Sunday, 18 January 2009

"Better a live donkey than a dead lion!"

One hundred years ago this week Ernest Shackleton wrote in his diary:
"Tongue and pen fail in attempting to describe the magic of such a scene." He was in the crow's nest of the Nimrod on his way to try to find true Geographical South Pole. The magical scene was one of huge icebergs sitting in a totally still sea. As the Nimrod moved slowly through the water the motion of the ship's propellers caused ice and snow to crash down behind them, breaking what was otherwise absolute silence. He saw "ominous dark cloud" coming in from the North and became frozen with fear that the ship would get stuck in the ice.
Then, at 3pm on the afternoon of January 16th 1908 he saw open water ahead. His spirits lifted; he had reached the Ross Sea.
Although the Nimrod expedition failed to find the Geographical South Pole (they failed by only 112 miles, when shortage of food and terrible conditions made them turn back), Shackleton wrote the words in the title of this post.
He made three expeditions to the Antarctic - on the first (under the leadership of Scott) he had to be sent home ill; the Nimrod was the second and of course his most famous one, in the Endurance, was crushed in the ice before he could really start. But he was a brave man and the men he led knew of his greatness.
Roald Amundsen finally reached the South Pole in 1911.
What a lot has happened in those one hundred years!

18 comments:

Poet in Residence said...

Thanks for reminding me of my visit to Dundee and Scott's ship The Discovery which they told us was constructed from a wood that was harder than iron. The also told us how marmalade was invented in Dundee by a canny Scot with a shipload of bitter oranges that folk said were fit only for throwing away.

Lucy Corrander said...

This short post is really gripping, Weaver.

Lucy

Lucy Corrander said...

Oh! P.S. I love your new header.

Lucy

jinksy said...

Feels like it's trying to emulate the South Pole here at the moment- can't stop blogging long enough to turn up the thermostat..

Debra (a/k/a Doris, Mimi) said...

The north pole doesn't exist in Atlanta? Having just returned from a cruise in the western Carribean, we weren't braced for the frigid temps back home. Brrrrr! However, your post warms my heart :)

Chere said...

Thank you for this post. I forget the courage of these brave men. The world to us is so small but was unknown to them. All we have to worry about is will our luggage make it to us. Thanks again.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Canny Scot eh PiR? I remember being told at school that it was invented by the French chef who had to devise something for Marie Antoinette when she was ill (from eating too much cake presumably!) and that it was really called Mariemalade!! Both sound a bit daft to me. Do you know the story of the Hartlepool monkey? (apropos of nothing).

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for the compliment re the header, Lucy - I value that coming from such a good photographer - shall pass it on to the farmer, who took the photograph (and says he just pointed the camera and clicked!)

The Weaver of Grass said...

Jinksy - at present we are inbright sunshine.

The Weaver of Grass said...

That's the trouble with going somewhere warm Debra - you feel the cold when you come back - still I for one am prepared to risk it.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Yes Chere - we cannot begin to imagine what it would have been like, can we?

Janice Thomson said...

I saw a show about this a few years back - the courage of anyone exploring the unknown is a commendable trait. Good post Weaver!

Leenie said...

As I understand it Scott found the south pole but died of starvation on the return. Live donkey philosphy and good luck seemed to work for Shackleton.

HelenMHunt said...

That's a brilliant story. This blog is always so interesting.

Mistlethrush said...

What an innovative heading to the post!
I went to visit the Discovery too and was amazed at the knowledge the ship builders had (which is probably lost now) when we were told that key part of the vessel were made from 14 layers of different species to allow it to contort with the pressure of the ice - the only reason the boat (and the men) survived.
Goodness knows how they survived the winters.

The Weaver of Grass said...

On his last expedition, Janice, he made a gigantic overland trek in terrible conditions to save his men. He was a truly amazing man.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Yes Leenie, Shackleton was certainly a survivor.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks to helen and to Mistlethrush for their comments.
I think you are right Mistlethrush - many of these skills will have died out now. So sad.