Six Men Versus the Ocean
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Bancroft: A Hard Decision

It was obvious that a group would need to leave for help immediately. The shattered crew could not survive indefinitely on the stony, storm-swept beach of Elephant Island, and no one would be searching for them there. Shackleton selected a party of five to accompany him in the James Caird, the strongest of the lifeboats. Their goal was a whaling station on South Georgia Island, 800 miles away across terrifying waters.

The six men in their tiny boat endured gales, dangerous ice buildup, and stupefying waves. Navigation was based on occasional glimpses of the sun, so they were uncertain that they were even heading towards their goal. After 14 days they sighted the island, and they managed to land after two more days of being buffeted by ocean and weather. But they were on the wrong side of the island, separated from the station by 22 miles of mountainous terrain.

After eight days of rest, Shackleton again divided his crew. He and two others made the overland trek across glaciers, crags, and crevasses. They made their entry into the whaling station through a waterfall.

Next: Part Six, Rescued

All photographs by Frank Hurley unless otherwise noted

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