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Shackleton's Voyage of Endurance Timeline 1914-1916
When he left South Georgia Island on December 5, 1914 in his bid to be the first to cross the Antarctic continent, Ernest Shackleton had no idea that the next bit of land he touched (save for remote Elephant Island) would be that very same South Georgia - a year and a half later and after having not so much as set foot on the Antarctic continent. The story of what happened in between, outlined below, constitutes one of the most stupendous polar survival sagas of all time. For more specifics on the expedition and its 28 members, see the dispatches and Meet Shackleton's team, respectively.



1914 The Endurance enters the pack ice on the way to Antarctica.

August 1
Endurance departs London the same day Germany declares war on Russia

August 4
Shackleton offers his ship and crew to British government for war effort

August 8
After Shackleton receives one-word telegram from Admiralty ("Proceed"), Endurance departs Plymouth

October 26
With final crew on board, Endurance leaves Buenos Aires, Argentina for South Georgia

December 5
Departs Grytviken whaling station, South Georgia - last time crew would touch land for 497 days

December 7
Enters the Antarctic pack ice

December 30
Endurance crosses Antarctic Circle


1915 Heeled over by the unrelenting force of the pack ice, the Endurance awaits a splintery end.

January 10
First sighting of Antarctic continent (Coats Land)

January 18
Endurance becomes beset in the pack ice

February 22
Drifts to 77th parallel in Vahsel Bay, farthest south the ship will reach

February 24
Shackleton orders halt to ship routine

May 1
Sun vanishes for season, not to reappear for four months

June 22
Crew celebrates Midwinter's Day with a feast

August 27
Frank Hurley takes famous nighttime photos of Endurance

September 2
Pressure ice makes the Endurance, according to Perce Blackborow, "literally [jump] into the air and [settle] on its beam."

October 27
At 5 p.m., Shackleton gives order to abandon the Endurance

November 1
After futile, three-day attempt to march over the ice, Shackleton has crew erect Ocean Camp

November 21
With a single cry of "She's going, boys!" Shackleton and his crew watch Endurance sink

December 23
Crew again begins march toward open water, averaging just a mile and a half a day

December 29
Shackleton abandons march, sets up Patience Camp



1916 Crew members launch the James Caird from Elephant Island.

January 21
Blizzard blows the camp north across Antarctic Circle

February 29
In honor of Leap Year Day, crew enjoys three full meals

March 30
On Shackleton's orders, the crew shoots the remaining dogs (originally numbering 69) and eats the younger ones

March 31
The ice floe they are on splits in two, separating them from the three lifeboats, but they get them back

April 7
Elephant Island appears on the horizon

April 9
Crew goes to sea in the three lifeboats, the James Caird, the Dudley Docker, and the Stancomb Wills

April 16
After seven grueling days at sea, lifeboats land safely on Elephant Island

April 17
Shackleton moves camp seven miles to the west, to a spot that comes to be known as Cape Wild—after Frank Wild, who found it

text The James Caird shortly before her epic voyage to South Georgia.
April 20
Shackleton announces that he will attempt to sail the 22-and-a-half-foot James Caird 800 miles to South Georgia

April 24
Shackleton and five others depart for South Georgia in James Caird

May 10
After 17 days in stormy seas, and with superior navigation by Frank Worsley, the James Caird miraculously arrives on the west coast of South Georgia

May 19
Shackleton, Worsley, and Crean set off to cross South Georgia's glacier-clad peaks to east-coast whaling stations

May 20
Having trekked without a break for 36 hours over glacier-clad mountains thousands of feet high, Shackleton, Worsley, and Crean arrive at Stromness whaling station

May 23
Shackleton, Worsley, and Crean depart on the English-owned Southern Sky to rescue men on Elephant Island, but are stopped by ice 100 miles short of the island

June 10
Uruguayan government loans the survey ship Instituto de Pesca No 1, which comes within sight of Elephant Island before pack ice turns it back

July 12
Chartered by the British Association, the schooner Emma sets out from Punta Arenas, but gets to within 100 miles of Elephant Island before storms and ice force it to return


text With the Yelcho heaving into view on the horizon, members of an ecstatic Elephant Island crew build a smoky fire (upper left) to signal her.
August 25
Chilean authorities loan the Yelcho, a small steamer, which sets sail with Shackleton, Worsley, and Crean for Elephant Island

August 30
"I felt jolly near blubbing for a bit & could not speak for several minutes," Wild wrote about seeing Shackleton arrive with the Yelcho, which rescued the party on this day, 22 months after they'd set out from South Georgia.



Chief source: The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition, by Caroline Alexander (Knopf, 1998).

Photos: Frank Hurley. Courtesy of The Macklin Collection.


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