A previous stranding: Antarctica, 1903

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“We were forced to feed ourselves mainly by seals and penguins. Already during the first few days of our stay on the island, we were lucky enough to kill [enough] not only for our immediate needs but also for a winter supply. Thus, on the 11 March [1903] 184 penguins were killed, 326 on the 12th, 508 on the 13th and so on.”

— Captain Carl Anton Larsen, quoted in Nils Otto Nordenskjöld’s ‘Antarctica: Or, Two years amongst the ice of the South Pole

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A violent shock

Antarctic_1

“The captain himself was up in the crow’s nest, from where he directed the maneouvering. The orders ring out incessantly, and the helmsman is hard put to follow the constant changes… From his lookout point, the captain chooses his point of attack approximately on the same principle as a billiard player, so that the chosen ice floe is not only pushed in the right direction,… but the neighboring floe, through cannoning, is set in motion, and makes way for the vessel. At full speed, we go ahead, then the engines are stopped, and immediately there is a violent shock, so that the vessel shudders in every joint, and the uninitiated might imagine that each moment was his last. So serious, however, it is not. Slowly, the colossal floe begins to move, slowly the vessel glides ahead, while both sides scrape against the ice with a long drawn out roar that deceptively reminds one of the rumbling of thunder.

“There reigned a desolation and wildness which, perhaps, no other place on earth could show; I experienced a sense of helplessness as if standing alone and deserted amidst mighty natural forces.”

— Otto Nordenskjöld, Antarctica, vol. i.

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Diatoms are again appearing

diatoms500

“Clark finds that with returning daylight the diatoms are again appearing. His nets and line are stained a pale yellow, and much of the newly formed ice has also a faint brown or yellow tinge. The diatoms cannot multiply without light, and the ice formed since February can be distinguished in the pressure-ridges by its clear blue colour. The older masses of ice are of a dark earthy brown, dull yellow, or reddish brown.”

— Ernest Shackleton, South

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Rime of the Ancient Mariner, pt 2

Rime of the Ancient Mariner
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

[]

Two

“The sun now rose upon the right:
Out of the sea came he,
Still hid in mist, and on the left
Went down into the sea.

And the good south wind still blew behind,
But no sweet bird did follow,
Nor any day for food or play
Came to the mariners’ hollo!

And I had done a hellish thing,
And it would work ’em woe:
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.
Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay,
That made the breeze to blow!

Nor dim nor red, like God’s own head,
The glorious sun uprist:
Then all averred, I had killed the bird
That brought the fog and mist.
‘Twas right, said they, such birds to slay,
That bring the fog and mist.

The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.

Down dropped the breeze, the sails dropped down,
‘Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea!

All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the moon.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

The very deep did rot: O Christ!
That ever this should be!
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.

About, about, in reel and rout
The death-fires danced at night;
The water, like a witch’s oils,
Burnt green, and blue, and white.

And some in dreams assured were
Of the Spirit that plagued us so;
Nine fathom deep he had followed us
From the land of mist and snow.

And every tongue, through utter drought,
Was withered at the root;
We could not speak, no more than if
We had been choked with soot.

Ah! well-a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.”

[]

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What the ice gets, the ice keeps

“All hands is standing bye we had a slight shock last night… there was a noise under the bottom aft the same as if the ice had broken up…. the Boss thinks it was a whale but I thinks different.”

— Chippy McNeish

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“She’s pretty near her end.”

— Shackleton to Worsley

“The wind howled in the rigging and I couldn’t help thinking it was making just the sort of sound you would expect a human being to utter if there were in fear of being murdered… Still I couldn’t believe that the Endurance would have to go… ‘The ship can’t live in this, Skipper,’ … Shackleton… said at length, pausing in his restless march up and down the tiny cabin. ‘You had better make up your mind that it is only a matter of time… What the ice gets, the ice keeps.’ I admired his self-control.”

— Frank Worsley

“Outside the cabin, no one knew what had been said.”

— Roland Huntford

“With another ship, Shackleton might have spoken in a different vein. Endurance, as he had come to realise, was no Fram. Her bilges were not round enough; her sides had too much tumble home. She was safe just as long as she was frozen in her floe. When that broke, she would be at the mercy of the ice. She would hardly rise to the inevitable squeeze, and would almost certainly be nipped. Shackleton had been warned about this before he bought Endurance, and so would have only himself to blame. […] Shackleton understood, however, that after moving west for several months, a circular current was pressing the ice up against land. It was not a pleasant thought.”

— Roland Huntford

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Scrubbing the decks

James Wordie, Alfred Cheetam, Alexander Macklin

“…it fell to my unwilling lot to go down on my knees and scrub the passages. I am able to put aside pride of caste in most things but I must say that I think scrubbing floors is not fair work for people who have been brought up in refinement.

“On the other hand I think that under the present circumstances it has a desirable purpose as a disciplinary measure it humbles one & knocks out of one any last remnants of false pride… & for this reason I do it voluntarily and without being asked but always with mingled feelings of revulsion and self abnegation.

“These soliloquies are not of much interest but appreciative ravings about the pack are likely to become monotonous as the pack itself.”

— Thomas Orde-Lees

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Better off than the King

“A cheery little fellow, who had a strange outlook on life and wonderful views of his own for reforming various social evils.” — Alexander Macklin, on Alfred Cheetham

Cheetham and Crean

Cheetham and Crean

“Some days we used to set off in the lovely long sunsets and return by moonlight. On these occasions he used to remain very silent and pensive, occasionally breaking to remark:

“I say Doctor, don’t you think we are better off than the King?”

“I don’t know, Cheetham.”

“Well, I’m happy, Doctor, and you’re happy, and here we are sitting on a sledge driving smoothly home and looking at the wonders of the World; it goes into your soul, like don’t it, Doctor? — the King with all his might and with all his power couldn’t come here and enjoy what I’m enjoying, for one thing he wouldn’t be allowed to…”

Macklin and dogs

Macklin and dogs

“Again long silences and then a snatch of song:

“Justice in England that fine and happy land
Justice in England I cannot understand.
Justice for the rich and poor it tells a different tale,
For the rich man always seems to get the balance of the scale.”

“Sometimes I took out Green… it was a great treat for him after the galley, and he was like a schoolboy, and thoroughly enjoyed being tumbled into snowdrifts — but then it did not happen often to him!”

— Dr. Alexander Mackin

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