South Georgia: the footsteps of Shackleton (II)

For: Sebastian Alvaro (text and photos)

The death of Scott did not stop the impetus of Shackleton. On the contrary, threw devise a new challenge even more difficult, "The last great overland crossing". It was proposed to cross the Antarctic continent from end to end, through the Polo Sur. He bought a second-hand whaler, I should pass on to Antarctica, and renamed it to Endurance, resistance, in homage to the family motto was "overcome resist it". The strength and optimism, another of its virtues, were the pillars of his life and the philosophy that all projects undertaken.

To recruit the crew put an original newspaper ad: "Men wanted for hazardous journey. Pay small, intense cold, long months in complete darkness, constant danger. Return uninsured. Honor and recognition in case of success ". The amazing thing is that responded more than five thousand people, among whom were several women, although "the wages small" and that "men were sought". Of these selected Shackleton 26, to then be joined by a stowaway and himself as leader of the expedition.

The story of this expedition is, actually, the survival story of a limit of human capabilities

In the summer of 1914, about the same time that marked the start of World War, Endurance put forward to South Georgia. While millions of people lost their lives in the trenches of the battlefields of Europe, Shackleton and a handful of men were to carry out one of the most extraordinary expeditions of all time.

The story of this expedition is, actually, the survival story of a limit of human capabilities. After calling at the Georgia Endurance addressed the Weddell Sea where he was imprisoned by the ice near the Antarctic continent. For nine months the Endurance lived up to his name resisting the thrust of the ice. They were caught in the worst place in the world, more than 15.000 miles from home, no means to communicate and knowing that no one would come to rescue them. England was too busy in the bloody European conflict to think of those unfortunate adventurers who already existed for missing.

They were caught in the worst place in the world, more than 15.000 miles from home and knowing that no one would come to rescue them

Despite these grim prospects, was essential to maintain high morale, and so one of the lieutenants of Shackleton, Frank Wild, was commissioned to brighten the daily life of men through daily soccer matches, representing plays or reading excerpts from Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Before the Endurance sank in the Weddell Sea in splinters by ice pressure, Shackleton gave the order to bail out anything that might be of use. Not even forget rescue many of the exposed negative of the expedition, where photographer, Frank Hurley (one of the best of the time), has left us one of the most impressive graphic evidence of the history of polar exploration.

Over the next six months, the 28 men of the expedition live on ice floes drifting, feeding on seals and penguins.

Months later, when they can finally jettison their small boats, almost walnut shells, Northbound is. When you finally manage to land on Elephant Island, an island lost in the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. After 497 days returned to step earth firm. But the situation had not changed substantially, were just as lost.

Again Shackleton was forced to take a drastic decision: should divide the group, to captain a desperate attempt to reach South Georgia, a 1.500 kilometers, through one of the world's oceans worst. Luckily, one of the great virtues is that Shackleton had chosen well his men. Among them was Worsley, the captain of the Endurance, who was in charge of directing the small boat by a raging sea, studded with icebergs, without being able to see the stars and without taking more than one measurement with the sextant. The distance to be covered was so huge that a mistake of a single degree course and had lost in the icy waters of the South Atlantic. As the prevailing winds in the area are from the west, were well aware that if you went past the Georgia would definitely lost in the ocean.

After 497 days returned to step earth firm, but were just as lost

After 497 days returned to step earth firm. But the situation had not changed substantially, were just as lost. Driven by the raging sea went aground on a reef crowded area, right side of the whaling stations where they had been almost two years ago. Getting there had already been an incredible feat. But between them and their salvation, whaling bases, appeared an insurmountable obstacle, another, on its way: a succession of peaks, icy glaciers and valleys that nobody had ever crossed. Thus, they had no choice but to cross on foot the unknown interior of the island. It was the last great adventure that lay ahead: the great crossing South Georgia.

Shackleton had to leave on the coast three men (two patients who could not take one more step and one that was left in charge of them) and began the journey with his remaining two. It took up more than a three-day and a rope with which to circumvent the crevasses. It was a march of nearly forty hours without rest. As in other similar cases, the edge of the resistance and its limits, experienced hallucinations.

After 497 days returned to step earth firm. I had one last great adventure: the crossing of South Georgia

When he finally reached the whaling station Stromnes Humans appear not, but in the flesh ghosts. They had made the great crossing of South Georgia. Still, the first thing he asked was if I had finished the war in Europe. Not, the dijeron, and learned they had killed more than a million men in the trenches.

While the sailors of the whaling station collected the three men who had been on the coast, Shackleton immediately organized an expedition to try to rescue the bulk of the group, I expected at Elephant Island, before the arrival of the winter and run cold sea surface making navigation impossible. They had to go back twice before the hive of icebergs that infested the ocean.

Shackleton immediately organized an expedition to try to rescue the bulk of the group, waiting on Elephant Island

But in the end, with the help of a Chilean tug, the Yelcho, Shackleton could finally spot the desolate island where he had left his men. His eyes swept the coast anxious, mentally counting the figures that appeared waving his arms to check for missing any of the twenty men waiting his return. Only then, could breathe easy and choked her throat lump from three years ago it broke and tears clouded her eyes. He had managed to rescue all his men safely. Although, unfortunately, many of them arrived in time to die in the trenches of the fields of Europe.

Few companies in the history of mankind can match the feat lived by Shackleton and his men. An adventure where solidarity, team spirit and value of life shine above all.

 

Sebastian Alvaro and his team follow the footsteps of Shackleton at South Georgia made the same journey in an expedition sponsored by Halconviajes.com and Salomba Ventures

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