The Ship Beset and Crushed
On January 18, 1915, Lat. 76.27 S Long. 28.46 W, one day short of her destination, Endurance, entered thick pack ice. Shackleton and Worsley decided that rather than tax the engine by trying to break through, that they would wait for an opening. In the night however, the ice closed around the ship and a Northeasterly gale arose which compressed the ice against the continental shore, holding the Endurance fast. It was only after a few days that the crew realized that they were trapped until the austral spring- nine months away.
It was during this time that Frank Hurley wrote in his diary, ” It is beyond conception, even to us, that we are dwelling on a colossal ice raft, with but five feet of water separating us from 2,000 fathoms of ocean and drifting along under the caprices of wind and tides, to heaven knows where.”
Shackleton the consummate leader, continued to enforce regularity among the crew. Shipboard duties were attended to in a military like fashion. The largest duty was the care and exercise of the 69 Canadian Sledge dogs on board. These dogs, all of mixed breeding, were chosen for their ability to adapt to the cold. Divided into six teams, the crew exercised the dogs on the pack ice daily and came to think of them more as pets than working animals. After the Endurance was beset, the dogs were housed on the ice beside the ship in ice kennels, called “dogloos” by the crew.
It soon became apparent that there was tremendous pressure being exerted upon the hull of the ship as she heeled over in slow motion and began rising at her bow. It appeared as though she were being pulled down to the depths. Shackleton and Worsely both kept a sharp eye on the propeller and shaft, realizing that these vital parts of the ship, if crushed would mean the end of the ship. As the weeks wore on, and the pitch of the ship increased with the ice pressure, Shackleton realized the ship was ultimately sinking in slow motion. He ordered the crew onto the ice. “Ocean Camp” was the title of their makeshift ice camp and each man was issued warm clothing and a sleeping bag. The men resigned themselves to an indefinite time on the ice.