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Endurance Journals

On my way to Antarctica in 1995, I made a detour to visit the Endurance expedition holdings at the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington, NZ. A conversation with a librarian led to transcribing a number of diaries from Shackleton's Endurance expedition.


My transcriptions of the Endurance journals below are published with the kind permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Dartmouth College Library and the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales [MLMSS 389/2-4].

Royal Marine Thomas Orde-Lees was hired by Shackleton as the expedition's motor expert. He wasn't a great success in that role but early in the expedition, he went to Shackleton and asked to be put in charge of the stores. In that role, he was a tremendous asset and made a significant contribution to the group's survival.

He began his journal as an extended letter to his wife and keeps up a very personal voice throughout. He comments extensively on Shackleton's leadership strategies.

Shackleton - Endurance.jpeg
Shackleton - Endurance.jpeg

This half of Orde-Lees' journal begins with Shackleton and his crew abandoning ship on October 27, 1915 and continues with the boat journey to Elephant Island, and, after four months, Shackleton's return to rescue his crew.

Orde-Lees adds a conclusion and 30+ years later added an addendum.

Hurley was one of the more difficult personalities on the Endurance expedition yet he made enormous contributions to the team's well-being and his photographs and video were the only valuable assets salvaged from the expedition.

While living with Shackleton in a tent after abandoning Endurance, the two played a few rounds of poker every afternoon. 

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