On leaving England the Endurance made ports of call at Madeira, Montevideo, and Buenos Aires, where she was joined by Shackleton, who had been delayed with business. Before setting out for South Georgia Island, Shackleton replaced four unacceptable crew members.
The last port of call, South Georgia Island, the Gateway to the Antarctic, was primarily a wild island. The only inhabitants were Norwegian whalers on the East coast who manned the stations at Grytviken, Stromness, and Husvik. From the whalers Shackleton learned that ice conditions in the Wedell Sea were the worst in memory, with pack ice extending far to the North. Later as they proceeded further South, great migrations of hundreds of rings seals heading North were seen, far more in number than usual. The seals also knew that the winter, fast approaching, was going to be a particularly hard one.
Shackleton held the ship at South Georgia for an entire month. Then, in early December, he continued on despite the signs. By working his way some distance east before heading South, he hoped to avoid the majority of the pack ice.
The Endurance set sail from South Georgia at 8:45 a.m. on December 5, 1914. Her destination was Vashel Bay, on the Antarctic continent. On the evening of December 7, she encountered the first pack ice. For six weeks the ship, under the able watch of her Captain Frank Worsley, wove through the loose floes of pack ice surrounding the continent. The ship was used as a battering ram, and performed well combating the ice floes.
January 14, 1915 went down into the diaries of the crew as memorable with the particular deep blue Antarctic shadows and light playing over the jutting pressure ridges in a majestic display. Bright blue sky, sunshine, calm air and about 20 degrees. With trust in their ship and excitement about their adventure, the crew was happily carrying on further and further into the Antarctic wilderness.