Point Wild, Elephant Island

Feb 23, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer

As we make our way north and east from the peninsula of Antarctica, we enter an area well known from the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration.  This morning we brought the ship into a small wave tossed cove on the north side of Elephant Island.  It was here in 1916 that Ernest Shackleton and his men made their way in their 3 small life boats. They had not seen rock or land in well over a year. After surviving the sinking of their ship Endurance and living on the sea ice of the Weddell Sea they were finally able to row to land.  It was here at Point Wild, named for Frank Wild who was Shackleton’s right hand man on many of his expeditions, where the men would survive yet another winter.  Within a few days the carpenter had modified the largest of the life boats for a treacherous journey to South Georgia Island hoping for rescue.  The remaining men overturned the two remaining boats and lived underneath them waiting for Shackleton’s return. They stacked up penguins like cord wood and killed a few seals that were around. By the end of the winter they were forced to eat limpets. Shackleton was able to rescue the men by the end of August and they all lived to tell the tale.

We had hoped to have a closer look at the small beach where the men lived but the swell and conditions would not support the launching.  We could see the place where they lived and the beach was mostly eroded away.  It was an amazing sight to behold and know how desolate this place is and was for the men. From here we made our way to the next set of islands; the South Orkneys.

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About the Author

Jason Kelley

Jason Kelley


Jason grew up traveling with his oceanographer father and biologist mother, both of whom worked with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic.  This led him to a job as a Zodiac driver while still a teenager.  After receiving a degree in geology from San Francisco State University, concentrating on unique sedimentary structures in the coastal range of Northern California, he went to work for the U.S. Geological Survey in their National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Laboratory (NEHRL).

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