April 1916, Shackleton and
the five strongest sailors-Worsely, Crean, McNish, McCarthy,
and Vincent set sail in the 22-� foot lifeboat, the James
Caird, from Elephant Island. Knowing that the risks were
extreme, they set out to cross 800 miles of the roughest seas
on earth in order to reach the whaling stations on the East
side of South Georgia Island. Their navigational equipment
consisted only of a sextant and compass. Given that the skies
were perpetually gray and overcast, their chance of a clear
and accurate celestial sighting, in order to plot their position,
was slim. Accuracy however, for this journey was critical.
If they were off with their calculations by the slightest
amount, this could translate into an error of many miles.
This kind of error would have them missing South Georgia entirely
and heading out into the open ocean.
In the small boat, which pitched
and rolled in the heavy seas, Worsely was held steady
by two shipmates while he sighted the sun between
thick gray clouds. The horizon which is also necessary
for a position calculation, had to be estimated
due to the large swells. As the boat was pounded
by wind and waves, he calculated at the bottom of
the boat and consulted the tables in his Nautical
Almanac. Over the 17 days, which they were at
sea, Worsely was only able to take four sightings.
Despite the overwhelming odds against success,
on May 10,1916 the James Caird landed on South Georgia
Island.The boat which was beginning to fall apart, the lack
of fresh drinking water, and ill health of the crew forced
Shackleton to land on the West side, while the whaling stations,
and rescue, were on the East side.
|List of Provisions:
30 bx. Matches
8 gals. Petroleum
1 tin Spirit
10 bx. Flamers
1 bx Blue Lights
2 Primus Stoves
1 Cooker (complete)
6 Sleeping Bags
3 cs. Sledgling Rations
2 cs. Nut Foods
2 cs. Biscuits
1 cs. Lump Sugar
30 pkts. Trumilk
1 tin Bovril Cubes
1 tin Cerebos Salt
36 glns. Water
112 lbs. Ice
Twine & Needle
Dbl. Barrell Shotgun
Ten days after landing, with frostbitten feet, Shackleton,
Crean, and Worsely headed out on foot for the whaling stations, 22
miles away. With only a compass to guide them, they trekked over the
mountainous interior of the island, with screws from the Caird sticking
out of the soles of their boots for traction. Along with the compass
the men carried only enough food for three days, a carpenters adze,
and 90 feet of rope. Shackletons drive to return to his men
was great as he states in his book "South", "Over on
Elephant Island 22 men were waiting for the relief that we alone could
secure for them. Their plight was worse than ours. We must push on
- The Voyage of the James Caird
Caird is launched from Elephant Island
gaining strength for 8 hours, heavy cross sea, snow squalls.
WSW breeze running all day, sky overcast."
miles from Elephant Island. After 48 hours bitter gale at
last subsided. Worsley takes sighting (first in 6 days)
gale, squally & cloudy, run 105 mile"
miles covered. Best of journey in lumpy swell that raked the
gale, overcast & heavy squalls hove too"
of heavy seas and NW gale
NW-W winds misty, high NW swell"
spotted, keg of water discovered to have become brackish from
seawater, thirst mounts
W-SW breeze, squally running high seas"
and cormorants spotted, heavy fog persists, lumpy cross swells
too at 8a.m. & put out sea anchor at 3p.m., heavy sprays
breaking over the boat & freezing solid"
- "We've done it" - land spotted at last
SSW gale laying to sea anchor & mizzen
17 days in stormy seas, the James Caird miraculously arrives
on the west coast of South Georgia