Hauling the
James Caird

DIMENSIONS: 19.5” X 27”
(49.5 CM X 68.6 CM)

PRICE: $19.95 US


IMAGE SOURCE: Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, UK

After the Endurance was crushed and sank the expedition team was faced with the prospect of getting themselves and thousands of pounds of supplies across the sea ice to the nearest land, 350 nautical miles (over 600 km) to the west.

On October 30, 1915 the crew was ready to begin the quixotic journey across the sea ice. “Now we start for Robertson Island, boys!” Shackleton shouted, and they all cheered. Dog teams ferried small loads of supplies back and forth from the ship while an advance party hacked down impassable pressure ridges in the ice and scouted the route ahead. Behind them came the rest of the men hauling the excessively heavy James Caird lifeboat.

That first day they made less than one mile’s headway – a backbreaking effort. But there were many more days of hauling ahead:

“We all followed with the heavier boat on the composite sledge. It was terrific work to keep it going. We all did our best but were practically exhausted by the time we reached the new camp... barely 3/4 miles away.” - Thomas Orde-Lees’ Diary

The ice conditions were appalling. With unstable footing and occasionally sinking up to their hips in the soft, wet snow, the going was horrendous. Everything and everyone was wet. The huge efforts they expended were getting them nowhere.

Where they stopped hauling Ocean Camp was established. After a month’s waiting, Shackleton ordered a resumption of the march but conditions had worsened still. On December 27th, McNish, the carpenter, dropped his trace and refused to carry on hauling the boat, perhaps demoralized further by the recent loss of his beloved cat, Mrs. Chippy, to a bullet from Crean’s gun (on Shackleton’s orders). Two days later they ended the march and established “Patience Camp” and waited for the ice to break up so they could launch the boats and make a row for it.