Elephant Island
  • Daily Expedition Reports
  • 01 Jan 2022

Elephant Island, 1/1/2022, National Geographic Explorer

  • Aboard the National Geographic Explorer
  • Antarctica

We crossed Drake Passage! The crossing was gentle, and the sea and wind were calm. As morning passed, the breeze grew stronger and carried away some of the fog. Whitecaps formed as the wind moved above 15 knots from a southerly direction. It was perfect. We had arrived at Point Wild.

Frank Wild was the principal character of some of the point’s first residents. Three small boats remained of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition after pack ice crushed and sank their ship, Endurance. Wild’s party awaited rescue on Elephant Island.

Elephant Island, the northernmost island of the South Shetland, is a foreboding place with cliffs that plunge into a troubled sea. There was no welcome offered to bedraggled men of little prospect. The men camped under two small boats on the rocky spit with provisions of penguins, seals, and fresh water from glacial ice. The men could not stay there, for they knew they would slowly die.

One of the boats, named the James Caird and just over 26 feet from bow to stern, was fitted with a new wooden deck and a mast to carry six of the men on a rescue mission across 600 miles of the world’s most tempestuous seas. Ernest Shackleton and navigator Frank Worsely, captain of the Endurance, led the party. The men made it to a group of whalers living on South Georgia Island, and they returned to Elephant Island with aid. Thus ended what is known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.

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