Liberal Arts Blog — Shackleton’s Endurance Trapped in the Weddell Sea
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Today’s Topic: Shackleton’s Endurance Trapped in the Weddell Sea
Ships are powerful metaphors and marvels of engineering, Images of ships in the history of art are many. This week, an article in the New York Times on a new Antarctic expedition to find the wreck of Shackleton’s sunken ship, the Endurance, included the haunting photograph below which I felt I just had to share. The photo reminded me of Turner’s “The Fighting Temeraire” (second link below). It also evoked the image of the Pequod, the mad Ahab, and the tattooed Queequeg from Moby Dick. The third and fourth scenes conjured up involve Ulysses — first of the Greek hero tied to the mast of his nameless ship on his own orders so that he could listen to the song of the Sirens without hurling himself to his death in the sea and second that of Ulysses steering his way between the twin monsters of Scylla and Charybdis, the perfect metaphor for finding the middle path between extremes. Remember that etched in stone at Delphi, right under “Know Thyself” is “Moderation in all things.” Today, two photographs from the Shackleton expedition, a map of the ship’s route in the Weddell Sea, plus a few random notes. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
TWO PREVIOUS EXPEDITIONS: 1901–1903, 1907–1909
1. Shackleton’s first voyage to the Antarctic was from 1901 to 1903 as third officer under Captain Robert Falcon Scott on the Discovery.
2. His second was leader of the Nimrod expedition from 1907 to 1909. It was this one that made him famous.
THE FREEZING (January), the CONVERSION (February). the ABANDONMENT (October), the SINKING (November)
- On January 19, 1915 the Endurance “became frozen fast in an ice floe…”
2. “On 24 February realizing that she would be trapped until the following spring, Shackleton ordered the abandonment of ship’s routine and her conversion to a winter station. She drifted slowly northward with the ice through the following months.”
3. “When spring arrived in September, the breaking of the ice and its later movements put extreme pressure on the ship’s hull.”
NB: “Until this point, Shackleton had hoped that the ship, when released from the ice, could work her way back towards Vahsel Bay. On 24 October, water began pouring in. After a few days, with the position at 69° 5' S, 51° 30' W, Shackleton gave the order to abandon ship, saying, “She’s going down!”; and men, provisions and equipment were transferred to camps on the ice. On 21 November 1915, the wreck finally slipped beneath the surface.”
THE WEDDELL SEA : the danger, the water, the etymology
1. “The Weddell Sea is, according to the testimony of all who have sailed through its berg-filled waters, the most treacherous and dismal region on earth.” (Thomas Henry, The White Continent, 1950)
2. “The Weddell Sea has been deemed by scientists to have the clearest water of any sea… the clarity corresponded to that of distilled water.”
3. “The sea is named after the Scottish sailor James Weddell who entered the sea in 1823 and originally named it after King George IV; it was renamed in Weddell’s honour in 1900.”
NB: Three other great polar explorers are: James Clark Ross (1800–1862), Roald Amundsen (1872–1928), and Robert Falcon Scott (1868–1912).
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