This map, scanned from Ocean Explorer's Antarctic, shows Shackleton's route to South Georgia, his landing in King Haakon Bay, and his overland journey to the Stromness whaling station from which the Endurance had departed in 1914. The red line marks our trip, and identifies Drygalski Fjord, Hercules Bay, Fortuna Bay, Grytviken, Prion Island & Right Whale Bay (see previous & following pages).

Sir Ernest Shackleton's fated
The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914-1916

Ernest Shackleton organized the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition as his third trip to the "White Continent" (other two in 1901-04, and 1907-09). After Roald Amundsen had reached the south pole in 1911, the only major expedition left was to transit the continent on land. This map shows what Shackleton planned and what actually happened.

The Endurance sailed from England just as World War I started. It left South Georgia on December 5, 1914 (red line), despite warnings from whalers that ice was a danger. It became fast in the ice pack on January 19, 1915 (yellow line), and drifted with the ice pack until the ice crushed the Endurance and it sank on November 21, 1915. The men lived on the ice (green line) until April 9, 1916, when the 28 men got into three boats. After five harrowing days at sea, they landed on Elephant Island. On April 24, 1916, Shackleton and five others sailed to South Georgia (blue line) to seek rescue of his men.




The 800 nautical miles in the life-boat James Caird was an unbelieveable feat of sailing, navigation and leadership. It landed on May 9, 1916. After rest and recuperation, Shackleton and two others struggled for 36 hours over mountainous terrain to get help at the Stromness whaling station. The photograph that Hurley took of the Endurance before she sailed shows the South Georgia terrain over which Shackleton and his two companions trekked in gear which also had endured 1.5 years of wear and tear. They were unrecognizable when they stumbled into the whaling station. And there was much to do: rescue the three left behind at Haakon Bay, rescue the 22 left on Elephant Island, and for Shackleton, to attend to the rest of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition, which is a tale for another time.


Hurley's photos: Endurance at anchor in So Georgia.              The crew of the Endurance on the ice.


           Ernest Shackleton                The dogs were essential, until they were shot for lack of food.


Quote from the period: "Scott for scientific method, Amundsen for speed and efficiency but when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton."

Our walk in Shackleton's footsteps

Early one morning, a group disembarked in Fortuna Bay to trace the last leg of Shackleton's trek across the spine of South Georgia. Late summer and climate change made the walk very different. We traversed the last saddle and came down to Stromness. One startling difference, Shackleton slid down a frozen waterfall to get to where he heard the bell for breakfast, the first non-crew man-made sound he heard for over a year and a half. Here are some photos of that walk - including one of Peter Hilary who was with us: