Friday musings – Shackleton and Endurance
Yesterday, continuing our theme of allowing Giles to get out more often; we allowed him to stop brewing or delivering for a day and go and take a trip to London. Off he went sandwiches in hand; to visit the Royal Geographical Society’s latest exhibition.
Billed as one of the greatest ever photographic records of human survival on display, he viewed the Enduring Eye: The Antartic legacy of Sir Earnest Shackleton and Frank Hurley. Today, our only trouble is, is that he won’t stop talking about it and now thinks that the cool conditions required to create the perfect beer at the brewery are moderate by comparison. Even our flurry of snow yesterday was little more than an irritant in comparison to the conditions survived by Shackleton and his team in 1914-1917. Apparently.
To be fair he probably has a bit of a point. Today our protection against inclement weather varies from thermals through to high technology breathable fabrics. Not quite the head to toe woollen effect that Shackleton’s men endured. There is a reason that only sheep master that look these days. Enduring temperatures of -60 are also not for the faint hearted; in fact, just looking at the exhibition online at http://www.rgs.org is more than enough to get us donning the hat and gloves!
So aside from the new knowledge that actually the brewery isn’t the coldest place in the world to work, what else have we learnt? Here are some of Giles top facts of the day:
- The Endurance Exhibition of 1914 -1917 was not Shackleton’s first crack at getting to the South Pole. In 1907 he headed off on the Nimrod with a certain ‘familiar to these parts’ young man on board called Philip Brocklehurst from the Swythamley estate. Fresh from impressing Shackleton at a boxing match our young Sir Philip joined the expedition as an assistant geologist.
- Barely 100 miles from their goal, Shackleton, calculating that to reach their destination would mean that they died of starvation, commanded that they turn back uttering the now infamous line to his wife I thought you would prefer “a live donkey than a dead lion” upon his return to these shores.
- Returning as a hero from that exhibition was not enough for Shackleton and “he desperately wanted to have one more go” at ‘securing for the British flag the honour of being the first carried across the South Polar Continent’. He returned to the artic with a crew of 28 men – one of which was a stowaway – and despite the incredibly cruel conditions and diet (raw penguin anyone?) every single man returned alive.
- They all had frozen beards and no beer to drink*
- The Antartic continent is 1 / 10th of the world’s landmass and is 56 times bigger than the whole of the UK.
- Upon the Endurance sinking, Hurley – the official photographer for the exhibition commented “we are homeless and adrift on the free ice”. It is thought that they may have drifted as far as 1000 miles. Finding a land mass becomes the key survival priority.
- After reaching Elephant Island dragging 3 boats across the drifting ice behind them; the majority set up camp under the hull of 2 of the boats. The other boat – 22 foot long and open, sets off for South Georgia with Shackleton and 5 others on board, intent on reaching South Georgia and rescue.
- Described as one of the greatest feats of navigation and endurance; they arrive in South Georgia whereby Shackleton and 2 others set across the Island on foot to reach the whaling station whereby they could raise help. This had also never been done before. What tremendous feats of endurance indeed.
- *not necessarily a top fact for us all, but one that resonates very strongly with some of the (bearded) team, hence the inclusion.