The ruins of the Endurance finally sank in late November as the men encamped
a small distance away on the vast raft of ice. After finding it impossible to
haul the lifeboats to open water, they waited for the ice pack to break up, which
finally happened months later, on April 9. Shackleton ordered the men into the
three lifeboats, each named for a contributor to the expedition: the James Caird,
the Dudley Docker, and the Stancomb Wills.
It was a brutish passage to Elephant Island, 100 miles away. In open boats
the men passed a week of wet, cold, hunger, and thirst; of dodging pitching floes
and rough seas. At last they reached land, a pebbly spit at the foot of steep
cliffs - the first solid ground they'd stood on in 497 days. The group was in
tough shape, suffering frostbite, malnutrition, and exhaustion. One man was believed
to have suffered a heart attack.
Another winter was setting in.
Next: Part Five, Leaving the Crew