Biographies & Memoirs

“To My Comrades”

So on the deep and open sea I set

Forth, with a single ship and that small band

Of comrades that had never left me yet


Tell me, when was the war over?” Shackleton had asked Sørlle, on arriving at Stromness Station after crossing South Georgia.

“The war is not over,” Sørlle had replied. “Millions are being killed. Europe is mad. The world is mad.”

During their ordeal on the ice, the war had been a frequent topic of conversation, with the men chiefly concerned that they would miss it entirely by the time they got home. Before boarding the Yelcho, Shackleton had taken pains to collect mail that had been waiting for the men at South Georgia, as well as newspapers, to give them some idea of what they had missed in the nearly two years they had been out of touch with the world.

“ ‘Opinions have changed on all sorts of subjects,' “ Lees reports Shackleton as telling them on the Yelcho. “‘They call it the Roll of Honour now instead of the Casualty List.'”

“The reader may not realize quite how difficult it was for us to envisage nearly two years of the most stupendous war of history,” wrote Shackleton, in his own book, South. “The locking of the armies in the trenches, the sinking of the Lusitania, the murder of Nurse Cavell, the use of poison-gas and liquid fire, the submarine war fare, the Gallipoli campaign, the hundred other incidents of the war, almost stunned us at first.… I suppose our experience was unique. No other civilized men could have been as blankly ignorant of world-shaking happenings as we were when we reached Stromness Whaling Station.”

The war had changed everything—and most of all the heroic ideal. With millions of Europe's young men dead, Britain was not particularly interested in survival sto ries. The news of the Endurance expedition was so extraordinary that it could not fail to fill popular headlines; but Shackleton's official reception was markedly cool. Facetiously describing his arrival in Stanley, in the Falklands, after the failure of the Southern Sky rescue mission, the paper John Bull gave this account.

“Not a soul in Stanley seemed to care one scrap [about his arrival]! Not a single flag was flown.… An old kelper remarked, ‘ 'E ought ter 'ave been at the war long ago instead of messing about on icebergs.'”

In Punta Arenas, Shackleton and his men received an almost riotous welcome, with the town's various nationalities—including the Germans, with whom Britain was at war—pouring out with bands and flags to greet them. Shackleton had cannily stopped off in Río Seco, some six miles away, to alert Punta Arenas by telephone of his imminent arrival. The Foreign Office was quick to see publicity value in his popularity, and encouraged Shackleton to call upon those governments that had come to his assistance. And so with a handful of his men, he went to Santiago, Buenos Aires, and Montevideo. Pointedly, he paid no visit to the British Falklands.

The Endurance expedition ended on October 8, 1916, in Buenos Aires, but Shackle-ton still had work to do. The other half of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, the Ross Sea depot-laying party on the opposite side of the globe, had gone adrift, literally: The expedition's ship Aurorahad come untethered from her mooring and then been prevented from returning to “port” by the pack ice. Another saga of survival—involving one of the most formidable feats of man-hauling sledging in Antarctic exploration—had unfolded on the snow and ice where Shackleton had first won renown as a polar explorer. Three lives had been lost. Shackleton was therefore bound back to the Antarctic to pick up the pieces of his expedition.

At the Buenos Aires railway station, Shackleton said goodbye to his men who had come to see him off. It was the last time so many members of the expedition—all but Blackborow and Hudson—would be gathered together.

“We have properly broken up,” Macklin wrote. With few exceptions, most were to be on their way back to Britain. Blackborow was in the hospital in Punta Arenas and was the object of doting attention from the city's female population; Bakewell was staying on.

“When I joined the expedition, I asked that I might be paid off at Buenos Aires on our return,” wrote Bakewell. “Sir Ernest consented to my wish and now I was at the parting of the way. I had to say good-bye to the finest group of men that it has ever been my good fortune to be with.”

Hudson—the invalid, the indisposed, he of the “general breakdown”— had already left, eager to take up his commission and be of service to his country. While on Elephant Island, the two doctors had drained his terrible abscess, which had grown to the size of a football, and this operation seemed to have put him on his way to recovery. The detached stupor in which he had reportedly spent most of the time on Elephant Island may have resulted from the fever that would have inevitably accompanied such a deep infection.

Hurley, having quickly tired of the celebratory receptions, spent long days in a darkroom made available to him by a generous local photographer.

“All the plates which were exposed on the wreck nearly twelve months ago turned out excellently,” he wrote. “The small Kodak film suffered through the protracted keeping but will be printable.”

From Punta Arenas, Shackleton telegraphed long articles to the Daily Chronicle in London.

“Relief of the Marooned Explorers.” “Shackleton Safe.” “Shackleton's Men Rescued.” The stories continued to run well into December.

Hurley arrived in Liverpool on November 11.

“The customs occupied considerable time,” he wrote, “especially with the film, which was weighed—a method of estimating the length & charged an import duty of 5d per foot. The entire film netted a customs revenue of 120 pounds.” Travelling to London by train, he went straight to the offices of the Daily Chronicle and handed over the film to Ernest Perris. For the next three months, Hurley worked single-mindedly on the development of his photographs, his motion picture film, lantern slides to be used in lectures, and the preparation of albums of selected images. Dramatic spreads appeared in some of the papers (the Chronicle, the Daily Mail, the Sphere), and he was greatly satisfied with a display of his Paget Colour Plates at the Polytechnic Hall; here, projected on a screen eighteen feet square, the Endurance soared out of the darkness under a luminous yet icy sky, once more to grapple with her fate.

As early as November 15, Hurley had decided to return to South Georgia to acquire wildlife photographs, hoping to reproduce the ones he had been forced to jettison on the ice. The sojourn in England was pleasant, despite the fact that “London possesses the worst climate I have ever yet experienced, as regards producing colds and sickness.” During this period, he frequently saw James, Wordie, Clark, and Greenstreet.

The South Georgia trip was successful, and after several weeks of characteristically intense work, Hurley returned to London in June 1917, and handed over another batch of film and plates to Perris. The film, In the Grip of the Polar Pack, was released in 1919, after the war, to much acclaim.

Why Shackleton had never liked and indeed deeply mistrusted Hurley is not clear; he had taken considerable pains to cater to his vanity on the ice, including him in all important counsels. For his part, Hurley expressed his admiration for Shackleton both openly and privately in his diary. Hurley was bombastic, vain, arrogant, high-handed, not easy to get on with—but above all he was eminently capable. Stoves, electrical plants, improvised boat pumps, stone galley walls—many contrivances that had materially benefitted the party throughout the expedition—had been the work of his huge hands. Was this the problem? Did this multitalented, hard as nails, cocksure Aussie strike Shackleton as being the kind of man who might in certain situations have felt himself to be above Shackleton's own authority?

The film went a long way in paying off the expeditionary debts awaiting Shackle-ton when he at last returned to England in May 1917. After the relief of the Ross Sea party, he made a whirlwind lecture tour across America, which had just entered the war. Now, his immediate concern was to secure some position in the war effort. Although legally exempt from service at age forty-two, and bone-weary, Shackleton knew that service of some kind would be essential to winning support for whatever venture he might undertake in the future. His return to England had received scant attention; there would be no more heroes who were not war heroes.

Months passed. Thirty of his men from both the Weddell and Ross Sea parties were actively in service, and still Shackleton could find no commission. He was drinking and restless, spending little time at home; in London, he could often be found in the company of his American mistress, Rosalind Chetwynd. Eventually, through the intervention of Sir Edward Carson, former First Lord of the Admiralty (and former legal defense for the Marquis of Queensberry in the libel suit brought against him by Oscar Wilde), Shackleton was sent on a propaganda mission to South America. His vague assignment was to raise morale, promote the British war effort, and report on the propaganda efforts already in place.

He left for Buenos Aires in October 1917, and was back in London in April 1918. He had still not had the satisfaction of being in uniform. Once again, he embarked on rounds of dead-end interviews, attempting to obtain a proper commission. A series of various small commissions eventually landed him in Spitsbergen and finally in Murmansk, Russia, where his official title was “staff officer in charge of Arctic Transport.” At least he was with some old companions. At his request, Frank Wild had been released from duties in Archangel to be his assistant. McIlroy, who had been gravely wounded in Ypres, had been invalided out of the army. Hussey was there and later Macklin, who had been in France. Also sent to this polar outpost were a few of Scott's old men, who remained unsympathetic, if not hostile, to Shackleton. That Scott and his men had died of scurvy was still officially denied, as it implied mismanagement; the men of the Endurance had been in the ice for nearly two years without a sign of this disease, thanks to Shackleton's insistence, from the first days of the Endurance's entrapment in the ice, on the consumption of fresh meat.

When the war ended, Shackleton was adrift again. While still in New Zealand, he had dictated the most critical parts of South to Edward Saunders, the collaborator on his first book. In 1919, South was at last published, written by Saunders and drawing from Shackleton's extensive dictation and the diaries of the expedition members. Given this method of composition, the account is remarkably accurate. Names and dates are sometimes muddled and so, occasionally, is the order of events (such as on the James Cairdjourney). It downplays a number of episodes but omits surprisingly few. There is no mention of McNish's rebellion, for example. Shackleton dedicated the book “To My Comrades.”

The book was critically acclaimed and sold well. Shackleton, however, received no royalties from it. The executors of one of his expedition's benefactors, Sir Robert Lucas-Tooth, who had died in 1915, hounded him for repayment. By way of settlement, Shackleton handed over all rights to South, his only asset.

J. A. McIlroy

Worldly and debonair, McIlroy had travelled widely in the East before joining the Endurance as ship's surgeon.

At the end of the war, Shackleton was characteristically broke, in not particularly good health and at loose ends. He was now rarely with his wife, for whom he nonetheless continued to express devotion, and lived mainly in the Mayfair flat of his mistress. Against his every inclination, financial necessity compelled him to hit the lecture circuit, telling the story of the thwarted Endurance expedition, now years past, to half-filled halls, while behind him, Hurley's luminous lantern slides evoked haunting memories. In preparing these slides, Hurley had perfected an ingenious method of composite image making, whereby photographs of wildlife were superimposed upon stretches of empty ice, for example, or any number of scenes were set against spectacularly back-lit clouds—his trademark. The purpose of the photographs had always been commercial, and Hurley seems to have had no compunction about this kind of manipulation.

In 1920, Shackleton suddenly announced a yearning to return to polar regions— whether north or south did not seem to matter. One last time, he hustled his way around London, seeking sponsorship, until eventually an old school chum from Dulwich, John Quiller Rowett, came to his aid, agreeing to underwrite the entire ill-defined enterprise.

Animated as he had not been in years, Shackleton sent word to old Endurance hands that he was headed south once again. McIlroy and Wild came from Nyasaland, in southern Africa, where they had been farming cotton; Green returned as cook.

Hussey came with his banjo, as well as Macklin, who had become one of Shackleton's closest friends. McLeod, the old shellback from Nimrod days, returned, as well as Kerr; Worsley was to be skipper.

Their ship, the Quest, was a lumbering former sealer that required repairs in every port of call. No sledging dogs were on board this time, just a single canine pet, named Query. Even as she set out, it was unclear exactly where the Quest was headed or what the purpose of this “expedition” was; plans ranged from circumnavigating the Antarctic continent to looking for Captain Kidd's treasure. It didn't matter. All on board were there to bask in the atmosphere of adventure, or of memories.

The Quest departed from London on September 17, 1921, seen off by a large, cheering crowd. Film footage from the expedition shows Shackleton as a somewhat stout, middle-aged man wearing suspenders: One could picture him with rolled-up trousers dabbling in the shallows at the beach. All his companions sensed he was not his former self, and Macklin and McIlroy were gravely concerned about his health. In Rio, Shackleton suffered a heart attack but refused to be examined, let alone turn back. He recovered, and the Quest continued south.

En route, the Quest encountered an unexpected apparition—an old-time five-masted square-rigged ship, the France. Excitedly, Shackleton's men ran their ship close by in order to take photographs. It was, for these veterans of the heroic age, a brush with an all-but-vanished era, and they regarded the vessel wistfully from their own lumbering ship.

On January 4, after a stormy passage, the Quest arrived in South Georgia. “At last,” wrote Shackleton in his diary, “we came to anchor in Grytviken. How familiar the coast seemed as we passed down: we saw with full interest the places we struggled over after the boat journey.… The old familiar smell of dead whale permeates everything. It is a strange and curious place.… A wonderful evening.

In the darkening twilight I saw a lone star hover

Gem-like above the bay.”

“The Boss says … quite frankly that he does not know what he will do after S. Georgia,” Macklin had written, only five days earlier.

In South Georgia Shackleton found a number of the old-stagers still manning the station. He was warmly greeted by Fridthjof Jacobsen, still Grytviken's manager, and the men went ashore and looked over the old haunts where they had passed a month while the Endurance lay at anchor. Enjoying the beautiful weather, they went walking in the hills, then sat and watched the gulls and terns. In the spot where they had exercised the sledging dogs, they now threw sticks for Query.

At the end of the day, they returned to the ship and had dinner on board. After the meal, Shackleton rose and jokingly announced, “To-morrow we'll keep Christmas.” At two in the morning, Macklin was summoned by a whistle to Shackleton's cabin.

“I noticed that although it was a cold night he had only one blanket, and asked him if he had no others,” wrote Macklin in a revealing passage, which suggests that he had for some time acted as a kind of furtive nurse to the Boss. “He replied that they were in his bottom drawer and he could not be bothered getting them out. I started to do so, but he said, ‘Never mind to-night, I can stand the cold.' However, I went back to my cabin and got a heavy Jaeger blanket from my bunk, which I tucked around him.”

Macklin sat with him quietly for some minutes, and took the opportunity to suggest that he might take things easy in the future.

“You are always wanting me to give up something,” replied the Boss. “What do you want me to give up now?” These were Shackleton's last words. A massive heart attack took him suddenly, and he died at 2:50 a.m.; he was only forty-seven years old. Macklin, upon whom fell the task of conducting an autopsy, diagnosed the cause of death as “atheroma of the coronary arteries,” a long-standing condition exacerbated, in Macklin's opinion, by “overstrain during a period of debility.” Macklin had in mind not the more recent ordeal of the Endurance expedition, but the strain of his Farthest South, as far back as 1909.

Hussey volunteered to accompany Shackleton's body back to England, but in Montevideo, he was intercepted by a message from Shackleton's wife, Emily, requesting that her husband be buried in South Georgia; the thought of his restless spirit closeted in the narrow rank and file of a British cemetery was insupportable. Hussey turned back, and on March 5, Shackleton was laid to rest among the Norwegian whalers who had, perhaps, above all other men on earth best comprehended his achievements. The small band of men who had stuck with him to the end were at his simple funeral. Hussey played Brahms's “Lullaby” on his banjo, then Shackleton's spirit was left alone with the harsh grandeur of the landscape that had forged his greatness.

Although Shackleton had dreamt his whole life of achieving success in ordinary, civilian circumstances, he seemed to understand that he would never do so.

“Sometimes I think I am no good at anything but being away in the wilds just with men,” Shackleton had written to his wife in 1919. He would be remembered not so much for his own accomplishment—the 1909 expedition that attained the farthest South—as for what he was capable of drawing out of others.

“Shackleton's popularity among those he led was due to the fact that he was not the sort of man who could do only big and spectacular things,” Worsley wrote. “When occasion demanded he would attend personally to the smallest details.… Sometimes it would appear to the thoughtless that his care amounted almost to fussiness, and it was only afterwards that we understood the supreme importance of his ceaseless watchfulness.” Behind every calculated word and gesture lay the single-minded determination to do what was best for his men. At the core of Shackleton's gift for leadership in crisis was an adamantine conviction that quite ordinary individuals were capable of heroic feats if the circumstances required; the weak and the strong could and must survive together. The mystique that Shackleton acquired as a leader may partly be attributed to the fact that he elicited from his men strength and endurance they had never imagined they possessed; he ennobled them.

Shackleton did not attain the recognition accorded to Scott. England had room for only one great polar explorer in its pantheon, and coming after the First World War, the memory of the doomed, tragic youthful hero who had died in bringing honor to his country was better suited to the national mood of mourning.

Shackleton nonetheless achieved an unexpected place in the collective imagination. His account of the mysterious presence that had guided him, Worsley, and Crean across South Georgia haunted T. S. Eliot, who evoked it in The Waste Land:

Who is the third who walks always beside you?

When I count, there are only you and I together

But when I look ahead up the white road

There is always another one walking beside you.

The James Caird, the most tangible relic of his endeavors, eventually made her way to Shackleton's old school, Dulwich College, where she still resides.

After Shackleton's death, the Quest doggedly continued under the command of Frank Wild. At the end of this somewhat meandering journey, Wild took the ship to within sight of Elephant Island, although he did not land.

“Few of us thought when we left it last that it would ever be our fate to see it again,” Macklin wrote. “Ah what memories what memories!— they rush to one like a great flood & bring tears to ones eyes, & as I sit & try to write a great rush of feeling comes over me & I find I cannot express myself or what I feel. Once more I see the little boat, Frankie Wild's hut, dark & dirty, but a snug little shelter all the same. Once more I see the old faces & hear the old voices—old friends scattered everywhere. But to express all I feel is impossible.”

Although the world to which Shackleton and his men returned was indeed greatly changed from the one they had left behind, it must be allowed that the “old age,” and its skills and values, were in decline even as the Endurance departed from London in 1914. When Shackleton had been in Buenos Aires, looking for replacements for his crew, he had been especially pleased to find Bakewell, whose years of experience in sailing vessels was becoming an increasingly rare commodity in an age when steam travel was slowly claiming the seas. Shackleton's entrepreneurial method of financing his expedition was itself indicative of a new order, one in which energetic, ambitious men would seek to force their own opportunity, with or without the kind of patronage that had blessed Scott. The Endurance had never been intended for heroic endeavor, but was originally built as a tourist vessel to convey wealthy clients on polar safaris to the Arctic; this was why she had been such a comfortable, well-equipped little vessel. Likewise, in this increasingly sophisticated age, photo and story rights for whatever adventure might transpire had been sold well in advance; that a book would be the outcome of their experience was never completely out of the crew's mind, and at critical junctures Shackleton had made sure that the diarists and Hurley preserved their work.

“With a boat …we could reach the seals we occasionally see out on the floes,” Lees had written, in June 1916, while they were on Elephant Island. “But if we had everything we wanted we should have no privations to write about and that would be a serious loss to the ‘book.' Privations make a book sell like anything.”

Many of the Endurance crew did very well in their post-expedition life, but others did not adjust to the loss of the old order that had been swept away by the war. The lives of the men who had participated in one of the greatest survival stories in expeditionary history took very different courses.

In February 1918, the London Telegraph ran a half-column story under the heading “Antarctic Expedition: The Polar Medal.” There followed a list of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition members and a brief account of their ordeal. One of the awards was already posthumous; four months after landing the James Caird on South Georgia Island—three weeks after arriving in England—Tim McCarthy was killed at his gun in the Channel. Not much later, Alf Cheetham, who was said to have crossed the Antarctic Circle more times than any of the other men, would be drowned when his minesweeper was torpedoed by a German submarine off the River Humber, a few weeks before Armistice.

Strikingly, four names are missing from the roster: Shackleton had not recommended Stephenson and Holness for the medal, nor two members of the James Caird crew, Vincent and McNish. Vincent's collapse and McNish's brief rebellion had cost them dearly. Because there was never a formal award ceremony, the majority of the expedition members did not learn for many years that some of their companions had been excluded.

Macklin, who had come to be very close to Shackleton, was shaken when he did learn. He wrote to one of Shackleton's biographers:

Of all men in the party no-one more deserved recognition than the old carpenter.… He was not only a skilled carpenter but a very knowledgeable seaman. All the work he did was first class… and his efforts to save the crushed Endurance, standing most of the time in icy water, deserved all praise.… Chippy had an unfortunate manner … and he did not hesitate to give backchat to anyone with whom he did not agree, including Shackleton, who I do not think minded very much, and particularly to Worsley for whose erratic temperament and wild actions he had no admiration at all, and did not hesitate to let him know. Worsley as a result disliked Chippy—it was mutual antipathy which led to the incident on the floe. I think Worsley may have influenced Shackleton in this respect in the later stages of the expedition when they were so much together. I would regard the withholding of the Polar Medal from McNeish as a grave injustice. I think too that the withholding of the medal from the three trawlermen was a bit hard. They were perhaps not very endearing characters but they never let the expedition down.

After coming home to England, McNish returned to sea. Throughout his diary, he had addressed affectionate asides to his “Loved One” and daughter; but this unknown woman from Cathcart, Scotland, does not seem to have remained in his life. He retired and lived with his son and his family for some years before one day announcing that he was going to New Zealand.

“And what are you thinking of, a man of your age?” his daughter-in-law remonstrated. “Don't worry, lass, I've got a job there,” said Chippy. A few days later, a horse-drawn cart arrived to take his old sea chest, and that was the last his family saw or heard of him.

McNish complained that his bones ached permanently after the James Caird journey. Ill health and drink left him unable to work, and eventually he became destitute. To the seamen of the Wellington docks, however, the carpenter of the James Caird was a hero, and the watchman turned a blind eye whenever the old man crawled into a wharf shed at night to sleep under a tarpaulin. A monthly collection was taken up by the wharf brotherhood for him and others down on their luck, and on this he maintained himself until a place was found for him, two years before his death, in Wellington's Ohiro rest home.

At the end of his life, McNish was filled with bitterness towards Shackleton—not for withholding the Polar Medal, nor for his general abandonment, but because Shackleton had killed his cat. People who knew him in his last years recall how he managed to work into every conversation the death of Mrs. Chippy. Alone, broken, with his heroism an abstract dream, Chippy McNish's thoughts turned to his one true mate, who he had boasted to a fellow seaman “had been such a special pet that she was known as Mrs. Chippy to the whole expedition.”

McNish died in 1930, and for a pauper received an uncommon funeral. His pallbearers were drawn from a Royal Navy ship, and the New Zealand Army supplied a gun carriage to carry his coffin. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Karori Cemetery, over which, in 1957, the New Zealand Antarctic Society erected a headstone. McNish left only a single possession of any value—the diary he had kept on the Endurance.

Vincent became the skipper of a trawler, and died of pneumonia in his bunk on a date unknown. A single material record of his later life is known; an unexpectedly gracious letter that he wrote to Hudson's mother, assuring her that her son— whom he had last seen utterly incapacitated by exposure and frostbite on Elephant Island—was doing very well and had never failed to pull his weight. Holness also went back to the trawlers and was washed overboard in a storm. Stephenson died of cancer in a hospital in Hull.

Tom McLeod settled in Canada, fishing for two years off Bell's Island. He never married, claiming he “never had enough money to buy a house in which to put a wife.” Unbeknownst to Shackleton, McLeod had secretly retrieved the Bible that the Boss had deposited on the ice after the breakup of the Endurance, believing it would be bad luck to leave it. He presented it to the family who looked after him in Punta Arenas, and they in turn presented it many years later to the Royal Geographical Society—where it remains, the pages torn from the Book of Job still missing. McLeod died at the age of eighty-seven, in a rest home in Canada.

Blackborow arrived back in Wales in late December, several months after his companions, and received a festive, enthusiastic welcome from his whole street. He volunteered for the navy, but was rejected on medical grounds, and so returned to sea until the end of the war, when he joined his father working at the Newport docks. He was often invited to speak about his experience, but was reluctant to do so and spoke instead of his companions. Although he wore a block shoe on his damaged foot, he never mentioned it, and had assiduously trained himself to walk without a limp. He stayed in touch with his old mates Bakewell and How; to this day, the descendents of these men have kept up correspondence. Blackborow died in 1949, at the age of fifty-four, of a heart condition and chronic bronchitis.

Bakewell stayed on in South America, sheep farming in Patagonia for a year; his subsequent occupations included merchant seaman, railroad switchman, and farmer. He settled in Dukes, Michigan, in 1945, where he worked as a dairy farmer and raised his daughter. In 1964, he was invited to England to attend the fiftieth anniversary of the departure of the expedition. His Michigan neighbors never knew of his adventures —since it was a British expedition, he figured they wouldn't be interested. He died at the age of eighty-one, in 1969.

After serving in the Royal Navy during the war, Rickinson became a naval architect and consulting engineer, and died in 1945. Kerr continued with the Merchant Service until his retirement. Hussey, whose heart, perhaps, had never been in his meteorological duties, became a medical doctor after serving in two world wars. During his lifetime he lectured frequently on the expedition. Although married he had no children, but before his death handed over his lecture notes and lantern slides to a young man he had chosen as his heir, with the injunction “to keep alive the story of the Endurance.

Marston collaborated with Hurley on a number of painted/photographic composites. In 1925, he joined an organization established to regenerate and support rural industries. He died in 1940, at the age of fifty-eight, of coronary thrombosis.

Hudson, after serving on mystery, or “Q,” ships during the war, joined the British India Navigation Society. His health had been permanently impaired by the boat journey, frostbite having maimed his hands and caused necrosis of the bone of the lower back. At the time of his death he was a commodore of convoys in the Royal Naval Reserve, during the Second World War. He had returned from a Russian convoy when he was asked to take another mission to Gibraltar. He could have refused, but did not, and he was killed on his return trip.

After serving on a minesweeper during the war, Clark eventually took up an appointment at a fishery research station near Aberdeen, writing research papers on herring larvae and haddock investigations. He was locally renowned for his football and cricket prowess. He died in Aberdeen in 1950, at the age of sixty-eight.

In 1937, James immigrated to South Africa, where he took up the Chair of Physics at the University of Cape Town, eventually becoming vice-chancellor. During his tenure, he spoke out publically for the right to admit non-European students to the university. He died in 1964, aged seventy-three.

Wordie, later Sir James Wordie, became a highly distinguished geologist, president of the Royal Geographical Society, and the master of St. John's College, Cambridge. His expedition work in the Arctic received numerous awards, and he was responsible for inspiring a number of the next generation of polar explorers. He died in 1962, like his friend James at the age of seventy-three.

After serving as a medical officer in the war—for which he received a number of decorations, including the Military Cross—Macklin settled in Aberdeen. He eventually became head of Student Health Services at the University of Aberdeen, and remained in close contact with Clark. Macklin became one of the most important “historians” of both the Endurance expedition and Shackleton's later life. He died in 1967, aged seventy-seven. McIlroy joined the Orient Line after the war, and was aboard a vessel torpedoed in World War II. He endured a second open-boat journey before being rescued by the Vichy and taken to a camp in Sudan. He died in his eighties, a bachelor, but reportedly with girlfriends to the end.

Lees, while still in Punta Arenas, obtained a position in the Royal Flying Corps, with Shackleton's aid. Here, he took up the cause of acquiring parachutes for pilots, an innovation that was resisted by senior officers on the grounds that the possibility of bailing out would undermine a pilot's fighting spirit. To showcase parachutes' effectiveness, Lees parachuted off Tower Bridge, an event that was covered by the London newspapers. He later married a Japanese woman and settled in Japan and then New Zealand, working as a spy during the Second World War, an occupation eminently suited to his busybody, secretive nature. Lees may have been the most despised individual during the actual expedition, but it is impossible to dislike him posthumously. Without his busy, anxious chatter and compulsive candor, the record of the expedition would be much the poorer. Lees died at age seventy-nine in a mental hospital, the cause of death noted on his death certificate as “broncho-pneumonia—24 hours. Cardio-vascular degeneration. Senility?” Evidently, even the attending doctors could not quite get a handle on him. He was buried in the ex-servicemen's section of the Karori Cemetery—the same little patch of earth in which McNish was laid. The two men had loathed each other.

After the Quest expedition, Frank Wild settled in South Africa, where four years of drought and floods ruined his cotton farming. Drink, however, was the ultimate cause of his ruination; his ominous zeal in adopting the “Gut Rot” toasts on Elephant Island had always been a source of amusement to his companions. A newspaper journalist discovered Wild working as a bartender for £4 a month in a Zulu village at the head of a mine. “Teddy” Evans, whose life Crean had saved on Scott's last expedition, hearing word of the plight of a man whom he regarded as a shipmate and great polar explorer, assisted him in obtaining a pension; but the boon came too late, and Wild died only months afterward, in 1939.

Tom Crean returned to Anascaul, where he had been born; he married, opened a pub called the South Pole Inn, and raised a family.

“We had a hot time of it the last 12 months,” wrote Crean to an old shipmate from the Terra Nova, succinctly summarizing the months on the floes, the two boat journeys, and the crossing of South Georgia. “And I must say the Boss is a splendid gentleman and I done my duty towards him to the end.”

He led an organized, disciplined life, working in the pub and in his garden, and each evening taking a walk down to the sea in Dingle Bay with his dogs Fido and Toby, named after the pups he had lost in the Antarctic. He was said by those who knew him to have admired Scott but loved Shackleton. He died of a perforated appendix in 1938, and was buried just outside Anascaul.

Worsley spent the greater part of his life trying to recapture the thrill and daring of the Endurance expedition. During the war, while captain of a mystery ship, he sank a German submarine, for which he received a Distinguished Service Order. He then joined Shackleton in Russia, and stayed on after the war fighting the Bolsheviks, which won him a second Distinguished Service Order. After the Quest, he was coleader of an Arctic expedition, and appears to have spent a fair amount of time attempting to re-create the experience aboard the Endurance by almost deliberately getting stuck in the ice. In 1934, he went treasure hunting in the Pacific, something he and Shackleton had promised each other they would do together. In the Second World War, he was given command of a merchant ship but was sacked when it was discovered that he was nearly seventy years old. He died of lung cancer in 1943, just short of seventy-one.

His duties to the expedition completed, Hurley was appointed official photographer and awarded the honorary rank of captain with the Australian Imperial Force. Within days of signing up he was covering the struggle at Ypres. His photographs clearly show that he got close to the action, and some are small masterpieces of stark, muddy misery. His Paget slides from this period are some of the very few known color images of the First World War. A distinction was made by his superiors between historical and propaganda shots, and Hurley chose to furnish the latter. It was during this period that his passion for composites became excessive; glorious, mournful skyscapes, exploding shells, puffs of ominous smoke, clouds of primitive planes like dragonflies—all are liberally imposed upon his original images.

After the war, he continued his demanding pace, making photographic expeditions to Papua New Guinea and Tasmania, and in the Second World War he was sent to Palestine. He married a beautiful young Spanish-French opera singer ten days after meeting her, and they had three children, to whom he was a loving but stern father. Following the Second World War, he created a great number of photographic books intended to promote the various regions of Australia. He travelled indefatigably to produce these, and all are competent; but it is difficult, indeed, to reconcile the perky, picture-postcard images with the bold, elegant, and at times emotionally momentous photographs of the Endurance expedition. At the end of his life, he produced several books on Australian and Tasmanian wildflowers.

At the age of seventy-six, still on assignment, still lugging his heavy camera gear, Hurley came home from a day's work and mentioned to his wife that he felt ill. So unusual was it for him to make such a complaint that the family was instantly put on alert. Wrapping himself in his dressing gown, he took to his favorite chair and refused to budge. A doctor was summoned, but Hurley curtly motioned him away. He was still sitting in his chair the following morning, grimly, tenaciously, and silently waging his war with imminent death. Around noon of the same day, January 16, 1962, he finally passed away.

In 1970, the three surviving members of the expedition were invited to attend the ceremony for the commissioning of the HMS Endurance. A photograph shows them, three elderly men, sitting in folding chairs, under the Union Jack.

Walter How, able seaman on the Endurance, returned to his home in London, after service in the Merchant Navy. He had intended to join the Quest, but at the last moment chose to remain with his father, who had become ill. Although his sight was failing, owing in part to a land-mine accident during the war, How became an amateur painter and builder of ships in bottles; his detailed models and sketches of the Endurance betray that her lines were etched upon his memory. He was also one of the most loyal alumni of the expedition, going to great lengths to try to stay in touch with all hands. He died at the age of eighty-seven, in 1972.

Greenstreet Illustrating breath icicles

“Some of his jokes & stories are decidedly humourous & after all one cannot exactly expect to keep up drawing-room standard in a mixed assembly such as ours.” ( Lees, diary)

Green, the cook, had written a letter to his parents when he signed on with Shackleton in Buenos Aires in 1914, but the ship carrying his message was torpedoed, so that no one knew where he was. On return to civilization in 1916, he, like others of the crew, had to find his own way home—officers and scientists returned on a liner—and eventually got a passage as a “distressed British seaman.” Back in England, he discovered that his parents had cashed in his life insurance policy and that his girlfriend had married. He moved to Hull to be with his mates, the unsympathetic trawlerhands. After the war, he continued his career as a ship's cook, and also gave lantern slide lectures on the expedition. Excerpts from an interview suggest that these lectures may have contained erroneous, eccentric details (all food lost when the Endurance was tilted on her side! dogs disembarked to lighten the ship!). During a tour of duty in New Zealand, he gave his lecture in Wellington, where he met McNish, who had been let out of hospital for the occasion. When Green saw McNish in the audience, he invited him up to the stand, where the carpenter took the lecture over and “gave the boat journey.” Green died in 1974, at the age of eighty-six, of peritonitis.

Lionel Greenstreet's war service had begun in Buenos Aires, when he took command of a tug returning to Britain. During the Second World War, he served on rescue tugs in the Atlantic. He retired to Devon, although he still kept up his London Club. He retained his somewhat breezy, caustic sense of humor to the end. He was mistakenly reported as dead in 1964, and took great pleasure in informing the newspapers that his obituary was premature. He died in March 1979, at the age of eighty-nine, having been the last of the Endurance survivors. While it is not difficult to conjure up the long-past events of the expedition, it bankrupts the imagination to try to conceive that a man who sailed with Shackleton in the barquentine Endurance would live to see others walk upon the moon.

In Hurley's photographic record of the Endurance, perhaps the single most memorable and representative image depicts a line of ragged men standing on the beach of Elephant Island, wildly cheering as the lifeboat from the Yelcho heaves into view; Hurley called it “The Rescue.” When published by Worsley in his memoir, Endurance, however, this same scene is entitled “The Departure of the James Caird from Elephant Island.” The original film negative, in the archives of the Royal Geographical Society, shows that the Caird has been violently scratched out, leaving the supply boat—the Stancomb Wills—and her waving crew as they make their way back to land. The explanation for Hurley's action is simple: An appropriately climactic photographic ending to the story was needed for the lectures.

Hurley's predilection for “fiddling” with his images was usually harmless, but in this case, he committed a grave indiscretion, for the original, irretrievable image was the greater. In it, he captured both sides of this impossible story, the razor's edge of its endeavor—success and failure in the balance, the momentous departure and the patient bravery of those left behind to wait, their hands raised boldly in a determined, resigned, and courageous farewell.

“The Departure of the James Caird from Elephant Island.”

Haircutting tournament

“No dogs out today as it is to dark crew ice ship we all had our hair cut to the scalp & then had our photograph taken after in the Ritz we do look a lot of convicts & we are not much short of that life at present.” (McNish, diary)

Hurley filming from the mast

“Hurley is a warrior with his camera & would go anywhere or do anything to get a picture.” (Greenstreet, letter to his father)

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at Thank you!