August 1914, just days before the onset of World War I.
The world was about to plunge into chaos. Though he didn’t know it, the same was in store for Ernest Shackleton.
Setting sail on his ship Endurance, Shackleton led 27 men on the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.
He had hopes of finally reaching the South Pole.
For Shackleton, this was his third attempt at reaching the tip of the world — both prior attempts failed.
The results of this attempt will be the same, except this expedition would be etched into Shackleton’s memory for the rest of his life.
While the Endurance made its way towards the shores of Antarctica, it became trapped and frozen in the ice.
While the men worked desperately to free the ship, the elements proved too much.
For 10 months, the Endurance drifted through the waters encased in ice – slowly being crushed to pieces the entire time.
Realizing the Endurance was a lost cause, Shackleton ordered his men to retreat to a nearby ice floe with their gear. They dragged some of the small boats from the Endurance with them.
This floe served as home for the next five months.
On April 9, 1916 – 15 months after first becoming stranded at sea –the men were able to escape the ice aboard the small boats they’d dragged along.
They knew that to stay on the floe was to await certain death. Heading out to sea was their only option.
To Elephant Island
After three days of misery from saltwater spray and constant cold, the men made land at the barren rock of Elephant Island on the fourth day.
Though this was an improvement over their prior circumstances, Shackleton knew this wasn’t the end.
No one would rescue them. The men were on their own. And for Shackleton, this was not an acceptable outcome.
A distant 680 miles away, a British whaling depot lay on the island of South Georgia.
Aside from the distance, this region was known for “the most tempestuous area of water in the world.” While risky, it was the only hope.
To Sea Once More
And so, Shackleton took five men with him aboard a small whaler vessel named the James Caird, heading to sea once more.
For 17 days, they battled heavy seas. At one point, they were almost swamped by a wave, so large, Shackleton mistakes the bubbling crest for clear skies.
Yet, against all odds and amid a hurricane, they made it to South Georgia.
The only problem? They landed on the wrong side.
Shackleton rightfully deduced that the rough seas prevented circumnavigation of the island.
This meant their only shot was to travel through the heart of the South Georgian interior – rough mountaineering terrain the entire way.
Taking two men with him, Shackleton set off for the depot with no mountaineering equipment.
A Leap of Faith
At one point, atop an ice ridge, they couldn’t see the other side because of the steepness of the incline. Incoming fog was imminent, threatening to leave the men in an even more dangerous situation.
So, Shackleton jumped. The men followed.
Somehow, they made it 300-yards down the mountain alive.
They walked all day and all night until the trio stumbled into the whaling depot the next morning.
A rescue operation followed, and all 27 of Shackleton’s men were saved.
To read more incredible stories from this expedition, I highly recommend reading Shackleton’s account of such in his best-selling book, South.
This is a new style of article for Pew Pew Tactical; if you liked it — let us know in the comments! If you didn’t enjoy it…well phooey. To catch up on previous Pictures from History, click on over to our History Category.