tea & cakes
from south by ernest shackleton
Shackleton's ship (the Endurance) was stuck in the antarctic ice from january
to october 1915, when it was finally crushed. The crew camped on the ice until
the following april, by which time it had drifted to the open sea. They
then sailed in lifeboats to nearby Elephant Island where they once again camped.
Shackleton with five of the crew then sailed one of the lifeboats 800 miles
to South Georgia to get help. They landed on the uninhabited west coast of the
island and had to walk across it to get to a whaling station.
We turned in early that night, but sleep did not come to me. My
mind was busy with the task of the following day. The weather
was clear and the outlook for an early start in the morning was
good. We were going to leave a weak party behind us in the
camp. Vincent was still in the same conditon, and he could not
march. McNeish was pretty well broken up.
The two men were
not capable of managing for themselves and McCarthy must stay to look after them. He
might have a difficult task if we failed to reach the whaling station.
The distance to Husvik, according to the chart, was no more than
seventeen geographical miles in a direct line, but we had very
scanty knowledge of the conditions of the interior. No man had
ever penetrated a mile from the coast of South Georgia at any point,
and the whalers I knew regarded the country as inaccessible.
During that day, while we were walking to the snouted glacier, we had seen three wild
duck flying towards the head of the bay from the eastward. I hoped
that the presence of these birds indicated tussock land and not snow
fields and glaciers in the interior, but the hope was not a very
We turned out at 2 a.m. on the Friday morning and had
our hoosh ready an hour later. The full moon was shining in a
practically cloudless sky, its rays reflected gloriously from the
pinnacles and crevassed ice of the adjacent glaciers. The huge
peaks of the mountains stood in bold relief against the sky and
threw dark shadows on the waters of the sound. There was no
need for delay, and we made a start as soon as we had eaten our
meal. McNeish walked about 200 yds. with us; he could do no
more. Then we said good-bye and he turned back to the camp.
The first task was to get round the edge of the snouted glacier,
which had points like fingers projecting towards the sea. The
waves were reaching the points of these fingers, and we had to
rush from one across to another when the waters receded. We
soon reached the east side of the glacier and noticed its great
activity at this point. Changes had occurred within the preceding
twentyfour hours. Some huge pieces had broken off, and the
masses of mud and stone that were being driven before the
advancing ice showed movement. The glacier was like a gigantic
plough driving irresistibly towards the sea.
Lying on the beach beyond the glacier was wreckage that told of
many ill-fated ships. We noticed stanchions of teakwood,
liberally carved that must have come from ships of the older
type; ironbound timbers with the iron almost rusted through;
battered barrels and all the usual debris of the ocean. We had
difficulties and anxieties of our own, but as we passed that
graveyard of the sea we thought of the many tragedies written in
the wave-worn fragments of lost vessels. We did not pause, and
soon we were ascending a snow slope, heading due east on the
last lap of our long trail.
The snow surface was disappointing. Two days before we had
been able to move rapidly on hard, packed snow; now we sank
over our ankles at each step and progress was slow. After two
hours' steady climbing we were 2500 ft. above sea level. The
weather continued fine and calm, and as the
ridges drew nearer and the western coast of the island spread
out below, the bright moonlight showed us that the interior was
broken tremendously. High peaks, impassable cliffs, steep snow
slopes, and sharply descending glaciers were prominent features
in all directions, with stretches of snow plain overlaying the ice
sheet of the interior. The slope we were ascending mounted to a
ridge and our course lay direct to the top. The moon, which
proved a good friend during this journey, threw a long shadow
at one point and told us that the surface was broken in our path.
Warned in time, we avoided a huge hole capable of swallowing
an army. The bay was now about three miles away, and the
continued roaring of a big glacier at the head of the bay came to
our ears. This glacier, which we had noticed during the stay at
Peggotty Camp, seemed to be calving almost continuously.
I had hoped to get a view of the country ahead of us from the
top of the slope, but as the surface became more level beneath
our feet, a thick fog drifted down. The moon became obscured
and produced a diffused light that was more trying than
darkness, since it illuminated the fog without guiding our steps.
We roped ourselves together as a precaution against holes,
crevasses, and precipices, and I broke trail through the soft
snow. With almost the full length of the rope between myself
and the last man we were able to steer an approximately straight
course, since, if I veered to the right or the left when marching into
the blank wall of the fog, the last man on the rope could shout a
So, like a ship with its "port", "starboard", "steady," we
tramped through the fog for the next two hours.
Then, as daylight came, the fog thinned and lifted, and from an
elevation of about 3000 ft. we looked down on what seemed to
be a huge frozen lake with its farther shores still obscured by the
fog. We halted there to eat a bit of biscuit while we discussed
whether we would go down and cross the flat surface of the lake,
or keep on the ridge we had already reached. I decided to go down, since the lake lay on
our course. After an hour of comparatively easy travel
through the snow we noticed the thin beginnings of
crevasses. Soon they were increasing in size and showing
fractures, indicating that we were traveling on a glacier. As the
daylight brightened the fog dissipated; the lake could be seen
more clearly, but still we could not discover its east shore. A
little later the fog lifted completely, and then we saw that our
lake stretched to the horizon, and realized suddenly that we
were looking down upon the open sea on the east coast of the
island. The slight pulsation at the shore showed that the sea
was not even frozen; it was the bad light that had deceived
Evidently we were at the top of Possession Bay, and the
island at that point could not be more than five miles across
from the head of King Haakon Bay. Our rough chart was
inaccurate. There was nothing for it but to start up the glacier
That was about seven o'clock in the morning, and by
nine o'clock we had more than recovered our lost ground. We
regained the ridge and then struck southeast, for the chart
showed that two more bays indented the coast before
It was comforting to realize that we would have the
eastern water in sight during our journey, although we could
see there was no way around the shoreline owing to steep
cliffs and glaciers. Men lived in houses lit by electric light on
the east coast. News of the outside world waited us there,
and, above all, the east coast meant for us the means of
rescuing the twenty-two men we had left on Elephant Island.
THE SUN ROSE in the sky with every appearance of a fine day,
and we grew warmer as we toiled through the soft snow.
Ahead of us lay the ridges and spurs of a range of mountains,
the transverse range that we had noticed from the bay. We
were traveling over a gently rising plateau, and at the end of
an hour we found ourselves growing uncomfortably hot.
Years before, on an earlier expedition, I had declared that I
would never again growl at the heat of the sun, and my
resolution had been strengthened during the boat journey. I
called it to mind as the sun beat fiercely on the blinding white
snow slope. After passing an area of crevasses we paused for
our first meal. We dug a hole in the snow about three feet
deep with the adze and put the Primus into it. There was no
wind at the moment, but a gust might come suddenly. A hot
hoosh was soon eaten and we plodded on towards a sharp
ridge between two of the peaks already mentioned. By 11 a.m.
we were almost at the crest.
The slope had become precipitous
and it was necessary to cut steps as we advanced. The adze
proved an excellent instrument for this purpose, a blow
sufficing to provide a foothold. Anxiously but hopefully I cut
the last few steps and stood upon the razorback, while the
other men held the rope and waited for my news. The outlook
was disappointing. I looked down a sheer precipice to a chaos
of crumpled ice 1500 ft. below. There was no way down for us.
The country to the east was a great snow upland, sloping
upwards for a distance of seven or eight miles to a height of
over 4000 ft. To the north it fell away steeply in glaciers into
the bays, and to the south it was broken by huge outfalls from
the inland ice sheet. Our path
lay between the glaciers and the outfalls, but first we had to descend
from the ridge on which me stood.
Cutting steps with the adze, we moved in a lateral direction round the
base of a dolomite, which blocked our view to the north. The same
precipice confronted us. Away to the northeast there appeared to be a
snow slope that might give a path to the lower country, and so we
retraced our steps down the long slope that had taken us three hours
to climb. We were at the bottom in an hour. We were now feeling the
strain of the unaccustomed marching. We had done little hiking since
January and our muscles were out of tune.
_Skirting the base of the mountain above us, we came to a gigantic
bergschrund a mile & a half long and 1000 ft. deep. This
tremendous gully, cut in the snow and ice by the fierce winds blowing
round the mountain, was semicircular in form, and it ended in a gentle
incline. We passed through it, under the towering precipice of ice, and
at the far end we had another meal and a short rest. This was at 12:30
p.m. Half a pot of steaming Bovril ration warmed us up, and when we
marched again ice inclines at angles of 45 degrees did not look quite as
formidable as before.
Once more we started for the crest. After another weary climb we
reached the top. The snow lay thinly on blue ice at the ridge, and we
had to cut steps over the last fifty yards. The same precipice lay
below, and my eyes searched vainly for a way down. The hot sun had
loosened the snow, which was now in a treacherous condition, and we
had to pick our way carefully. Looking back, we could see that a fog
was rolling up behind us and meeting in the valleys a fog that was
coming up from the east. The creeping grey clouds were a plain
warning that we must get down to lower levels before becoming
The ridge was studded with peaks, which prevented us getting a clear
view either to the right or to the left. The situation in this respect
seemed no; better at other points within our reach,
and I had to decide that our course lay back the way
we had come. The afternoon was wearing on and the fog was rolling up
ominously from the west. It was of the utmost importance for us to
get down into the next valley before dark. We were now up 4500 ft.
and the night temperature at that elevation would be very low. We had
no tent and no sleeping bags, and our clothes had endured much rough
usage and had weathered many storm during the last ten months. In
the distance, down the valley below us, we could see tussock grass
close to the shore, and if we could get down it might be possible to dig
out a hole in one of the lower snowbanks, line it with dry grass, and
make ourselves fairly comfortable for the night.
Back we went, and
after a detour we reached the top of another ridge in the fading light.
After a glance over the top I turned to the anxious faces of the two
men behind me and said, "Come on, boys." Within a minute they
stood beside me on the ice ridge. The surface fell away at a sharp
incline in front of us, but it merged into a snow slope. We could not
see the bottom clearly owing to mist and bad light, and the possibility
of the slope ending in a sheer fall occurred to us; but the fog that was
creeping up behind allowed no time for hesitation. We descended
slowly at first, cutting steps in the hard snow; then the surface became
softer, indicating that the gradient was less severe. There could be no
turning back now, so we unroped and slid in the fashion of youthful
days. When we stopped on a snow bank at the foot of the slope we
found that we had descended at least 900 ft. in two or three minutes.
We looked back and saw the grey fingers of the fog appearing on the
ridge, as though reaching after the intruders into untrodden wilds. But
we had escaped.
The country to the east was an ascending snow upland dividing the
glaciers of the north coast from the outfalls of the south. We had seen
from the top that our course lay between two huge masses of
crevasses, and we thought that
the road ahead lay clear. This belief and the increasing cold made us
abandon the idea of camping.
We had another meal at 6 p.m.. A little
breeze made cooking difficult in spite of the shelter provided for the
cooker by a hole. Crean was the cook and Worsley and I lay on the
snow to windward of the lamp so as to break the wind with our bodies.
The meal over, we started up the long, gentle ascent. Night was upon
us, and for an hour we plodded along m almost complete darkness,
watching warily for signs of crevasses. Then about 8 p.m. a glow which
we had seen behind the jagged peaks resolved itself into the full moon,
which rose ahead of us and made a silver pathway for our feet.
that pathway in the wake of the moon we advanced in safety, with the
shadows cast by the edges of crevasses showing black on either side of
us. Onwards and upwards through soft snow we marched, resting now
and then on hard patches which had revealed themselves by glittering
ahead of us in the white light. By midnight we were again at an
elevation of about 4000 ft. Still we were following the light, as the
moon swung round towards the northeast our path curved in that
direction. The friendly moon seemed to pilot our weary feet. We could
have had no better guide. If in bright daylight we had made that march
we would have followed the course that was traced for us that night.
Midnight found us approaching the edge of a great snow field, pierced
by isolated nunataks which cast long shadows like black rivers across
the white expanse. A gentle slope to the northeast lured our all-too-
willing feet in that direction. We thought that at the base of the slope
lay Stromness Bay. After we had descended about 300 ft. a thin wind
began to attack us. We had now been on the march for over twenty
hours, only halting for our occasional meals. Wisps of cloud drove over
the high peaks to the southward, warning us that wind and snow were
likely to come. After 1 a.m. we cut a pit in the snow, piled up loose
snow around it, and started the Primus again.
The hot food gave us another renewal of energy.
Worsley and Crean sang their old songs when the Primus was going
merrily. Laughter was in our hearts, though not on our parched and
We were up and away again within half an hour, still downward to the
coast. We felt almost sure now that we were above Stromness Bay. A
dark object down at the foot of the slope looked like Mutton Island,
which lies off Husvik. I suppose our desires were giving wings to our
fancies, for we pointed out joyfully various landmarks revealed by the
now vagrant light of the moon, whose friendly face was cloud-swept.
Our high hopes were soon shattered. Crevasses warned us that we were
on another glacier, and soon we looked down almost to the seaward
edge of the great riven ice mass. I knew there was no glacier in
Stromness and realized that this must be Fortuna Glacier. The
disappointment was severe. Back we turned and tramped up the glacier
again, not directly tracing our steps but working at a tangent to the
southeast. We were very tired.
At 5 a.m. we were at the foot of the rocky spurs of the range. We were
tired, and the wind that blew down from the
heights was chilling us. We decided to get down under the lee of a
rock for a rest. We put our sticks and the adze on the snow, sat down
on them as close to one another as
possible and put our arms round each other. The wind was
bringing a little drift with it and the white dust lay on our clothes. I thought
that we might be able to keep warn and have half an hour's rest this way.
Within a minute my two
companions were fast asleep. I realized that it would be disaster if we
all slumbered together, for sleep under such conditions merges into
death. After five minutes I shook them into consciousness again, told
them that they had slept for half an hour, and gave the word for a fresh
start. We were so stiff that for the first two or three hundred yards we
marched with our knees bent. A jagged line of peaks with a gap like a
broken tooth confronted us. This was the ridge that runs in a
southerly direction from Fortuna Bay, and our course eastward
to Stromness lay across it. A very steep slope led up to the
ridge and an icy wind burst through the gap.
We went through the gap at 6 a.m. with anxious hearts as well
as weary bodies. If the farther slope had proved impassable
our situation would have been almost desperate; but the worst
was turning to the best for us. The twisted, wave-like rock
formations of Husvik Harbor appeared, right ahead in the
opening of dawn. Without a word we shook hands with one
another. To our minds the journey was over, though as a
matter of fact twelve miles of difficult country had still to be
traversed. A gentle snow slope descended at our feet to a
valley that separated our ridge from the hills immediately
behind Husvik, and as we stood gazing Worsley said
solemnly. "Boss, it looks too good to be true!" Down we went,
to be checked presently by the sight of water 2500 ft. below.
We could see the little wave ripples on the black beach,
penguins strutting to and fro, and dark objects that looked like
seals lolling lazily on the sand. This was an eastern arm of
Fortuna Bay, separated by the ridge from the arm we had seen
below us during the night. The slope we were traversing
appeared to end in a precipice above this beach. But our
revived spirits were not to be damped by difficulties on the
last stage of the journey, and we camped cheerfully for
breakfast. While Worsley and Crean were digging a hole for
the lamp and starting the cooker I climbed a ridge above us,
cutting steps with the adze, in order to secure an extended
view of the country below. At 6:30 a.m. I thought I heard the
sound of a stem whistle. I dared not be certain, but I knew that
the men at the whaling station would be called from their beds
about that time. Descending to the camp I told the others, and
in intense excitement we watched the chronometer for seven
o'clock, when the whalers would be summoned to work. Right
to the minute the whistle came to us, borne clearly on the wind across the
intervening miles of rock and snow. Never had any one of us
heard sweeter music. It was the first sound created by outside
human agency that had come to our ears since we left
Stromness Bay in December 1914. That whistle told us that
men were living near, that ships were ready, and that within a
few hours we should be on our way back to Elephant Island to
the rescue of the men waiting there under the watch and ward
of Wild. It was a moment hard to describe. Pain and ache, boat
journeys, marches, hunger and fatigue seemed to belong to
the limbo of forgotten things, and there remained only the
perfect contentment that comes of work accomplished.
My examination of the country from a higher point had not
provided definite information, and after descending I put the
situation before Worsley and Crean. Our obvious course lay
down a snow slope in the direction of Husvik. "Boys," I said,
"this snow slope seems to end in a precipice, but perhaps
there is no precipice. If we don't go down we shall have to
make a detour of at least five miles before we reach level
going. What shall it be?" They both replied at once. "Try the
slope." So we started away again downwards. We abandoned
the Primus lamp, now empty, at the breakfast camp and carried
with us one ration and a biscuit each. The deepest snow we
had yet encountered clogged our feet, but we plodded
downward, and after descending about 500 ft. reducing our
altitude to 2000 ft. above sea level, we thought we saw the
way clear ahead. A steep gradient of blue ice was the next
obstacle. Worsley and Crean got a firm footing in a hole
excavated with the adze and then lowered me as I cut steps
until the full 50 ft. of our alpine rope was out. Then I made a
hole big enough for the three of us, and the other two men
came down the steps. My end of the rope was anchored to the
adze and I had settled myself in the hole braced for a strain in
case they slipped. When we all stood
in the second hole I went down again to make more steps, and in this
laborious fashion we spent two hours descending about 500 ft. Half
way down we had to strike away diagonally to the left, for we noticed
that the fragments of ice loosened by the adze were taking a leap into
space at the bottom of the slope. Eventually we got off the steep ice,
very gratefully, at a point where some rocks protruded and we could see
then that there was a perilous precipice directly below
the point where we had started to cut steps. A slide down
a slippery slope, with the adze and our cooker going ahead,
completed this descent, and incidentally did considerable damage to
our much-tried trousers.
When we picked ourselves up at the bottom we were not more than
1500 ft. above the sea. The slope was comparatively easy. Water was
running beneath the snow, making "pockets" between the rocks that
protruded above the white surface. The shells of snow over these
pockets were traps for our feet; but we scrambled down, and presently came to
patches of tussock. A few minutes later we reached the sandy beach.
The tracks of some animals were to be seen, and we were puzzled
until I remembered that reindeer, brought from Norway, had
been placed on the island and now ranged along the lower land of
the eastern coast. We did not pause to investigate. Our minds were
set upon reaching the haunts of man, and at our best speed we went
along the beach to another rising ridge of tussock. Here we saw the
first evidence of the proximity of man, whose work, as is so often the
case, was one of destruction. A recently killed seal was lying there,
and presently we saw several other bodies bearing the marks of bullet
wounds. I learned that men from the whaling station at Stromness
sometimes go round to Fortuna Bay by boat to shoot seals.
Noon found us well up the slope on the other side of the bay working
east-southeast, and half an hour later we were on a flat plateau, with
one more ridge to cross before we descended into Husvik.
I was leading the way over this plateau when
I suddenly found myself up to my knees in water and quickly
sinking deeper through the snow crust. I flung myself down and
called to the others to do the same, so as to distribute our weight on
the treacherous surface. We were on top of a small lake, snow-
covered. After lying still for a few moments, we got to our feet and
walked delicately, like Agag, for 200 yds., until a rise in the surface
showed us that we were clear of the lake.
At 1:30 p.m. we climbed round a final ridge and saw a little steamer, a
whaling boat, entering the bay 2500 ft. below. A few moments later,
as he hurried forward, the masts of a sailing ship lying at a wharf
came in sight. Minute figures moving to and fro about the boats
caught our gaze, and then we saw the sheds and factory of Stromness
whaling station. We paused and shook hands, a form of mutual
congratulation that had seemed necessary on four other occasions in
the course of the expedition. The first time was when we landed on
Elephant Island, the second when me reached South Georgia, and the
third when me reached the ridge and saw the snow slope stretching
below on the first day of the overland journey, then when we saw
Cautiously we started down the slope that led to warmth and
comfort. The last lap of the journey proved extraordinarily difficult.
Vainly me searched for a safe, or a reasonably safe, way down from
the steep ice-clad mountainside. The sole possible pathway seemed
to be a channel cut by water running from the upland. Down through
icy water we followed the course of this stream. We were wet to
the waist, shivering, cold, and tired. Presently our ears detected an
unwelcome sound that might have been musical under other
conditions. It was the splashing of a waterfall, and we were at the
wrong end. When we reached the top of this fall we peered over
cautiously and discovered that there was a drop of 25 or 30 ft., with
impassable ice cliffs on both sides. To
go up again was scarcely thinkable in our utterly wearied
condition. The way down was through the waterfall itself.
made fast one end of our rope to a boulder with some
difficulty, due to the fact that the rocks had been worn smooth
by the running water. Then Worsley and I lowered Crean, who
was the heaviest man. He disappeared altogether in the falling
water and came out gasping at the bottom. I went next, sliding
down the rope, and Worsley, who was the lightest and most
nimble member of the party, came last. At the bottom of the fall
we were able to stand again on dry land. The rope could not be
recovered. We had flung down the adze from the top of the fall
and also the logbook and the cooker wrapped in one of our
blouses. That was all, except our wet clothes, that we brought
out of the Antarctic, which we had entered a year and a half
before with well-found ship, full equipment and high hopes.
That was all of tangible things; but in memories we were rich. We
had pierced the veneer of outside things. We had "suffered,
starved, and triumphed, groveled down yet grasped at glory,
grown bigger in the bigness of the whole." We had seen God
in his splendors, heard the text that Nature renders. We had
reached the naked soul of man.
Shivering with cold, yet with hearts light and happy, we set off
towards the whaling station, now not more than a mile and a
half distant. The difficulties of the journey lay behind us. We
tried to straighten ourselves up a bit, for the thought that there
might be women at the station made us painfully conscious of
our uncivilized appearance. Our beards were long and our hair
was matted. We were unwashed and the garments that we had
worn for nearly a year without a change were tattered and
stained. Three more unpleasant-looking ruffians could hardly
have been imagined. Worsley produced several safety pins
from some corner of his garments and effected some temporary
repairs that really emphasized his general disrepair. Down we
hurried, and when quite close to the station we met two small boys ten
or twelve years of age. I asked these lads where the manager's
house was situated. They did not answer. They gave us one
look -a comprehensive look that did not need to be repeated.
Then they ran from us as fast as their legs would carry them.
We reached the outskirts of the station and passed through
the "digesting-house," which was dark inside. Emerging at the
other end, we met an old man, who started as if he had seen
the Devil himself and gave us no time to ask any question. He
hurried away. This greeting was not friendly. Then we came to
the wharf, where the man in charge stuck to his station. I asked
him if Mr. Sorlle (the manager) was in the house.
"Yes." he said as he stared at us.
"We would like to see him," said I.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"We have lost our ship and come over the island," I replied.
"You have come over the island?" he said in a tone of entire
The man went towards the manager's house and we followed
him. I learned afterwards that he said to Mr. Sorlle: "There are
three funny-looking men outside, who say they have come over
the island and they know you. I have left them outside." A
very necessary precaution from his point of view.
Mr. Sorlle came out to the door and said. "Well?"
"Don't you know me?" I said.
"I know your voice," he replied doubtfully. "You're the mate of
"My name is Shackleton," I said.
Immediately, he put out his hand and said, "Come in. Come in."
"Tell me, when was the war over?" I asked.
"The war is not over," he answered. "Millions are being killed.
Europe is mad. The world is mad."
Mr. Sorlle's hospitality had no bounds. He would scarcely let us
wait to remove our freezing boots before he took us into his house
and gave us seats in a warm and comfortable room. We were in no
condition to sit in anybody's house until we had washed and got into
clean clothes, but the kindness of the station manager was proof even
against the unpleasantness of being in a room with us. He gave us
coffee and cakes in the Norwegian fashion, and then showed us
upstairs to the bathroom, where we shed our rags and scrubbed
Mr. Sorlle's kindness did not end with his personal care for the three
wayfarers who had come to his door. While we were washing he gave
orders for one of the whaling vessels to be prepared at once in order
that it might leave that night for the other side of the island and pick
up the three men there. The whalers knew King Haakon Bay, though
they never worked on that side of the island. Soon we were clean
again. Then we put on delightful new clothes supplied from the
station stores and got rid of our superfluous hair. Within an hour or
two we had ceased to be savages and had become civilized men again.
Then came a splendid meal, while Mr. Sorlle told us of the
arrangements he had made and we discussed plans for the rescue of
the main party on Elephant Island.
I arranged that Worsley should go with the relief ship to show the
exact spot where the carpenter and his two companions were
camped, while I started to prepare for the refief of the party on
Elephant Island. The whaling vessel that was going round to King
Haakon Bay was expected back on the Monday morning, and was to
call at Grytviken Harbor, the port from which we had sailed in
December 1914, in order that the magistrate resident there might be
informed of the fate of the Endurance. It was possible that letters
were awaiting us there. Worsley went aboard the whaler at ten
o'clock that night and turned in. The next day the relief ship
entered King Haakon Bay and he reached Peggotty Camp in a boat. The
three men were delighted beyond measure to know that we had made
the crossing in safety and that their wait under the upturned James
Caird was ended. Curiously enough, they did not recognize Worsley,
who had left them a hairy, dirty ruffian and had returned his spruce and
shaven self. They thought he was one of the whalers. When one of
them asked why no member of the party had come round with the
relief, Worsley said, "What do you mean?" "We thought the Boss or
one of the others would come round," they explained. "What's the
matter with you?" said Worsley. Then it suddenly dawned upon them
that they were talking to the man who had been their close
companion for a year and a half. Within a few minutes the whalers had
moved our bits of gear into their boat.
They towed off the James Caird
and hoisted her to the deck of their ship. Then they started on the
return voyage. Just at dusk on Monday afternoon they entered
Stronmess Bay, where the men of the whaling station mustered on the
beach to receive the rescued party and to examine with professional
interest the boat we had navigated across 800 miles of the stormy ocean they knew
When I look back at those days 1 have no doubt that Providence guided
us, not only across those snow fields, but across the storm-white sea
that separated Elephant Island from our landing place on South Georgia.
I know that dtuwring that long and racking march of thirty-six hours
over the unnamed mountains and glaciers of South Georgia it seemed to
me often that we were four, not three. I said nothing to my companions
on the point, but afterwards Worsley said to me, "Boss, I had a curious
feeling on the march that there was another person with us." Crean
confessed to the same idea. One feels "the dearth of human words, the
roughness of mortal speech" in trying to describe things intangible, but
a record of our journeys would be incomplete without a reference to a
subject very near to our hearts.
OUR FIRST NIGHT at the whaling station was blissful. Crean and I shared a
beautiful room in Mr. Sorlle's house, with electric light and two beds,
warm and soft. We were so comfortable that we were unable to sleep.
Late at night a steward brought us tea, bread and butter and cakes, and
we lay in bed reveling in the luxury of it all. Outside a dense
snowstorm, which started two hours after our arrival and lasted until
the following day, was swirling and driving about the mountain slopes.
We were thankful indeed that we had made a place of safety, for it
would have gone hard with us if we had been out on the mountains that
night. Deep snow lay everywhere when we got up the following