An Extraordinary Team
As August drew to a close in 1916, tension was mounting on Elephant Island.
As you'll see in the entries below from Orde-Lee's journal, the group's food supplies were rapidly dwindling, the snow was melting and making life in the hut even more unpleasant, Blackborrow's suppurating wound was cause for concern and worst of all, some were losing hope that Shackleton had survived the boat journey.
Despite all that, as you'll see, the group is working together and playing together - shoring up the hut and building statues of snow. Working together and playing together is evidence of a highly functioning group. One of the men later said, there never was another group like the crew of the Endurance.
Saturday, 19 August, 1916
…for there is no good in deceiving ourselves any longer, Sir Ernest has now been away so long that there is not one amongst us from Wild downwards to the worst of the pessimists who has not at one time or another recently made some casual remarks indicative of his opinion that he at least entertains grave fears on Sir Ernest's behalf. The well known fact of Sir Ernest's resourceful rapidity merely aggravates our anxiety for him.
Sunday, 20 August, 1916
… There is neither wind nor swell and there is a pervading unpropitiousness about things just now that is distinctly unpleasant. This seem to be reflected in out temperament and nearly everyone, except Hussey and Bakewell who couldn't "snap" if they tried, is distinctly “snappish".
The meat heap is dwindling down. We have practically no penguin breasts (steaks) left so are having boiled legs daily for breakfast, two legs each, and the partly putrid seal meat for hoosh at night; some pieces are more than partly putrid.
Monday, 21 August, 1916
The pack is as bad as ever or ever worse.
Poor Blackborrow's foot is very bad. It is much swollen and inflamed and the osteo-myelitis is extending slightly, although he is rather to blame for having allowed himself to get frostbitten, or, at least, for not having resorted to remedial measures at once yet he deserves all credit for the manly fortitude with which he puts up with his serious infirmity. He is a model patience.
Sunday, 27 August, 1916
We made a fine snow man with stones for buttons and Marston made a really lovely snow lady, of the well-favoured-by-nature type hardly suitably attired for this climate, not attired at all in fact, but classic art brooks no conventions.
We were all hard at work all the morning digging away the great mound of solidified snow drift just outside our "sty", so as to run no risk from having it thaw on top of us. It was very exhausting work digging and carrying the snow away in boxes in our present emaciated condition.