An infernal, awe-inspiring scene

“It was an infernal, awe-inspiring scene. The boat and all in her seemed doomed. What Worsley now did was this. The boat was under a reefed job on the mainmast. He got it shifted right forward. He then set a reefed lug on the mainmast, and the mizzen. The idea was to exploit every ounce of the boat’s capacity to gripe to windward. In the screaming wind, it took an hour to change the sails, while the roar of the surf against the shore grew closer.

“A larger craft would by now have been doomed, but Worsley, even in the screaming of the hurricane, knew the strength of what he had. Because the James Caird was so low in the water, the wind could get no purchase on her sides. The scraps of sail it was safe to set could do their work.

“Slowly, the boat began to claw offshore…

“Meeting each wave was like striking a stone wall…As the seams opened and closed with every wave, the James Caird started to fill with water…incessantly bailing and pumping, thirst almost forgotten, six men were fighting for their lives.”

— Roland Huntford, Shackleton

About Ernest Shackleton

Polar Explorer. Leader of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914-1917.
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