The story of the Endurance
The crossing to South Georgia Island traversed the so-called “Drake Passage” in the Southern Ocean, arguably the most treacherous body of water in the world. For more than two weeks, Shackleton and his men fought gale-force winds and swells approaching 50 feet. Poor weather conditions further complicated the voyage, making accurate celestial navigation nearly impossible. When the men finally (and indeed miraculously) sighted land, they were greeted by a storm with hurricane-force winds. Heroically pressing onwards, the men battled the storm for nine hours and finally made landfall. They soon learned, however, that their challenges were far from over.
Having landed on the opposite side of the island from the settlement, Shackleton and his men found themselves at the foot of a treacherously steep and glacier-covered mountain range that towered more than 9,500 ft. above the sea. Furthermore, it was a mountain range across which no man had ever ventured. Nevertheless, with no other options before him, Shackleton and his men successfully arrived on the other side of the island after a grueling day and a half long journey. Enlisting the help of the local community, Shackleton made three failed attempts to reach and rescue his men, who at this point were likely beginning to lose hope of being rescued. Finally, on August 30th, a full 105 days after setting out from Antarctica, Shackleton returned to rescue his stranded men. Miraculously, all 22 of them were still alive.
Shackleton’s expedition to find help for his stranded crew is considered one of the greatest sea voyages of all time. The conditions which he and his men faced in their small lifeboat are almost unimaginable, and with the recent sinking of a modern cruise ship in those same waters in November of 2007, Shackleton’s brave and desperate struggle against the most extreme forces of Mother Nature becomes an even more amazing feat. It is indeed nothing short of a miracle that he was able to find help for his crew, 22 men whom he steadfastly refused to leave behind. The success of his mission depended solely on Shackleton’s key personal strengths of thoughtful planning, inspiring motivation, and a strong refusal to accept defeat. Most importantly, Shackleton’s actions paid homage to the namesake of his lost ship. It is no wonder that he named it for his family motto, “Fortitudine vincimus” or “By endurance we CONQUER”.
Length of lifeboat: 22.5 ft.
Months that crew survived after the sinking of the Endurance: 9
Number of months without sunlight: ~4
Average Antarctic Peninsula winter temperature: -4° to -22°F
Crew Members of the Endurance: 28