The Most Amazing Survival Story Ever
This is a survival story to top all survival stories. It's about Ernest Shackleton and the Antarctic expedition he and his crew took on the Endurance. The plan was to sail to Antarctica, and cross the continent with sled dogs, it had never been done. The year was 1914, WW1 had just started, Shackleton was prepared to stay and fight but the government told him to go, the trip was set and paid for. On Aug 8 1914, they set off on the most amazing adventure ever. The trip was so amazing that now there are ships that go on Antarctic cruises, several every year for people who want to see where the Endurance expedition took place.
The hardships that these men went through, and the will to not be beaten by the weather and the enormous challenges that faced them, should be an inspiration to everyone to not give up when we face trials and challenges.
My first read of the story
I first read the book, Endurance, Shackletons incredible voyage, close to 10 years ago. It was one of those books that you start reading, and you can't put it down. Even though I knew the outcome, I was still in suspense. All the trials and unbelievable hardships they went through keeps you gripped in suspense. Several years later I picked up the audio book at the library and went through it again. Even the second time it was riveting.
The first leg of the expedition
They sailed to a Whaling station on South Georgia Island, to wait for the Ice to break up enough for them to start the expedition. On Dec. 5, Shackleton and his 27 crew members set sail for Antarctica. There were 9 crew members that kept journals so the trip was well documented. They started running into pack ice after 3 days. After 6 weeks the ice became much heavier and they got stuck in the ice.
After being stuck in the ice for a month, they saw open water 400 yards away from the ship. The worked for 2 days to try to cut and chop their way to the water. They could not make it. They were stuck in the ice 85 miles from land. They got ready to spend the winter on the ice. To keep moral up, they had to work everyday. They also played soccer on the ice, put on plays, and worked with the dogs.
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In May, the sun set for 3 months. The ice was moving in on the ship and crushing it. The Endurance started to tip to the side as the ice crushed it. They tried to chop it away so it would right itself but the ice was too thick. After 10 months stuck in the ice, they had to abandon the ship. The Endurance was tipped over so far and crushed to the point it was filling up with water. They loaded all the supplies they could into 3 lifeboats. The temperature was -27. They move away a bit and set up their tents. The Endurance completely broke up and sank 3 days later. They scavenged as much wood as they could from the ship and built a camp.
They were stuck on a moving ice flow on which they had moved about 150 miles since they became stuck. The ice was breaking up as the weather warmed, so they had to get in the boats. They started to head for Deception island. The food supplies were getting so low, and the weather so bad, they changed and headed for Elephant Island. They made it to Elephant Island, 497 days from the time they left the whaling station on South Georgia island.
There was a large population of seals on Elephant island so they had plenty eat. Other than that, it was the most inhospitable and desolate place you could find. Shackleton decided to take one of the lifeboats and 4 men and try to get to South Georgia Island, across 800 miles of the most violent ocean in the world.
They took food for 4 weeks. Navigation was extremely difficult, they were only able to get a sextant reading 2 times because the seas were so rough. 5 men in a 22 foot rowboat going across 800 miles of violent ocean trying to find a tiny island. After 14 days, they could see land, they were then hit by a hurricane, it took them 3 more days to get to the island. Because of the storm, they had to land on the opposite side of the island. There was no way to sail around the island.
Shackleton took 2 men and left 2 where they landed. They had to cross 22 miles of mountains and glaciers to get to the whaling station. They made the trip in 36 hours of non stop hiking and climbing. They went to pick up the other 2 men right away.
Back to Elephant island
After 3 days of resting up, Shackleton used a borrowed ship to go pick up his men. They were stopped by ice and had to turn back. 2 more times they tried and were turned back by ice. 3 months later he finally got back to Elephant island. Shackleton would not even get off the ship, they picked up the rest of the crew and headed back to the whaling station. They finally got back to England just over 2 years after they left. Not a single one of the 28 men on the expedition died.
After the return
After they got home, several of the men went to fight in the war. 1 of the men was killed in fighting, 2 more severely injured 6 weeks later.
Shackleton took one more trip back to South Georgia Island, he had a heart attack and died on the island at age 47. He was buried there on the island. Nova made a 2 hour documentary on the Endurance expedition. The links to the 11 video clips are linked below. They were blocked from being embedded. If you have the time, it is worth watching. If you can, get the audio book, or read the book. It is a great story.
A great video description of the Endurance story