top of page

"Awful calamity"

In the frantic days of trying to save the ship and then abandoning Endurance, Frank Hurley initially dashed off relatively brief entries in his journal. Later, he rewrote those quick accounts. Fortunately, I have copies of both versions so you can see them here. In the original entry, we get a sense of the tremendous pressure the crew was under. The second entry provides much more detail on the circumstances.

Frank Hurley Journal - October 28, 1915 - original entry

Awful calamity that has overtaken the ship that has been our home for over 12 months & was only means of communication with the world. We are homeless & adrift on the sea ice. Yet cheerful & as hopeful as it is possible to be under the circumstances. It is our intention to sledge to Snow Hill, some 300 miles distant - a great undertaking for such a large (29) (sic) & inexperienced party. The pressure continued throughout the day. I had --------- ----- on the ship the whole time. Her foremast & jibboom & ---- spanker snapped off by the ------- being forced under with the pressure & she has the appearance of sinking at any moment. It seems impossible that the awful force of nature could so completely destroy ------- ------- ---- ----- now resembles a ship.

Frank Hurley Journal, October 28, 1915 - Revised journal entry

It is bitterly cold. At 1 a.m., the temperature falls to 47 degrees below freezing* and the tents that had been erected for temporary shelter, had to be struck and removed with all equipment three times, on account of the floe splitting up under them.

The dogs were obviously aware that something was amiss, and behaved excellently. By their aid, transport was accomplished expeditiously and nothing lost.

Shortly after 6 a.m., the ice was peaceful again, and Sir Ernest and myself went down to the wreck and salved several tins of benzine from off the fo'c'sle head. We returned with them to camp, and improvised a makeshift galley, using the benzine for fuel to boil the morning Hoosh.

At 7:30 a.m., the Hoosh was served out. Its invigourating influence warmed our frozen frames, and enabled us to review the position more cheerfully.

During the day, the party were re-equipped with new wearing apparel, and all impediments and unessential gear, dumped in a cache. We are approximately 209 miles from Snow Hill and 350 from Paulette Island, the winter quarters of the Nordenskjold Expedition of 1903-4. Here there is a provisions, and it is intended that the party should sledge across the sea ice to either of these depots, where the main body will remain, whilst a sledging or boating party will endeavour to communicate with the whaling factories of Whilhelmina Bay or Deception Harbour.

The floes are in a state of agitation throughout the day, and in consequence, I had the cinema trained on the ship the whole time. I secured the unique film of the masts collapsing. Towards evening, as though conscious of having achieved its purposes, the floes were quiescent again.

*When Hurley says "47 degrees below freezing," he's referring to Fahrenheit. In other words, the temperature is 47 degrees below 32 degrees Fahrenheit or minus 15 degrees.

NOTE: Hurley was inclined to be negative so Shackleton keeps him close by. Hurley and as busy as possible - making a trip to the wreck, making breakfast and serving it out, filming.

Recent Posts

See All

A Classic Shackleton Moment...

April 12, 1916 - Orde-Lees' Journal - excerpt As we and the day advanced, the weather deteriorated but the sun's disc was sufficiently visible through the haze for Captain Worsley to get the much desi

A "strange contrast"

As the days darken earlier in the northern hemisphere, we can relate to Shackleton's words in South and marvel at the extraordinary cheerfulness of the Endurance crew... "A fine aurora in the evening


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page