A Tale of the Sea

A Tale of the Sea

I slept and dreamt of the ocean:
Of tarry sailors joys:
Of the tales which they loved to fashion
Of days when they were boys:
And I laughed aloud in my sleep:
“In those days they said they were men:
Is there one who has a record
Of worth: for a poets pen?”

Then I saw a great long line
Of ghostly ships come from the North;
Come churning the seas to foam
Splashing their bows with froth.
Dipping now into the hollows:
Now on the top they rise;
Pointing their booms to the oceans bed
And anon to the wind swept skies.

— Ernest Shackleton, composed aboard the tramp steamer Monmouthshire, en route from China to Europe (1894/5)

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Impressions (2)

“Shackleton was contented with his own company — at the same time he never stood aloof in any way, but was eager to talk — to argue as sailors do … he had a quiet drawl in his ordinary speech but however slow his words his eyes were bright and his glances quick — When he was on a subject that … appealed to his imagination, his voice changed to a deep vibrant tone, his features worked, his eyes shone, and his whole body seemed to have received an increase of vitality… Shackleton on these occasions … was not the same man who perhaps ten minutes earlier was spouting lines from Keats or Browning — this was another Shackleton with his broad shoulders hunched, his square jaw set — his eyes cold and piercing; at such a time he might have been likened to a bull at bay.

“But withal, he was very human, very sensitive. He quickly responded to his sympathetic nature and was slow to pass judgment on his fellows.”

— J. A. Hussey, Union Castle Line

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Impressions (1)

“Well Shacky, what do you think of this old tub? You’ll be skipper of her one day.” “You see, old man,” he said “as long as I remain with this company, I’ll never be more than a skipper. But I think I can do something better. In fact, really, I would like to make a name for myself (he paused for a moment or two) and her.” He was looking pensively over the sea at the moment, and I noticed his face light up at the mention of “her.”

“To see him once made an impression on one’s mind, and my first impression was: That this man is made for something better than a captain of a small trading vessel.

“At that time a marked ‘standoffishness’ existed between officers and engineers but Shackleton soon broke down the barrier which showed he was a man among men.”

— Third Engineer James Dunmore, Flintshire (Welsh Line), 1898; as reported in The United Methodist, 1922

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Scrubbing the decks

James Wordie, Alfred Cheetam, Alexander Macklin

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“Wuzzles”

worsley-with-sextant

“[Worsley] was fundamentally light-hearted, given to bursts of excitement and unpredictable enthusiasms…. He felt it was his duty to play the part of commander, but he was woefully out of place in the role. His tendency to indulge his moods became obvious one Sunday morning, when a church service was being held. After some appropriately reverent prayers, the idea struck him to sing a few hymns — and he broke up the proceedings by clapping his hands and demanding impetuously, ‘Where’s the ruddy band?'”
— Alfred Lansing, Endurance

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Æneas Mackintosh and the Ross Sea Party

Ross Sea party members: Back row from left: Joyce, Hayward, Cope, Spencer-Smith. Centre: Mackintosh third from left, Stenhouse fourth from left.

Ross Sea party members: Back row from left: Joyce, Hayward, Cope, Spencer-Smith. Centre: Mackintosh third from left, Stenhouse fourth from left. Photo by Frank Hurley. (Wikipedia)

“Æneas Lionel Acton Mackintosh was born on 1 July 1879 in Tirhut, India. He was educated at Bedford Modern School and in 1894, joined the Merchant Navy.

“Mackintosh was granted leave to join the British Antarctic Expedition, 1907 – 1909 (leader Ernest Henry Shackleton), as navigator and second officer of Nimrod on her initial voyage to Lyttelton, New Zealand, and later as a member of the shore staff. While unloading stores at McMurdo Sound, he lost his right eye in an accident and returned in Nimrod to New Zealand for medical treatment before rejoining the shore party in January 1908.

“After the expedition, Mackintosh was despatched by Shackleton as a member of an unsuccessful gold-mining expedition to the Carpathians and spent three months on the Cocos Islands in the South Pacific in search of Spanish treasure.

“In 1914, he resigned his post as assistant secretary to the Imperial Merchant Service Guild in Liverpool to join the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition [Ross Sea Party], 1914 – 1917 (leader Ernest Henry Shackleton). Mackintosh was appointed Captain of Aurora and leader of the Ross Sea party, with the task of laying a chain of depots across the Ross Ice Shelf towards the Beardmore Glacier, providing supplies for Shackleton’s trans-polar party.” [source: Scott Polar Research Institute]

Mackintosh

More about Mackintosh: ibiography.info.

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Ulysses

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson: Ulysses (1833; publ. 1842)

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