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Shackleton's Voyage of Endurance
Questions and Responses #3
Posted October 29, 1999
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Dear Crew,
In your dispatch of Oct. 23rd you described 20-foot waves and fairly violent pitching and rolling. On the 24th you said that the weather had moderated to 15-foot swells. We were wondering if there is a difference between "waves" and "swells." Somehow "swells" sounds more benign.

According to U.S. satellite information, "significant wave heights" of 36 feet occur every few days in some parts of the Southern Ocean. Since "significant wave height" is the average height of every third wave taken over a twenty-minute period, the maximum wave height can be significantly higher - as much as twice as high. Whew! Are you keeping your fingers crossed that you won't encounter seas like that? Or are you hoping to endure conditions as bad as Shackleton's expedition?

We appreciated the difficulty of both catching and eating your meals. Are there other areas of life that are difficult in a wildly tossing ship? Are you able to sleep? Do you fall off the toilet? Can you brush your teeth? Has anyone lost her balance and fallen on deck?

We want to thank you for all the vivid details that make us feel as though we were there (even though we are enjoying our steady floor).

Aubrey, Nathaniel, Emily, and Claire
The Crane School
Response from Kelly Tyler:
Dear Aubrey, Nathaniel, Emily and Claire,
Thanks for keeping me on my toes—I should be more precise! A swell is generated over a longer period of time and distance, while a wave is a smaller, more local phenomenon related to local winds. [Editor's note: Webster's dictionary defines a swell as "a long, often massive and crestless wave or succession of waves often continuing beyond or after its cause (as a gale)."]

To be precise, I was speaking of the distance between trough and peak, and I cited the maximum estimated swell for each day. Those estimates came courtesy of several expert seamen and surfers we have on board!

Frank Worsley and Ernest Shackleton reported that the wave that engulfed the James Caird in the Drake Passage was 100 feet high. I've heard a firsthand account from an Antarctic scientist about his personal experience of an 80-foot wave in the Drake. So our five-day passage was comparatively moderate.

The adage "one hand for the ship" is what saves you in rough seas. You always have to hold on with at least one hand. No one has fallen that I know of, but you do tend to have trouble in small spaces. The passages in the ship are narrow, so one good lurch and you hit the wall. My personal favorite has been the tiny bathroom in my cabin. One unexpected toss and I get thrown into the shower handle and drenched, fully clothed—four times so far! On the rougher nights, you do slide in bed a bit. After a few days of this, your muscles can get kind of tense from resisting it. And I was so disoriented the first day that I needed to take medication. Luckily I never got very ill, and I felt better and was able to work quite soon.

Absolutely no objects could be left on surfaces in rooms. The dining tables have little rails on each side. And the ship's staff has a neat trick: They dampen down the table cloths so they stick to the table, so the whole works doesn't fly off a la Houdini.

The full intensity of the Drake is felt when travelling between the Antarctic Peninsula and Tierra del Fuego. So keep an eye on Dispatches in late November, when we're sailing back to Ushuaia! It could be a bumpy ride! I'm not hoping for Shackleton's troubles!

What a great site. I will follow the expedition with interest. Isn't it ironic that Shackleton seems so well known in the U.S. but is overshadowed in the U.K. by Scott. I am making a model of the open boat used in the journey.

Do you know of a line drawing of it rather than a photograph that I could use to get dimensions from?

Alan Brannon
Co. Durham, United Kingdom
Response from Kelly Tyler:
Dear Alan,
I don't know offhand, down here in the Antarctic, but I'm happy to point you to a likely source. There's a wonderful book by Harding McGregor Dunnett called Shackleton's Boat: The Story of the James Caird (Cranbrook, Kent, U.K.: Neville & Harding, 1996), which must give the exact dimensions. Good luck.

How cold is the air and water temperatures now?

Troy Warner
U of U
Salt Lake City, UT
Response from Kelly Tyler:
Dear Troy,
We're featuring air and water temperature, wind direction and speed, and other daily information in Dispatches.

Me dirijo a ustedes en espanol, pues el idioma inlges no lo domino. Desearia que tengan el agrado y paciencia primero de traducir el mensaje y segundo de enviarme informacion de la expedicion Shackleton 99, y todo lo referente a las actividades de Nova. Me interesa todo lo relacionado a la Antartida. Libros, estampillas, tarjetas.Desde ya muy agradecido, y que el espiritu de aventura y de conocimiento los acompane. Jose Luis Cabeza desde LONGCHAMPS cuna de la aviacion Sudamericana (Agentina).

Jose Luis Cabeza
Longchamps, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Response from Kelly Tyler:
Dear Jose Luis,
I'm sorry I'm not able to respond in Spanish! Check out Resources for this site and also a previous NOVA Web site, Warnings from the Ice.

In his book Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage, Alfred Lansing says that there was going to be a second ship that would land on the other side of Antarctica and leave caches of supplies all the way to the South Pole. Then Shackleton and his party were supposed to use these supplies as they traveled across Antarctica. What ever happened to this second ship?

Gordon Miller
home school
North Branch, MI
Response from Kelly Tyler:
Dear Gordon,
The second ship was called the Aurora, and her captain was Aeneas Mackintosh. The story of the depot-laying party is told in our feature, Shackleton's Lost Men.

Dear Mr. Tyler,
Maybe you can conduct a brief interview with each of the crew members in the picture (see Meet the 1999 Team). I'm curious to know where they are from and how they ended up on this exciting mission.

Thank you for the wonderful updates.

Los Angeles, CA
Response from Kelly Tyler:
Dear Logan,
I hope you'll take a look at Dispatches to get to know our crew members throughout the expedition. And by the way, it's Ms. Tyler!

Thank you for the show that you are planning to air regarding the Antarctic exploits of Shackleton. I first read about his story during my sophomore year in high school back in '70-'71 and he has been one of my heroes ever since. The rest of the world will finally catch up with what I have been boasting about for 30 years: one of the greatest stories of survival and sheer will-power ever. This is not a made-up Hollywood story, this was the real thing! Many thanks once again!

Gilbert Alcorta
San Antonio, TX

My good friend Leah's great-grandfather was the head of this expedition!

Boston, MA

I recently read Endurance by Alfred Lansing...GREAT BOOK!! My husband is currently reading it and we are SO EXCITED to discover your journey, too!

Can't wait for the IMAX film to come out, and we are looking forward to your updates...Praying for wisdom and safety as you travel! Enjoy your adventure!

(name withheld by request)

To George Butler and team,
Making this film will be very tough for you and no doubt you will experience something of what Shackleton's men went through, but hopefully not all their experiences!

Good luck to you all, I am with you in spirit.


John Blackborow
Newport, South Wales

[Editor's note: John Blackborow is the son of Perce Blackborow, crew member of the Endurance expedition.]

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