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Stunning Historical Photos of Shackleton’s Expedition to Antarctica, 1914-1917

During the summer of 1914, Ernest Shackleton boarded the Endurance and sailed for Antarctica, where he planned to cross the continent by foot. Shackleton planned to sail to the Weddell Sea in preparation for his round-the-world voyage via the South Pole to the Ross Sea and land a shore party near Vahsel Bay. As this was happening, a second group, the Ross Sea party, was setting up camp in McMurdo Sound and laying a series of supply depots across the Ross Ice Shelf to reach the foot of the Beardmore Glacier. Transcontinental parties would need these depots to survive, as they would not carry enough provisions for the entire journey. Two ships were required for the expedition: Endurance under Shackleton for the Weddell Sea party and Aurora under Aeneas Mackintosh for the Ross Sea party.

Additionally, there were sledding trips planned for parties leaving the main base and another party remaining at the base to conduct various scientific experiments. Both expeditions ended up with 28 crew members each, including William Bakewell, who joined the ship in Buenos Aires, Perce Blackborow, who stowed away when his application was rejected, and many last-minute additions to the Ross Sea party in Australia. Sir Daniel Gooch, the grandson of Daniel Gooch, a renowned railway pioneer, was a temporary crewman.

The Endurance sailed from Buenos Aires to South Georgia, where a Norwegian whaling station was located, on August 8th. They arrived in South Georgia on November 5th, 1914. Shackleton learned from the whaling captains that the conditions between the Weddell Sea indicated a hefty ice year. A large quantity of clothing and supplies was taken from South Georgia if the Endurance was caught in the Weddell Sea and froze, unable to reach the continent on time. On December 5th, 1914, they left South Georgia. The Endurance ship was trapped by ice in Vahsel Bay as it approached Antarctica. Because they were too far from land to attempt a crossing, they planned to sit out the winter in their ship and then attempt their mission in the spring. It becomes apparent after months of waiting that they will have to abandon both their ship and their plan for a delayed expedition. Ice has crushed the Endurance’s hull beyond repair; when it melts, she will sink. The new objective is to return home.

Finally, on November 21st, 1915, the Endurance sank beneath the ice and waters of the Weddell Sea. Before she disappeared, the men saved as many supplies as possible (including Frank Hurley’s precious photo collection). With no ship, no means of communication with the outside world, and with limited supplies, the 28 men of this expedition were now isolated on a drifting pack ice hundreds of miles from land. Shackleton decided on December 20th that it was time to abandon their camp and march west to Paulet Island, where they believed there was land nearby. The ice sheet has been moving for six months (at one point, they were within sight of Antarctica but then drifted away from it, and now Elephant Island is the closest landmass. The original twenty-eight men of Shackleton’s expedition were not lost. The Endurance was lost to the sea ice. Still, the James Caird open-boat was brought back to England and is on display at Dulwich College in London to this day, a testament to an act of remarkable courage during the heroic age of exploration.

#1 The sun rises on Endurance after the darkness of winter.

The sun rises on Endurance after the darkness of winter.

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#2 Ernest Shackleton, leader of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.

Ernest Shackleton, leader of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.

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#3 Photographer Frank Hurley.

Photographer Frank Hurley.

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#4 Third Officer Alfred Cheetham adjusts the signal flags of the Endurance.

Third Officer Alfred Cheetham adjusts the signal flags of the Endurance.

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#5 The wake of Endurance as she pushes through the ice of the Weddell Sea.

The wake of Endurance as she pushes through the ice of the Weddell Sea.

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#6 Crew attempt to clear a path through the ice for Endurance.

Crew attempt to clear a path through the ice for Endurance.

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#7

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#8

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#9

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#10 John Vincent, Boatswain, mends a net on the Endurance.

John Vincent, Boatswain, mends a net on the Endurance.

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#11 The icebound Endurance.

The icebound Endurance.

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#12 Crew take the dogs out on to the ice.

Crew take the dogs out on to the ice.

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#13 Physicist Reginald James outside his observatory.

Physicist Reginald James outside his observatory.

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#14 Photographer Frank Hurley gets a high-angle shot.

Photographer Frank Hurley gets a high-angle shot.

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#15 Frank Worsley, captain of The Endurance.

Frank Worsley, captain of The Endurance.

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#16 Navigating Officer Hubert Hudson with Emperor penguin chicks.

Navigating Officer Hubert Hudson with Emperor penguin chicks.

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#17 Second Officer Tom Crean with sled dog puppies.

Second Officer Tom Crean with sled dog puppies.

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#18 Charles Green, the cook, skins a penguin for dinner.

Charles Green, the cook, skins a penguin for dinner.

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#19 Frank Wild, second in command.

Frank Wild, second in command.

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#20 Lionel Greenstreet, first officer.

Lionel Greenstreet, first officer.

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#21 Evening amusements in “The RItz” aboard the Endurance.

Evening amusements in “The RItz” aboard the Endurance.

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#22 A haircutting tournament aboard the Endurance.

A haircutting tournament aboard the Endurance.

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#23 The rigging of the Endurance, coated in rime.

The rigging of the Endurance, coated in rime.

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#24 The Endurance at sunrise.

The Endurance at sunrise.

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#25

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#26 Crew play games and musical instruments to pass the time.

Crew play games and musical instruments to pass the time.

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#27 Crew plays soccer on the ice near Endurance.

Crew plays soccer on the ice near Endurance.

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#28 Endurance at night, illuminated by flashlight.

Endurance at night, illuminated by flashlight.

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#29 A Saturday evening toast to “sweethearts and wives.”

A Saturday evening toast to “sweethearts and wives.”

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#30 Biologist Robert Clark and geologist James Wordie in their cabin.

Biologist Robert Clark and geologist James Wordie in their cabin.

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#31 Crew retrieve fresh ice to use for water.

Crew retrieve fresh ice to use for water.

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#32

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#33 Owd Bob, sled dog.

Owd Bob, sled dog.

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#34 Lupoid, sled dog.

Lupoid, sled dog.

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#35 Shackleton and Wild among the pressure ridges in the pack ice.

Shackleton and Wild among the pressure ridges in the pack ice.

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#36 Hurley and Shackleton.

Hurley and Shackleton.

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#37

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#38 “Ice flowers” form on the pack ice near Endurance.

“Ice flowers” form on the pack ice near Endurance.

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#39 James Wordie, Alfred Cheetham and Alexander Macklin scrub the floors of the “The Ritz” aboard Endurance.

James Wordie, Alfred Cheetham and Alexander Macklin scrub the floors of the “The Ritz” aboard Endurance.

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#40 George Marston, artist.

George Marston, artist.

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#41

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#42 Endurance lists as she is squeezed by shifting ice.

Endurance lists as she is squeezed by shifting ice.

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#43

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#44

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#45 Frank Wild, Second in Command, contemplates the wreck of the Endurance.

Frank Wild, Second in Command, contemplates the wreck of the Endurance.

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#46 Dog teams search for a way to land across the ice.

Dog teams search for a way to land across the ice.

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#47 Crew members haul one of the lifeboats across the ice after the loss of Endurance.

Crew members haul one of the lifeboats across the ice after the loss of Endurance.

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#48 The beach on Elephant Island where the expedition made its camp.

The beach on Elephant Island where the expedition made its camp.

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#49 The James Caird is launched from Elephant Island on a mission to reach South Georgia Island.

The James Caird is launched from Elephant Island on a mission to reach South Georgia Island.

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#50 Crew wave farewell as the James Caird sets off for South Georgia Island in search of rescue.

Crew wave farewell as the James Caird sets off for South Georgia Island in search of rescue.

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#51 The Elephant Island party. Back row: Greenstreet, McIlroy, Marston, Wordie, James, Holness, Hudson, Stephenson, McLeod, Clark, Orde-Lees, Kerr, Macklin

The Elephant Island party. Back row: Greenstreet, McIlroy, Marston, Wordie, James, Holness, Hudson, Stephenson, McLeod, Clark, Orde-Lees, Kerr, Macklin

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#52

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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