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Fall Edition 2001

The 2nd Annual Fall Fundraiser of The Natural History Museum
Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure: A Story of Survival and Leadership

Men wanted for hazardous journey.
Small wages. Bitter Cold.
Long months of complete darkness.
Constant danger. Safe return doubtfull.
Honour and recognition in case of success
-Ernest Shackleton


In 1913 Sir Ernest Shackleton began preparing an expedition to make an 1,800 mile crossing of the Antarctic. With an ominous (but honest) advertisement for crew members the adventure began to take shape. As fate would have it the ship he purchased was named Polaris and he renamed it Endurance, a fitting name as time would tell.

The Antarctic is one of the most inhospitable environments on Earth. On this 5.5 million square continent covered by ice, snow, and glaciers, thousands of feet thick, survival is difficult with the best of circumstances, and nearly impossible given even normal conditions. For an expedition of 28 men to survive a disastrous adventure of twenty months in this world of ice is phenomenal. Their survival was due to Shackleton's gift of leadership combined with the strength and skill of the expedition members, and thanks to the help of fortuitous circumstances.

The expedition of 28 men, 69 Canadian sled dogs, and 1 cat set sail from Plymouth, England August 8,1914. The real adventure began Decemeber 5 when they left the islands of South Georgia, 800 miles north of the Antarctic Circle. By January 20th, 1915, before reaching the Antarctic shore, the ill-fated ship Endurance was locked in the ice-covered Weddel Sea. For ten months the ship remained trapped until it's destruction by the pressure of the ice on October 30th of 1915.

Following the loss of the Endurance, Shackleton and his men were then forced to abandon their ship and cross the ice by foot and by lifeboat to reach land. For the next six months the men and dogs hauled three lifeboats and all the supplies they could magage across the ice floes. In April of 1916 they finally spied mountain peaks across the ice and sea, and when the water had cleared enough, they made their way to shore.

By the middle of April a permanent camp had been set up on the solid ground of Elephant Island. After preparing camp and making sure that his men were safe, or as safe as possible, the larger of their lifeboats, the James Caird, was outfitted for a journey to the whaling station on South Georgia Island in the hopes of bringing back help to the men on Elephant Island.

On April 24,1916, Shackleton set out with five men and enough supplies for one month packed into the small boat. For the next 16 days the men braved the treacherous Antarctic Ocean and made their way to South Georgia Island, a miraculous journey of 800 miles!

They reached the island on May 10,but landed on the side opposite the whaling station. With their boat no longer seaworthy, Shackleton and two of the men made the 17 mile crossing of South Georgia Island on foot. Until then no one had ever ventured more than a mile from the shore. Upon reaching the whaling station the three men were taken in by the station manager who had arranged for the other three men to be picked up. Over dinner they discussed plans for rescuing the men on Elephant Island. Another three months would pass before the twenty-two men left behind were finally rescued on August 30,1916. So ended the amazing story of Shackleton and his men.

In addition to the Endurance, there was another ship in the expedition, the Aurora. This ship carried a crew of men who had laid out a string of supply depots across the Antarctic to be used on Shackleton's planned trek. Seven men, of this crew, were stranded on the other side of Antarctic, and only four survived the 1,800 mile, two year, journey by dogsled across the icy wilderness. This however, is a tale for another time.

References: The Endurance, Caroline Alexander; South, Sir Ernest Shackleton; Shackleton's Forgotten Men, Lennard Bickel.Photos by Frank Hurley.

Endurance: Shakleton's Antarctic Adventure

Presented By Bob Briggs

Join the Natural History Museum for our 2nd annual Fall Fundraiser on Novemeber 4th from 2pm to 4pm.

We will present "Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure: A Story of Survival and Leadership" by Bob Briggs of Santa Barbara, and adventure traveler and expert on Shackleton's Endurance adventure. Mr. Briggs will present his fascination lecture and slide presentation at the Minerva Club in Santa Maria. This program is a result of his fascination with Shakleton's epic adventure and combines many of his slides of the Antarctic along with original pictures taken by the famous Australian photographer, Frank Hurley, the expedition's offical photographer. Advance reservations are strongly recommended.

Please call (805)614-0806 for more information. Ticket prices are $25 per person and include a wine reception.




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