JAN 16: En Route to Elephant Is & ANTARCTICA
Monday, January 16, 2017
Scotia Sea, International
Jan 16th, 2017: Scotia Sea - Still En Route to ELEPHANT ISLAND and ANTARCTICA
• TH Baughman Lecture: The Last Expedition of Edward Wilson and Captain Scott
• Tom Sharpe Lecture: Ice: An Introduction to Antarctica
• LIAR'S CLUB SESSION… A guessing game to decipher correct from incorrect definitions to real words.
At Sea for another day... We had hoped to be able to do Zodiac runs to shore today, but the winds (sustained 40 knts (46 mph) with guts to 65 knts (75 mph, brutal) and sea conditions are still too high. So we are now traveling southwest toward Elephant Island and the Antarctic Peninsula. Spent part of today on deck looking for more sea birds and whales, which we saw some of each. Most conspicuous were the fin whales. Even in the high winds their blows, which in calm weather rise 15-20' in the air, were regularly spotted and we could see their backs and dorsal fins before disappearing. Albatrosses, mostly black-browed, Southern giant petrels, and the pretty Cape Petrel seemed to be delighting in the stormy / high wind weather as they swooped down and around, in front and along the stern of the ship. Their flight seems so effortless and serene in the 40 knt winds, one is left with the impression that they are zipping and gliding around with joyous grins on their beaks. Magnificent Wandering albatrosses (wingspan up to nearly 12 ft) were pretty much with us the entire way on open ocean stretches… And as we approached the Antarctic Peninsula, we also started observing more enormous icebergs…
• The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-17):
October 24, 1915: The ship and crew have now floated in the Endurance with the pack ice for over 8 months until water started pouring in and cracking sounds were heard... It was clear that the ship was being crushed. Keep in mind that at that time, the Endurance was perhaps the strongest wooden ship ever built.
October 27, 1915: Shackleton was forced to give the order to "ABANDON SHIP"...
--> "She’s going down!" he shouted, and famously quipped: "What the ice gets, the ice keeps....."
Endurance finally sank on November 21, 1915 (click on map above)
They were now relegated to survive on the ice floe with much of their gear taken from the ship. At first, the men tried camping on the ice floes, but this was abandoned temporarily when one of the ice floes cracked open as the men slept, tearing a tent apart and dropping its inhabitant, still inside his sleeping bag, into the icy waters. Shackleton, ever vigilant about the safety of his men, had sensed something was wrong (duhhhhh..., after the guy was yelling and screaming...!), and was right on the scene, immediately fishing the man out.
As the record shows...
--> Shackleton is hopeful that the men and dogs can pull the supplies and life boats across the ice floes until they reach open water, at which point they can set sail for Paulet Island, 346 miles to the northwest where they knew there were cached stores of food and supplies. He leads the "party", breaking the trail and trying to smooth the pressure ridges with a shovel and pick. But the wet snow soaks the men’s tents and sleeping bags and slows progress considerably. After only making it two miles in two days of marching, the plan is abandoned. The men will have to remain camped on a barren sheet of ice, where they must be careful that the ice does not crack and the killer whales do not rise to the surface and tip them into the freezing waters.... OR, serpentine-like Leopard seals do not slither over the edge of an ice floe to gobble up one or more of the crew!
After 2 months camped on the ice, Shackleton decides to attempt another march. The men once more leave in high spirits, but again, the progress is so painfully slow that the expedition is quickly abandoned. The men will have to camp for four more months as their icy home drifts for hundreds of miles, their lives completely at the mercy of nature. At one point, the coast of Antarctica comes within sight, but the way is blocked by ice, and Shackleton is forced to slowly slide away from his goal.
Here is the next in the series of British commemorative stamps, acknowledging the LONG period over which Shackleton and his men had to endure the winter spent on an ice floe and have PATIENCE and HOPE and ENDURANCE that it will end positively.... thanks to "The BOSS".
After almost another three months of living on ice, it finally melts sufficiently for the life boats boats to be launched. The men set off for Elephant Island, which is "ONLY" 30 miles away. After an arduous day of sailing and rowing, Shackleton feels hopeful they are almost there. But when their position is checked, they find they are now 60 miles from their destination—the current has carried them far off course...