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South Georgia - Sir Ernest Shackleton: Centenary of The Imperial
The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, also known as the Endurance
Expedition, is considered by some the last major expedition of the
Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. By 1914 both Poles had been reached
so Shackleton set his sights on being the first to traverse Antarctica.
By the time of the expedition, Sir Ernest Shackleton was already
experienced in polar exploration. A young Lieutenant Shackleton from
the merchant navy was chosen by Captain Scott to join him in his first
bid for the South Pole in 1901. Shackleton later led his own attempt on
the pole in the Nimrod expedition of 1908: he surpassed Scott’s southern
record but took the courageous decision, given deteriorating health and
shortage of provisions, to turn back with 100 miles to go.
After the pole was claimed by Amundsen in 1911, Shackleton formulated a
plan for a third expedition in which proposed to undertake “the largest
and most striking of all journeys - the crossing of the Continent”.
Having raised sufficient funds, he purchased a 300 tonne wooden
barquentine which he named Endurance. He planned to take Endurance into
the Weddell Sea, make his way to the South Pole and then to the Ross Sea
via the Beardmore Glacier (to pick up supplies laid by a second vessel,
Aurora, purchased from Sir Douglas Mawson). Although the expedition
failed to accomplish its objective it became recognised instead as an
epic feat of endurance.
Endurance left Britain on 8 August 1914 heading first for Buenos Aires.
Here Shackleton, who had travelled on a faster ship, re-joined the
expedition. Hurley also came on board, and William Bakewell and stowaway
Perce Blackborow were added to the crew. On 26 October the ship sailed
for the South Atlantic, arriving at South Georgia on 5 November. After a
month-long halt in the Grytviken whaling station, Endurance sailed into
the Weddell Sea. They steamed along the coast for a few days making slow
progress until 19 January 1915 when Endurance was beset in consolidated
pack ice which had closed in around the ship.
Whilst stuck in the ice the men lived comfortably but the ice was slowly
crushing Endurance. After she sank, her 28-man complement was stranded
on the ice. They spent 15 months trapped in the ice, in makeshift camps
first at 'Ocean Camp' and then at 'Patience Camp’ from whence the party
took to the lifeboats to reach the inhospitable, uninhabited Elephant
Island. Shackleton, Frank Worsley, Henry McNish, John Vincent, Tom
Crean and Tim McCarthy then made an 800-mile open-boat journey, which
they were fortunate to survive, in the James Caird to reach King Haakon
Bay, South Georgia. After a short period of recuperation Shackleton,
Crean and Worsley set out on the now legendary crossing of South Georgia
to Stromness whaling station and safety. From there Worsley was able to
pick up McNish, Vincent and McCarthy on a whaler. After four attempts
in different vessels, Shackleton was able to rescue the men waiting on
Elephant Island who were brought home aboard the Chilean steamer Yelcho
without loss of life.
On the other side of the continent, the Ross Sea party overcame great
hardships to fulfil its mission. The Aurora had broken away from its
moorings and had eventually reached New Zealand; the fate of the shore
party was unknown. After the Elephant Island party had been rescued,
Shackleton joined the Aurora as it left New Zealand to rescue the men,
reaching McMurdo Sound on 10 January 1917. Of the ten members who had
been stranded, three had died, including the leader Aeneas Mackintosh.
The ship returned to New Zealand on 9 February 1917, bringing all the
remaining members of the expedition to safety. Upon their return many
would serve in the First World War.
South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands has chosen to mark the
centenary of the arrival of Shackleton, Crean and Worsley at Stromness
whaling station with this special stamp issue featuring portraits of
Sir Ernest Shackleton from the period of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic
70p Ernest Shackleton photographed on board Endurance at Millwall Docks,
London, before leaving for the Antarctic in 1914. Topical Press
80p Ernest Shackleton with dog on board Endurance. Frank Hurley, Royal
Geographical Society (with IBG).
£1 Ernest Shackleton during the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.
Frank Hurley/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of
£1.25 Ernest Shackleton at Patience Camp. Frank Hurley, Royal
Geographical Society (with IBG).
FDC Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922) photographed prior to the Imperial
Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Hulton Archive/Getty Images.
Layout Bee Design
Printer BDT International
Perforation 14 per 2cms
Stamp size 28.45 x 42.58mm
Sheet Layout 10
Release date 20 May, 2016
Production Co-ordination Creative Direction (Worldwide) Ltd