The island, which was almost continuously in a pall of bleak fog and snow, was a desolate place for those who remained behind. The crew was frostbitten and in poor health, some on the verge of mental collapse. Their clothing threadbare with very little shelter, wild ordered the men to overturn the remaining lifeboats and build up a rock was surrounding them, for shelter. The remnants of the tents were used for insulation against the wind, which would reach upwards of 100 mph. Blubber lamps were the only source of light in their dim shelters.
Daily hunting expeditions were organized to keep the crew occupied and “sing-songs” in the evening relieved some of the tedium. The men were jammed into these shelters eating penguins and occasional seals, which were both scarce at this time of year. Stoically, the men Waited for Shackleton, known affectionately as “the Boss”, to return.
On the remote island, Shackleton knew that the chance of rescue was nonexistent. He made the difficult decision to break up his crew. He selected five of the strongest and best sailors-Worsley, Crean, McNish, McCarthy, and Vincent, and announced that they would sail the 22 foot lifeboat, James Caird, to South Georgia Island, over 800 miles away. Navigation would be the responsibility of Worsely, using only a sextant. The continually gray and stormy skies held little promise that there would be any celestial sightings from which to gauge their position.
The crew, which remained on Elephant Island, was lead by Shackleton’s second-in-command, Frank Wild. In his memoir, as a testament to his leadership, Wild wrote “We gave them three hearty cheers and watched the boat getting smaller and smaller in the distance. Then seeing some of the party in tears I immediately set them all to work”.