst of these Eastern scenes, do think for a moment of those your fellow-creatures, that dwell in squares, and streets, and even (for such is the fate of many!) in actual country houses; think of the people that are “presenting their compliments,” and “requesting the honour,” and “much regretting,”—of those that are pinioned at dinner-tables; or stuck up in ballrooms, or cruelly planted in pews—ay, think of these, and so remembering how many poor devils are living in a state of utter respectability, you will glory the more in your own delightful escape.

“I am bound to confess, however, that with all its charms a mud floor (like a mercenary match) does certainly promote early rising. Long before daybreak we were up, and had breakfasted; after this there was nearly a whole tedious hour to endure whilst the horses were laden by torch-light; but this had an end, and at last we went on once more. Cloaked, and sombre, at first we made our sullen way through the darkness, with scarcely one barter of words, but soon the genial morn burst down from heaven, and stirred the blood so gladly through our veins, that the very Suridgees, with all their troubles, could now look up for an instant, and almost seem to believe in the temporary goodness of God.

“The actual movement from one place to another, in Europeanised countries, is a process so temporary—it occupies, I mean, so small a proportion of the traveller’s entire time—that his mind remains unsettled, so long as the wheels are going; he may be alive enough to external objects of interest, and to the crowding ideas which are often invited by the excitement of a changing scene, but he is still conscious of being in a provisional state, and his mind is constantly recurring to the expected end of his journey; his ordinary ways of thought have been interrupted, and before any new mental habits can be formed he is quietly fixed in his hotel. It will be otherwise with you when you journey in the East. Day after day, perhaps week after week and month after month, your foot is in the stirrup. To taste the cold breath of the earliest morn, and to lead, or follow, your bright cavalcade till sunset through forests and mountain passes, through valleys and desolate plains, all this becomes your MODE OF LIFE, and you ride, eat, drink, and curse the mosquitoes as systematically as your friends in England eat, drink, and sleep. If you are wise, you will not look upon the long period of time thus occupied in actual movement as the mere gulf dividing you from the end of your journey, but rather as one of those rare and plastic seasons of your life from which, perhaps, in after times you may love to date the moulding of your character—that is, your very identity. Once feel this, and you will soon grow happy and contented in your saddle-home. As for me and my comrade, however, in this part of our journey we often forgot Stamboul, forgot all the Ottoman Empire, and only remembered old times. We went back, loitering on the banks of Thames—not grim old Thames of ‘after life,’ that washes the Parliament Houses, and drowns despairing girls—but Thames, the ‘old Eton fellow,’ that wrestled with us in our boyhood till he taught us to be stronger than he. We bullied Keate, and scoffed at Larrey Miller, and Okes; we rode along loudly laughing, and talked to the grave Servian forest as though it were the ‘Brocas clump.'”

— excerpt from Eothen, or, Traces of Travel Brought Home from the East, by A. W. Kinglake: online text.

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Wonderful, amazing, splendid

“Wonderful, amazing, splendid.

“Lat. 65°43′ South—73 miles North drift. The most cheerful good fortune for a year for us: We cannot be much more than 170 miles from Paulet. Everyone greeted the news with cheers. The wind still continues. We may get another 10 miles out of it. Thank God. Drifting still all wet in the tents but no matter. Had bannock to celebrate North of the circle.”

— Ernest Shackleton, South

map_abandonedship

“The blizzard drift has ceased but the wind continues and an observation today reveals the glorious fact that we have drifted 84 miles north in six days!

“By this amazing leap we are now about 146 miles from Snow Hill, 153 from Paulet Island and 357 from the South Orkneys. Unfortunately we are so far to the east of Paulet Island that short of a miracle, we cannot except to drift within easy reach of it, nor reach it otherwise than by leads opening, or by our floe becoming the edge of the pack before the whole of the pack drifts north beyond the latitude of Paulet Island.”

— Thomas Orde-Lees

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The going was so bad

sledging_over_ice

“The going was so bad that they could not pull my weight, and I had to get off and flounder along beside the sledges. The dogs too kept falling back, and as soon as one dog collapsed or let his weight come on to the trace the whole line stopped. On these occasions they all lay down, and only violent abuse and vigorous treatment had any effect in raising them. Several pressure ridges had to be broken with pick and shovel. Finally with all the dogs dead beat we crawled into Ocean Camp about 4 am.”

— Alexander Macklin

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Death was instantaneous

dogs_grid

“Owing to this shortage of food and the fact that we needed all that we could get for ourselves, I had to order all the dogs except two teams to be shot. It was the worst job that we had had throughout the Expedition, and we felt their loss keenly.”

— Ernest Shackleton, South

“Four teams of dogs were shot: Messrs. Wild’s, Crean’s, McIlroy’s and Marston’s—(comprising a total of thirty magnificent sledgers). This step has been given lengthy consideration and…the decision is a wise one. The dogs consuming one seal daily, the same lasting the entire party three days…”

— Frank Hurley

“Each dog was in turn taken off his trace and led behind a row of large ice hummocks. There Wild sat the animal in the snow, took the muzzle in his left hand, and placed the revolver close to its head. Death was instantaneous.

“Macklin and McIlroy dragged its body a short distance away, then returned to the waiting teams for the next animal. None of the dogs seemed to sense what was happening… […] When the job was done, the three men piled snow on top of the heap of dog bodies and walked slowly back to camp.

“Shackleton decided to spare Greenstreet’s team of year-old puppies ‘for the present,’ and he also granted a one-day reprieve to Hurley’s and Macklin’s teams so that they might be used to make a trip back to Ocean Camp for some of the food that had been left here.”

— Alfred Lansing, Endurance

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Diary: 9 Jan 1909

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“9 January 1909
The last day out we have shot our bolt and the tale is 88.23 S 162 E. The wind eased down at 1 am. At 2 am we were up and had breakfast and shortly after 4 am started south with the Union Jacks and the brass Cylinder of Stamps. At 9 am hard quick marching we were in 88.23 and there hoisted H.M.’s flag took possession of the plateau in the name of H.M. and called it King Edward Plateau. Homeward Bound. Whatever regrets may be we have done our best.”
— Ernest Shackleton, 1909

[from the Matrix Shackleton Centenary Expedition website]

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Furthest Point South – audio


Ernest Shackleton speaking into an Edison Phonograph in 1910 about the results of his Nimrod Expedition to the South Pole, 1907-09, and his Furthest Point South.

Public domain file, sourced from archive.org.

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