Friday, February 12, 2010
I just finished reading the Book "Shackletons Captain" by John Thompson. It is about Frank Worsley who was the captain of the HMS Endurance on Shackletons 1914 trans antartic expedition.
The Sinking of the Endurance in the pack ice and subsiquent survival epic is a great story to read, I believe those men were made of different stuff then most folks today.
My favorite part of this story is the famous open boat trip from Elephant Island to South Georgia to get help for the stranded crew. Shackleton,Worsley,Tom Crean,John Vincent,Tim Mcarthy and of course "Chippy McNish the Carpenter, made the journey in a reinforced whale boat christened the "James Caird".
The journey was a distance of 800 nautical miles the responsibility of navigating the boat to South Georgia fell to Worsley.
Success depended on Worsley's navigation, based on sightings attempted during the very brief appearances of the sun, as the boat pitched and rolled.
His seamanship skills were first rate as can be expected from a man who spent his life on the seas, I would have love to sit around having a whisky and a pipe of tobacco listening to this old salt yarn away the hours.
Below is a little info about the voyage of the James Caird.
Tomahawk - Scouts out!
The first observation was made after two days, and showed them to be 128 nautical miles (237 km; 147 mi) north of Elephant Island.The course was now changed to head directly for South Georgia.They were clear of the dangers of floating ice but had reached the dangerous seas of the Drake Passage, where huge rolling waves sweep round the globe, unimpeded by any land.The movement of the ship made cooking hot food on the Primus nearly impossible, but Crean, acting as cook, somehow kept the men fed.
The next observation, on 29 April,showed that they had travelled 238 nautical miles (441 km; 274 mi). Thereafter, navigation became, in Worsley's words, "a merry jest of guesswork",as they encountered the worst of the weather. The James Caird was taking on water in heavy seas and in danger of sinking, kept afloat by continuous bailing. The temperature fell sharply, and a new danger presented itself in the accumulations of frozen spray, which threatened to capsize the boat.In turns, they had to crawl out on to the pitching deck with an axe and chip away the ice from deck and rigging.
For 48 hours they were stopped, held by a sea anchor, until the wind dropped sufficiently for them to raise sail and proceed. Despite their travails, Worsley's third observation, on 4 May, put them just 250 nautical miles (460 km; 290 mi) from the nearest point of South Georgia.
On 5 May the bad weather returned and brought them to the point of disaster in the largest seas so far. Shackleton later wrote: "We felt our boat lifted and flung forward like a cork in breaking surf".The crew bailed frantically to keep the boat afloat. Nevertheless they were still moving towards their goal, and a dead reckoning calculation by Worsley on the next day, 6 May, suggested that they were only 115 nautical miles (213 km; 132 mi) from the western point of South Georgia, a position generally confirmed by the next day's observation.But the experiences of the past two weeks were taking their toll. Shackleton observed that Vincent had collapsed and ceased to be an active member of the crew. McCarthy was "weak, but happy". McNish was weakening, although showing "grit and spirit".
On 7 May Worsley advised Shackleton that he could not be sure of their position within ten miles.To avoid the possibility of being swept past the island by the fierce south-westerly winds, Shackleton ordered a slight change of course so that the James Caird would reach land on the uninhabited south-west coast. It would then, if possible, work its way round to the whaling stations on the opposite side.
"Things were bad for us in those days", wrote Shackleton. "The bright moments were those when we each received our one mug of hot milk during the long, bitter watches of the night". Late on the same day floating seaweed was spotted, and the next morning there were birds, including cormorants which were known never to venture far from land. Shortly after noon on 8 May came the first sight of land.
Frank Arthur Worsley DSO and Bar, OBE, RD (February 22, 1872, in Akaroa – February 1, 1943) was a New Zealand sailor and explorer.
After serving in the Pacific, and especially in the New Zealand Post Office's South Pacific service (where he became renowned for his ability to navigate to tiny, remote islands) he joined Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914–1916, as captain of the Endurance. The aim was to cross the Antarctic continent, but the ship became frozen in ice, and was eventually crushed. All 28 men from the expedition floated on the ice until they put to sea. Then they sailed in three lifeboats until, thanks to Worsley's navigational skills, they reached Elephant Island, off the Antarctic Peninsula.
Worsley, Shackleton and four other men then sailed the 22-foot (6.7 m) lifeboat James Caird some 800 miles across the stormy South Atlantic Ocean, eventually arriving at their intended destination, South Georgia. This was an astounding feat of navigation by Worsley, who used a sextant in a tiny boat that encountered 50-foot (15 m) waves and storms. Shackleton, Worsley and seaman Tom Crean then walked across South Georgia in a 36-hour march to fetch help from Stromness whaling station. All men were rescued from Elephant Island. Worsley has become almost a maritime legend due to the epic feats of navigation he performed during the famous expedition, in particular, his navigation of the James Caird. He is respected by sailors and seafarers worldwide. In 1931 he published his account in the book Endurance which remains popular and in print to this day.
During the First World War, Worsley captained a secret 'Q ship' and was responsible for the ramming and sinking of a German submarine in a skillful manoeuvre. He died from lung cancer in 1943.