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Shackleton's Voyage of Endurance

April 9-10 night #1 To see this portion of the diary in the original, click the image above.
Diary of a Survivor
Night of 9th - 10th April 1916

Whilst hauling up the boats, which took a good hour to do, the cook had got our blubber stove going on blubber that we had brought with us and produced a fine beverage of hot milk (36 ozs. Trumilk powder for 28 persons) which we stood in much need of. As we had had a quarter of a pound of dog-pemmican and two biscuits each, in the boats for tea, it was not considered necessary to supplement this, so we made do with the milk, and having erected the tents turned in.

One or two of us whose turn it was to do night watchman from 11 p.m. to midnight lay down in the bottom of one of the boats.

The night was fairly mild so that they did not get particularly cold before all hands were awakened, just before 11 p.m., by the now familiar cry of "crack." We jumped up just in time to see, as much as it was possible to do so in the dark, the floe separate into two halves and to hear the cry and commotion of a man in the water. The latter was the sailor Holness and his position was one of extreme danger, for apart from the usual restrictions of clothing, boots, etc., and the fact that his sleeping bag had fallen in on top of him, he was in imminent peril of being crushed between the two halves of the floe, for as a general rule when a floe splits and there is a swell running the two portions of the floe surge to and fro, the crack opening and closing rythmically [sic] with the swell, the edges thereof coming together with a crash and grinding against each other. Providentially, on this occasion, the two fragments merely parted company, separated about six feet from each other and thereafter did not approach with a yard of one another. This was well enough for the rescue of the drowning man but greatly impeded subsequent events.

It appeared that the crack had occurred immediately underneath the sailors' tent—the large 8 man hoop tent—right through the spot where Holness was sleeping. How he extricated himself from his sleeping bag is a marvel as he got clear of it before he actually fell into the water for his bag did not go entirely in but remained hanging over the ice edge.

Vincent, another of the sailors, also had a narrow shave, he did not fall in but his bag did.

"Curiously enough it was Sir Ernest himself who rescued Holness."
Strange to say the tent sustained no damage whatever.

This was not all by any means, for the crack had cut off Sir Ernest's tent and the "J. Caird" from the rest of our little floating camp and it was a question whether we could contrive to "bridge" the boat over the now widening crack, the first care, the rescue of Holness, having been satisfactorily accomplished.

Curiously enough it was Sir Ernest himself who rescued Holness. No doubt he was spending one of his usual wakeful nights and so was up and out in an instant. First he saved Holness's sleeping bag and then the man himself, whose chief lament was that he had thus lost all the "baccy" out of his bag. We have since learned from the victim of this accident that he attributes his escape to the precaution he had taken to sleep with only the lowest one of the three buttons on the flap of the bag fastened, owing to the scare that previous crackings of the floe had given him. Lt. Hudson very generously divested himself of some of his own clothing and also a spare suit of combinations in order to provide Holness with a dry change, for, as the temperature was only 18°, he would soon have been frozen in his wet things.

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