Archive for the Exploration Category

Franklin’s Lost Ship, the HMS Terror Found

September 14, 2016 with No Comments and Posted in Exploration by

The wreck of the terror from the Arctic Research Foundation.

The wreck of the terror from the Arctic Research Foundation.

The loss of Sir John Franklin’s 1845 expedition to find the Northwest Passage was one of the worst disasters in polar exploration. Many expeditions were sent to look for it, but they were all unsuccessful. Two years ago Canadians found the wreck of the HMS Erebus, and now Franklin’s second ship, the HMS Terror, has been found. Six years ago a group of snowmobiliers found the mast sticking out of the ice, but they lost the camera with photo evidence and only recently reported the find. Read more about the discovery here.

How Airplanes Would Make War Impossible

May 20, 2015 with No Comments and Posted in Exploration by

Dogfighting in WW1

“When my brother and I built and flew the first man-carrying flying machine, we thought that we were introducing into the world an invention which would make further wars practically impossible. That we were not alone in this thought is evidenced by the fact that the French Peace Society presented us with medals on account of our invention. We thought governments would realize the impossibility of winning by surprise attacks, and that no country would enter into war with another of equal size when it knew that it would have to win by simply wearing out its enemy.”

Orville Wright to C.M. Hitchcock, June 21, 1917

The Papers of Wilbur and Orville Wright: 1906-1948, (McGraw-Hill,:1953) p. 1104.
via Futility Closet.

A Map Drawn by Ernest Shackleton

January 14, 2015 with No Comments and Posted in Ernest Shackleton, Exploration by

Did Marco Polo Discover Alaska?

September 25, 2014 with No Comments and Posted in Exploration by

One of the Ships from Franklin Lost Expedition Has Been Found

September 11, 2014 with No Comments and Posted in Exploration by

One of the ships from John Franklin’s infamous lost expedition has been found! This 19th century expedition was one of the best equipped arctic expeditions in history. After it disappeared more than 40 more expeditions were sent in search of it. Now it has finally be found. We can expect many more answers to be discovered over the next few years as this wreck is investigated.

Read more about this discovery here.

Discovery of Machu Picchu

July 24, 2014 with No Comments and Posted in Ancient, Exploration by


It was on this day in 1911 that Michu Picchu, a lost mountain city of the Incas, was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham. Bingham, son of a Protestant missionary to Hawaii, was a professor at Yale University. In 1908 Bingham had traveled to South America as a delegate to a scientific convention to study South American history. While there, he visited some old Inca ruins. Hearing tales of undiscovered cities out in the jungle, he was inspired to search for them. He returned three years later, leading an expedition from Yale. He traveled through the countryside, asking the local people if they knew of any old ruins. For many days they searched through the rugged countryside, the ruins they discovered that the natives led them to being nothing more than a few houses.

They unexpectedly found what they had been looking for on July 24th, 1911. It was a rainy day and it was not expected that the day’s exploring would bear any fruit, so Bingham was the only one of the expedition to go, led by a guide and an interpreter. Crossing a raging stream by a few slippery logs, they headed up the mountain. Bingham told of the trip in his best seller, Lost City of the Incas:

Machu Picchu

For an hour and twenty minutes we had a hard climb. A good part of the distance we went on all fours, sometimes holding on by our fingernails. Here and there, a primitive ladder made from the roughly notched trunk of a small tree was placed in such a way as to help one over what might otherwise have proved to be an impassable cliff. … The heat was excessive; and I was not in training! There were no ruins or andenes of any kind in sight. I began to think my companions had chosen the better part.

Shortly after noon, just as we were completely exhausted, we reached a little grass-covered hut two thousand feed above the river where several good-natured Indians, pleasantly surprised at our unexpected arrival, welcomed us with dripping gourds full of coll, delicious water. … I was not … in a great hurry to move. … Tremendous green precipices fell away to the white rapids of the Urubamba below. Immediately in front, on the north side of the valley, was a great granite cliff rising two thousand feed sheer. To the left was the solitary peak of Huayna Picchu, surrounded by seemingly inaccessible precipices. On all sides were rocky cliffs. Beyond them cloud-capped snow covered mountains rose thousands of feet below us.

We continued to enjoy the wonderful view of the canyon, but all the ruins we could see from our cool shelter were a few terraces.

Without the slightest expectation of finding anything more interesting than the ruins of two or three stone houses … I finally left the cool shade of the pleasant little hut and climbed farther up the ridge and around a slight promontory. …

Hardly had we left the hut and rounded the promontory, than we were confronted by an unexpected sight, a great flight of beautifully constructed stone-faced terraces, perhaps a hundred of them, each hundreds of feet long and ten feet high. Suddenly, I found myself confronted with the walls of ruined houses built of the finest quality Inca stone work. It was hard to see them for they were partly covered with trees and moss, the growth of centuries, but in the dense shadow, hiding in bamboo thickets and tangled vines, appeared here and there walls of white granite carefully cut and exquisitely fitted together. …

Inca Ruins at Machu Picchu

Suddenly I found myself confronted with the walls of ruined houses built of the finest quality of Inca stone work. It was hard to see them for they were partly covered with trees and moss, the growth of centuries, but in the dense shadow, hiding in bamboo thickets and tangled vines, appeared here and there walls of white granite ashlars carefully cut and exquisitely fitted together. We scrambled along through the dense undergrowth, climbing over terrace walls and in bamboo thickets where our guide found it easier going than I did. Suddenly without any warning, under a huge overhanging ledge the boy showed me a cave beautifully lined with the finest cut stone. It had evidently been a Royal Mausoleum. On top of this particular ledge was a semi-circular building whose outer wall, gently sloping and slightly curved bore a striking resemblance to the famous Temple of the Sun in Cusco. This might also be a Temple of the Sun.

… It fairly took my breath away. What could this place be? Why had no one given us any idea of it?

Inca stonework

Bingham had found the best preserved Inca city ever to be discovered. Although he had not found Machu Picchu in the most technical sense, as there were natives living near it and some other explorers many have previously visited it, it was he who recognized its significance and caught the imagination of the world. He would make several more journeys to the sight, excavating it and studying its artifacts. Today it is one of the greatest historical sites in South America.

To learn more about the history of the Incas and the discovery of Machu Picchu, we would recommend Hiram Bingham’s interesting book, Lost City of the Incas. You may also enjoy the Into the Amazon video series from Vision Forum.

Ship Trapped in Antarctic Ice

December 27, 2013 with No Comments and Posted in Exploration by

The Akademik Shokalskiy. Source.

Over the past few days the MV Akademik Shokalskiy, a Russian ship filled with almost 70 scientists, tourists and crew, has been stuck in the ice off Antarctica. They were on an Expeditions Online trip retracing the path of the famous expedition of Sir Douglas Mawson. He sailed aboard the SY Aurora, which at another point in her career encountered a situation like that met by the modern explorers. In 1915, while serving as a support ship for a crew laying supplies for Shackleton’s attempt to cross Antarctica, she was blown away from her anchorage in McMurdo Sound. She was caught in heavy ice, and was stuck there for the better part of a year.

The Aurora

Some things haven’t changed in the past 100 years, but much has. The Aurora was completely cut off from contact with the outside world. But 100 years later, when a ship is trapped, her crew can send out a call for help. Not long after Akademik Shokalskiy was trapped, three icebreakers set out from different directions to free her. Those aboard the trapped vessel have even been able to post video reports on the internet.

The Aurora, while carrying the Mawson expedition, had been fitted with new wireless equipment. But the range was very limited and could not be relied on. When she was trapped in the ice, she remained there for 315 days. The ice tightened its grip on the ship, and the crew gathered what supplies they had, ready to jump overboard if it seemed she was about to give. Finally she broke free, and with a makeshift rudder the men were able to get her back to New Zealand. She was refitted, and set out the next year to pick up the survivors of the shore party. We can hope that the story ends even better for the Akademik Shokalskiy.

The Aurora on Mawson’s Expedition

Scott’s Antarctic Dog

August 17, 2013 with No Comments and Posted in Exploration by

Captain Robert Scott took a gramophone on his expedition to the south pole. Here is one of the dogs, named Chris, listening along.

Via National Geographic.

Summiting Everest – 60 Years Ago Today

May 29, 2013 with 1 Comment and Posted in Exploration by


It was 60 years ago today, at 11:30 am on May 29, 1953, that climbers Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay set foot upon the summit of Mount Everest, the top of the world. This was the ninth try for the British, and one of their foremost climbers, George Mallory, had perished just a few hundred feet from the summit. But this year it would be different. The 1953 British Mount Everest Expedition was under the command of climber Colonel John Hunt. They began climbing the mountain on May 10, assisted by Sherpa porters, people from the same group who accompany the Everest climbers today. They reached Base Camp at at 17,900 feet on April 12. Pressure was high on this expedition as there was a heated competition to be the first to the top. Just the previous year a Swiss expedition had set a new altitude record, coming within 1,000 feet of the summit.

The British expedition continued to work their way up the mountain, establishing camps further and further up the mountain. Their final camp was established under the South Col, at 26,000 feet. It was from there they would make their summit attempt. Hunt had selected two pairs of climbers to make the final dash. The first, Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans, set out on May 26, but they were not able to reach the summit. They came within 300 feet, but problems with their breathing equipment left them without enough oxygen to make the top.

Hillary describing the Climb

The next day, May 27, the second pair, Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and  Tenzing Norgay, the best Sherpa mountaineer, set out to make the last attempt. The weather was good for the climb. As Hillary later wrote, “The weather for Everest seemed practically perfect. Insulated as we were in all our down clothing and windproofs, we suffered no discomfort from cold or wind. … To my surprise I was enjoying the climb as much as I had ever enjoyed a fine ridge in my own New Zealand Alps.” Approaching the summit, they encountered the final great challenge of the climb – a 40 foot cliff today known as Hillary’s step. Hillary was able to find a thin crack leading to the top. Making his way up this, with his crampons gripping the snow and his hands grasping at the holds on the rock, he reached the top of the step, soon followed by Tenzing. Realizing that the summit was actually within reach, they pushed along a ridge that seemed to never end. Hillary wrote this of the final moments of the climb:

I was beginning to tire a little now. I had been cutting steps continuously for two hours, and Tenzing too was moving very slowly. As I chipped steps around still another corner, I wondered rather dully just how long we could keep it up. Our original zest was now quite gone and it was turning more into a grim struggle. I then realized that the ridge ahead, instead of still monotonously rising, now dropped sharply away, and far below I could see the North Col and the Rongbuk Glacier. I looked upwards to see a narrow snow ridge running up to a snowy summit. A few more whacks of the ice axe in the firm snow and we stood on the top.

They soon headed back down, and after a tiring climb arrived safely back to their camp. They didn’t wait to get the news back to civilization. Coming down the mountain a runner took the message to the nearest wireless station. They had written, “”Snow conditions bad. advanced base abandoned yesterday. awaiting improvement.” But a code had been arranged to keep the message secret, and so the success of the expedition was announced in England that very day, at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Hillary and Tenzing

Some say that Everest has been conquered, but Hillary never would. About 4,000 people have since made it to the top, but over 200 have died trying. As climbers make their way to the top today, they can still catch sight of frozen bodies in the snow, warnings of the dangers of the mountain.

Shackleton’s Ad – Men Wanted for Hazardous Journey

May 15, 2013 with No Comments and Posted in Exploration by

Men Wanted

An artistic rendering of the ad by John Hyatt

Many of you have probably seen the famous advertisement which, as the story goes, Ernest Shackleton ran in the newspaper to try to recruit men for his Endurance expedition:

Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.1

This advertisement is one of the most famous in history. It is frequently quoted as one of the best examples of copy writing, and has been quoted many times, in books covering topics all the way from Introduction to Evangelism to Web Application Defender’s Cookbook, and even printing on tee shirts.



However, the origins of the ad are very obscure. No one has actually seen the ad printed in a newspaper, though the Antarctic Circle has a $100 reward out for anyone who can find it, a reward which has not yet been claimed. They have also gathered a lot of information about the ad, the basis for much of this post.

Ad in 100 Greatest Advertisements

Ad in 100 Greatest Advertisements

One of the first books for this ad to appear in was The 100 Greatest Advertisements: 1852-1958 written by Julian Watkins in 1949. The brief accompanying text says the ad was run in London newspapers in 1900, but does not give a footnote. A brief review of Shackleton’s life will reveal that he did not sign on with Robert Scott for his first expedition until 1901, and he did not lead his own “hazardous journey” for several years. The date is clearly wrong, making far from an auspicious beginning for the truthfulness of the ad. Other biographies of Shackleton give the date as December 29, 1913, and the paper as the London Times. However, the ad does not appear in this paper. The date seems to have been confused with when Shackleton announced his Nimrod expedition in a letter to the editor:

Sir,–It has been an open secret for some time past that I have been desirous of leading another expedition to the South Polar regions.
I am glad now to be able to state that, through the generosity of a friend, I can announce that an expedition will start next year with the object of crossing the South Polar continent from sea to sea.
I have taken the liberty of calling the expedition “The Imperial Trans Antarctic Expedition,” because I feel that not only the people of these islands, but our kinsmen in all the lands under the Union Jack will be willing to assist towards the carrying out of the full programme of exploration to which my comrades and myself are pledged.
Yours faithfully,

Quit You Like Men

Quit You Like Men

Although The 100 Greatest Advertisements is the book most commonly referenced in biographies of Shackleton, the ad had appeared in print before. It can be found in Quit You like Men by Carl Hopkins Elmore in 1944, five years before The 100 Greatest Advertisements was published. Elmore says:

Sir Ernest Shackleton when he was about to set out on one of his expeditions, printed a statement in the papers, to this effect: ‘Men wanted for hazardous journey to the South Pole. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.’ In speaking of it afterward he said that so overwhelming was the response to his appeal that it seemed as though all the men of Great Britain were determined to accompany him.3

This book provides no footnote for the ad. One thing should be noted – honor is not spelled in the American style, rather in the English, as “honour.” Not only was this the normal English spelling, Shackleton himself used it in his books.4 This evidence seems to show that either the quote was fabricated by Carl Elmore or one of his sources, or that it was copied in a very sloppy fashion.

The Endurance at night

The Endurance at night

Not only can no references be found to an original source, searching the Times itself leads to nothing. The months covering Shackleton’s preparations for his expeditions have been read, and the rest of the paper programmatically searched, but both methods have come up empty. It would not have even made sense for Shackleton to place an ad in the paper. There was plenty of free press coverage of his expedition, and he would already have had plenty of men to choose from. Some of the descendents of his men remember being told their ancestors responded to an ad Shackleton placed in the paper, but this was likely a recollection based on reading the ad rather than something they were actually told. Frank Worsley, one of the crew members, wrote his memoirs and did not record seeing an ad, instead he just happened upon the expedition’s offices and decided to apply. Inspiring though it may be, it seems that Shackleton’s famous ad is mostly likely a myth.


1. The 100 Greatest Advertisements 1852-1958: Who Wrote Them and What They Did by Julian Lewis Watkins (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1949) p. 1.
Shackleton: An Irishman in Antarctica by Jonathan Shackleton (Madison, Wisconsin: Univ of Wisconsin Press, 2002) p. 137-138.
3. Quit You like Men by Carl Hopkins Elmore (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1944) p. 53.
. South: The Story of Shackleton’s Last Expedition, 1914-1917 by Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton (Toronto, Canada: The Macmillan Company, 1920) p. xii, 144.


Mutiny on the Bounty – 224 Years Ago Today

April 29, 2013 with No Comments and Posted in Exploration by

The Bounty

244 years ago today the most famous mutiny in maritime history was committed, sailors led by Fletcher Christian taking over the HMAV Bounty commanded by Captain William Bligh. Bligh wrote this in his logbook:

Bounty Logbook Apr 28, 1789

I now have to report one of the most atrocious acts of piracy ever committed.

Just before Sun rise Mr. Christian, Mate, Chas. Churchill, Ships Corporal, John Mills, Gunners Mate, and Thomas Burkett, Seaman, came into my Cabbin while I was a Sleep and seizing me tyed my hands with a Cord behind my back and threatened me with Instant death if I spoke or made the least noise. I however called so loud as to alarm every one, but the Officers found themselves secured by Centinels at their Doors. There were four Men in my Cabbin and three outside, Viz. Alexr. Smith, Jno. Sumner and Matw. Quintal. Mr. Christian had a Cutlass in his hand, the others had Musquets and bayonets. I was forced on Deck in my Shirt, suffering great pain from the Violence with which they had tied my hands. I demanded the reason for such a violent Act, but I received no Answer but threats of Instant death if 1 did not hold my tongue. Mr Hayward & Hallett were in Mr Christians Watch, but had no idea that any thing was doing untill they were all armed. The Arms were all Secured so that no one could get near them for Centinels. Mr. Elphinstone, the Mate, was secured to his Birth. Mr Nelson Botanist, Mr. Peckover Gunner, Mr Ledward Surgeon & the Master were confined to their Cabbins, as also Mr. Jno Samuel (Clerk) but who from finese got leave to come upon Deck. The Fore Hatchway was guarded by Centinels, the Boatswain and Carpenter were however allowed to come on Deck where they saw me Standing abaft the Mizen Mast with my hands tied behind my back, under a Guard with Christian at their Head.

The Boatswain was now ordered to hoist the Boat out, with a threat if he did not do it instantly to take care of himself.

Mr. Hayward and Hallet, Midshipmen, and Mr. Samuel were now ordered into the Boat, upon which I assumed my Authority and demanded the Cause of such an Order, at the same time endeavouring to bring some one to a sense of his duty, but it was to no effect. ‘Hold your tongue Sir or you are dead this Instant’ was constantly repeated to me.

The Master by this time had sent to be allowed to come on Deck and was permitted, and as soon was Ordered back to his Cabbin again, where he returned.

I continued to endeavor to change the Tide of affairs, when Christian changed the Cutlass he had in his hand for a Bayonet that was brought to him, and holding me with a Strong Grip by the cord that tied my hands, he continued to threaten me with instant death if I did not be quiet. The Villains round me had their peices Cocked & Bayonets fixed, and particular People were now called upon to go in the Boat, and were hurried over the side. With these people I concluded of course I was to be set a drift. I therefore in making another effort to bring about a Change expressed myself in such a Manner as to be saluted with ‘Blow his Brains out’.

The Boatswain and Seamen who were to go in the Boat, collected twine, canvas, Lines. Sails, Cordage and eight and twenty Gallon Cask of Water, and the Carpenter got his Tool Chest. Mr. Samuel got 150 lbs. Bread with a Small quantity of Rum and Wine. He also got a Quadrant and Compass into the Boat, but forbid on Pain of death touching any Map whatever, Ephemeris Book of Astronomical Observations, Sextants, Time Keeper or any of my Surveys or drawings.

The Mutineers were now hurrying every one into the Boat, and the most of them being in, Christian directed a Dram to be served to each of his Crew. I was now exceedingly fatigued, and unhappily saw I could do nothing to effect the Recovery of the Ship, every endeavor was threatened with death…. In all 25 Hands and the most able Men on board the Ship.

This is breifly the Statement of the Case. The Officers were called & forced into the Boat, while I was under a Guard abaft the Mizen Mast, Christian holding me by the Bandage that secured my hands with one hand, and a Bayonet in the other. The Men under Arms round me had their Peices cocked which so enraged me against those ungrateful Wretches that I dared them to fire and they uncocked them.

Isaac Martin, one of the Guard, I saw I had brought to a sense of his duty, and as he fed me with Shaddock. (my lips being so parched in endeavoring to bring about a Change in my Situation,) we explained to each other by our Eyes reciprocally our Wishes: This was however Observed, and Martin was instantly removed from me whose inclination then was to leave the Ship, but for a threat of instant death if he did not return out of the Boat.

The Armourer Joseph Coleman and the two Carpenters McIntosh and Norman were kept Contrary to their inclination, & they begged of me After I was veered astern in the Boat to remember that they declared they had no hand in the transaction. Michael Byrne the Fidler who is half blind I am told had no knowledge of what was done and Wanted to leave the Ship.

It is of no moment for me to recount my endeavors to rally and bring to a sense of their duty the Offenders, all I could do was by Speaking to every one in general, for no one was suffered to come near me. I did my duty as far as it was possible to save the Ship, and they knew me too Well to put much in my power and therefore bound me very securely.

To Mr. Samuel I am indebted for Securing to me my Journals and Commission with some Material Ships Papers. Without these I had nothing to Certify what I had done, and my honor and Character would have been in the power of Calumny without a proper document to have defended it. All this he did with great resolution, being guarded and Strictly Watched. He attempted to save the Time Keeper and a Box with all my Surveys, Drawings and remarks for 15 Years past which were numerous. Among which were my general Surveys of the West Coast of America, East Coast of Asia, the Sandwich and Friendly Islands, when he was hurried away with ‘—- your Eyes you are well off to get what you have’.

The Masters Cabbin was opposite mine, he saw them in my Cabbin for our Eyes met each other through his Door Window. He had a pair of Ships Pistols loaded and ammunition in his Cabin. A firm resolution might have made a good Use of them. These Pistols I had ordered for the Use of the Officer of the Watch, since the 24th of January, in case of desertion in the Night, and they were at first kept in the Binnacle, but upon consideration that they might be stolen from thence they were ever after kept in the Masters Cabbin. After he had sent twice or thrice to Christian to be allowed to come on Deck he was at last permitted and his question then was, Will you let me remain in the Ship? No. Have you any objection, Captn. Bligh? I whispered to him, Knock him down, Martin is good: for this was just before Martin was removed from me. Christian however pulled me back, and the Master went away with Orders to go again to his Cabbin, and I saw no more of him untill he was put into the Boat. He afterwards told me on my questioning him that he could find no Body to act with, that by staying in the Ship he hoped to have retaken her, and that as to the Pistols he was so flurried and surprized that he did not recollect he had them. His Brother said on my enquiring how the Keys of the Arms Chest came out of his Cabin, that Richard Skinner who attended on him had taken them away which was certainly the case.


As for the Officers whose Cabbins were in the Cockpitt, there was no releif for them; they endeavored to come to my Assistance, but were not allowed to put their heads above the Hatchway.

The Boatswain and Carpenter were fully at liberty, the former was employed on pain of death to hoist the Boats out, but the latter

I saw acting the part of an Idler with an impudent and ill looking countenance which led me to believe he was one of the Mutineers, untill he was among the rest Ordered to leave the Ship, for it appeared to me to be a doubt with Christian at first, whether he Should keep the Carpenter or his Mates, but knowing the former to be a troublesome fellow he determined on the latter. The Carpenter was then Ordered into the Boat, upon which he got his Tool Chest with little difficulty over the Side.

Much altercation took place among the Mutinous Crew during the whole business, some Swore ‘I’ll be —–d if he does not get home if he gets anything with him’ (meaning me). Others, when the Carpenters Chest was carrying away ‘—- my Eyes he will have a Vessel built in a Month,’ while others laughed at the Situation of the Boat being very deep, and not room for those that were in her. As for Christian, he seemed to be plotting instant destruction on himself and every one, for of all diabolical looking Men he exceeded every possible description.

I asked for Arms but they laughed at me and Said I was well acquainted where I was going and therefore did not want them. Four Cutlasses were however thrown into the Boat after She was veered astern.

When the Officers and Men were put into the Boat (with whom I was suffered to have no communication) they only then waited for me, and the Ships Corporal informed Christian of it, who then told me ‘Come, Captn. Bligh, your Officers and Men are now in the Boat and you must go with them. If you attempt to make the least resistance you will instantly be put to death,’ and forcing me before him, holding by the Cord that frapped my hands behind my back a Bayonet in his other, with a Tribe of Armed Ruffians about me I was forced over the side where they untied my hands, and being in the Boat we were veered astern by a Rope. A few peices of Pork were now thrown into us and some Cloaths, and after having undergone a great deal of ridicule we were at last cast adrift in the open Ocean. Having little or no wind we rowed pretty fast towards Tofoa, which bore NE about 10 leagues, and while the Ship was in sight she Steered to the WNW, but I consider that as a blind to me for when we came away, Huzza for Otaheite was frequently heard among the Mutineers.

Christian, the Captain of the Mutineers, is of a respectable Family in the North of England. This was the third Voyage he had made with me, and as I found it necessary to keep my Ships Company at three Watches, I gave him an Order to keep the third, his abilities being thoroughly equal to the task, and by this means my Master and Gunner were not at Watch and Watch.

Heywood is also of a respectable family in the North of England and a Young Man of Abilities as well as Christian. These two were objects of my regard and attention and with much unwearied Zeal I instructed them for they realy promised as professional Men to be an honor to their Country.

Young was a Person recommended to me by Sir George Young, Captain in the Navy. He appeared to me to be an able and Stout Seaman and therefore I took him, he however always proved a Worthless Wretch.

Stewart was a Young Man of creditable Parents in the Orkneys. He was a Seaman and bore a good Character.

Here we may observe to what a height the baseness of human Nature may arrive at, not only ingratitude in its blackest die, but eternal criminality against their Country and connections.

Bligh’s list of the crew

I had scarce got a furlong on my way when I began to reflect on the vicisitudes of human affairs; but in the midst of all I felt an inward happiness which prevented any depression of my spirits, conscious of my own integrity and anxious solicitude for the good of the Service I was on. I found my mind most wonderfully Supported, and began to conceive hopes notwithstanding so heavy a Calamity, to be able to recount to my King and Country my misfortune.

What Mans situations could be so peculiarly flattering as mine twelve hours before? I had a Ship in the most perfect order and well Stored with every necessary both for Service and Health; by early attention to those particulars I had acted against the power of Chance in case I not get through Endeavor Straights as well as against any Accident that might befall me in them, and to add to this I had very successfully got my Plants in the most flourishing and fine order, so that upon the whole the Voyage was two thirds completed and the remaining part no way doubtfull. Every person in the most perfect health, to establish what I had taken the greatest pains and bore a most anxious care the whole course of the Voyage.

It is certainly true that no effect could take place without a Cause but here it is equally certain that no cause could justify such an effect. It however may very naturally be asked what could be the reason for such a revolt, in answer to which I can only conjecture that they have Idealy assured themselves of a more happy life among the Otaheitans than they could possibly have in England, which joined to some Female connection, has most likely been the leading cause of the Whole business.

The Women are handsome, mild in their Manners and conversation, possessed of great sensibility, and have sufficient delicacy to make them admired and beloved. The Cheifs have acquired such a likeing to our People that they have rather encouraged their stay among them than otherwise, and even made promises of large possessions. Under these and many other attendant circumstances equally desireable it is therefore not to be Wondered at tho not possible to be foreseen, that a Set of Sailors led by Officers, and void of connections, or if they have any, not possessed of Natural feelings sufficient to Wish themselves never to be separated from them, should be governed by such powerfull inducements but equal to this, what a temptation it is to such Wretches when they find it in their power, however illegally it can be got at, to fix themselves in the midst of plenty in the finest Island in the World where they need not labour, and where the alurements of disipation are more than equal to any thing that can be conceived.

Desertions have happened more or less from the Ships that have been at the Society Islands, but it ever has been in the Commander’s power to make the Cheifs return their people. They therefore knew such a plan could never succeed, and perhaps suggested that never so small a Ship and so elligible an Opportunity would Offer to them again.

The Secrecy of this Mutiny is beyond all Conception, and surprizing it is that out of thirteen of the party who were sent with me and lived always forward among the People, no one could discover some symptoms of bad intentions among them. This Mutiny or design against the Ship has however been long planned if I with propriety may take the Cutting of the Cable as a beginning on the 6th Feby. for that act was certainly done by some of these People to Strand the Ship, altho at that time I naturally thought it was done by the Indians, but who it now Appears were certainly innocent. With such deep laid plans of Villany and my mind free of any Suspicions it is not wonderful I have been got the better of. But the possibility of such a Catastrophe, was ever the farthest from my thoughts. Christian was to have dined with me and Supped the preceding Evening but he desired to be excused as he found himself unwell, about which I was concerned rather than suspecting his integrity and honor.

The exact quantity of Provisions I found they had got in the Boat was 150 lbs. Bread, 16 peices of Pork, 6 Quarts of Rum, 6 Bottles of Wine with 28 Galls of Water and four Empty Breakers

Wm Bligh

And thus began one of the most famous open boat journeys in naval history. For 47 days the loyalists would sail over 4,000 miles to safety, combating the elements, hostile natives, and starvation.

Ernest Shackleton – Last Expedition

April 11, 2013 with No Comments and Posted in Exploration by



World War I

When Shackleton and his men returned to England, they found that the world had fundamentally changed. When they had left civilization, World War I had just begun, but it was thought that it would be quickly over. When they returned, the world was engulfed in one of the bloodiest wars in modern history. England no longer cared for tales of courage in the Antarctic, when their sons, brothers and friends were fighting the Germans every day. Shackleton volunteered for the army, but was refused from active service because of his age and heart problems. Restless with nothing to do while the world was at war, he was finally sent back to South America as a British diplomat. He was unsuccessful in recruiting allies for the British, so he was sent to Northern Russia. He helped the British government prepare an expedition into the Arctic for military purposes, but fell sick and was unable to join in the expedition himself. With the war over, he again turned to business, and, after more failed endeavors, he went on a speaking tour and published a memoir of the Endurance expedition.

The Quest

The Quest

Last Expedition

In 1920, Shackleton began to consider going on another expedition. He was tired of endless lectures, had failed to gain fame and fortune, and was generally dissatisfied with life. He convinced an old friend, John Rowett, to fund the expedition and secured a small whaler which he named Quest. They set off in September, 1921. Many of his old crew signed on again to follow their old leader, even though some had not yet received their pay from the Endurance. The expedition had few precise goals. Plans from circumnavigating Antarctica to searching for undiscovered islands were mentioned, but the journey was really Shackleton searching for satisfaction in his life.

The Quest leaving London

The Quest leaving London

The Quest arrived at South Georgia on January 4, 1922. Shackleton’s health had been deteriorating. He was drinking heavily, his heart problems had increased, and he had probably had a heart attack on the journey from England. In the early hours of January 5th Alexander Macklin, the expedition’s doctor who had been with Shackleton on the Endurance, came in to check on him. Macklin told him he was overworking himself. Shackleton answered him, “You are always wanting me to give up things, what is it I ought to give up?” “Chiefly alcohol, Boss,” Macklin replied. Just minutes later, Shackleton had a fatal heart attack. He was only 47.

His body was sent back to England, but on the way word was received from his wife that she wished for him to be buried at South Georgia. Macklin thought it was fitting for Shackleton, writing, “I think this is as “the Boss” would have had it himself, standing lonely in an island far from civilization, surrounded by stormy tempestuous seas, & in the vicinity of one of his greatest exploits.” An official funeral for him was held in England, attended by the king himself.




Shackleton provides a wonderful example of leadership, heroism, and courage, and his men remembered him fondly for that. There was a saying among Shackleton’s followers and other Antarctic explorers:

For scientific leadership, give me Scott; for swift and efficient travel, Amundsen; but when you are in a hopeless situation, when there seems to be no way out, get on your knees and pray for Shackleton.

Frank Worsley, Shackleton’s captain of the Endurance, wrote this of his leader on the expedition:

Shackleton’s spirits were wonderfully irrepressible considering the heartbreaking reverses he has had to put up with and the frustration of all his hopes for this year at least. One would think he had never a care on his mind & he is the life & soul of half the skylarking and fooling in the ship.

Returning to the grave of “the Boss,” Worsley wrote:

Six years later when looking at Shackleton’s grave and the cairn which we, his comrades, erected to his memory on a wind-swept hill of South Georgia, I meditated on his great deeds. It seemed to me that among all his achievements and triumphs, great as they were, his one failure was the most glorious. By self-sacrifice and throwing his own life into the balance he saved every one of his men – not a life was lost – although at times it had looked unlikely that one could be saved. His outstanding characteristics were his care of, and anxiety for, the lives and well-being of all his men.

Shackleton should be remembered for his bravery and leadership in the face of terrible odds. He should certainly be remembered for this and his virtues emulated, but there is another side to Shackleton’s life. No matter how famous he was, he still felt unfulfilled. He died dissatisfied with his life, searching for something he could never find. Shackleton was one of those men fitly described by Robert Service (one of Shackleton’s favorite poets), in The Men That Don’t Fit In:


Robert Service

Robert Service


There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
A race that can’t stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain’s crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don’t know how to rest.

If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they’re always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: “Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!”
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake.

And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It’s the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.
And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that’s dead,
In the glare of the truth at last.

He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life’s been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.
Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He’s a rolling stone, and it’s bred in the bone;
He’s a man who won’t fit in.

Shackleton's Grave

Shackleton’s Grave