Chapter 9: South Georgia (Second Visit)

Sir Ernest Shackleton’s body had been brought back to South Georgia for burial. I insert an account written by Hussey of what had occurred since I saw him last.

“The journey up to Monte Video was marked by wretched weather. The ship’s wireless was out of order, so that I was unable to acquaint the world with my sad news. We arrived on Sunday morning, January 29th, and I immediately went on shore and cabled to Mr. Rowett, asking him to break the news to Lady Shackleton.

“That afternoon, while I was in Wilson, Sons & Co.’s office, a telephone message came through from the Uruguayan Government asking me if they might take charge of any arrangements that had to be made there as a last tribute to the great explorer. I acquiesced, and they immediately set about bringing Sir Ernest’s body ashore. Within half an hour they had sent a naval launch out to the Professor Gruvel to fetch the coffin. It was met on the quay by a guard of honour of 100 marines and taken to the military hospital, where a guard of two soldiers was mounted over it day and night.

“Next morning the medical officers at the hospital re-embalmed the body, as it was at first intended to bring it to England for burial.

“That day, however, a cable came from Mr. Rowett saying that Lady Shackleton was sure that Sir Ernest would have wished to be buried on South Georgia, the scene of his greatest exploit, and asking me to make arrangements to do this.

“The next ship to leave for South Georgia was the Woodville, with Captain Leaste in command. He was most courteous and sympathetic, and immediately placed such accommodation on his ship as was necessary at our disposal.

“The day before she sailed a commemoration service was held in the English church at Monte Video, Canon Blount, and Canon Brady, an old friend of Sir Ernest, officiating. The coffin had been transferred from the military hospital to the church on the previous day.

“While Sir Ernest’s body was lying in state in the military hospital the matron and one of the nurses placed fresh flowers on it each day from the hospital garden.

“For the memorial service the church was packed. Many members of the Uruguayan Government were present, and representatives from nearly every country in the world either sent wreaths or came in person. The President of Uruguay came into the church and stood a few minutes in silent contemplation before the rough wooden coffin which, covered by the Union Jack, stood in front of the altar. The Republic of Uruguay also sent a magnificent bronze wreath to be placed on the grave. The French Maritime Society sent a bronze palm, and Mr. Ogden Armour, representing the United States of America, brought a huge wreath of lilies. The British Minister at Monte Video came with a bronze wreath and a memorial plaque, both of which I screwed up later on the walls of the little wooden church in South Georgia.

“At the conclusion of the service the coffin was carried to a waiting gun-carriage by ten British ex-Service men. Huge crowds had assembled to pay their last tribute to the great explorer, and the whole of the route from the church to the quay where the Woodville was lying was lined by troops. Along one part of the route women showered rose petals down on to the coffin from overhanging balconies.

“On arrival at the ship the coffin was taken aboard and the Uruguayan Minister for Foreign Affairs made a short speech, in which he said that not only England but the whole world was made the poorer by Sir Ernest’s death. The British Minister replied, thanking the President and the Republic of Uruguay for the way in which they had honoured the dead explorer’s memory.

“The coffin was then lowered into the hold, and the Woodville put out into the harbour.

“The Uruguayan Government had asked to be allowed to take the coffin down to South Georgia in a warship, but owing to the bad ice conditions which existed at that time I considered that to take an ordinary steel ship down there would be unnecessarily risking the lives of all on board as well as the safety of the ship. So they very reluctantly gave up the idea, but when the Woodville left next day the warship escorted her to the three-mile limit, fired a salute of seventeen guns—the highest possible honour that could be shown to anyone less than their own President—and steamed up alongside the Woodville with the marines formed up at the salute while their buglers sounded the “Farewell,” which is usually only sounded for the fallen after victory in battle. This seemed to me to be the most touching tribute of all, symbolizing as it did their idea of Sir Ernest’s life-struggles and his triumphant passing over.

“We reached South Georgia on February 27th, 1922, and in a blinding snow-storm we took the coffin ashore to the little wooden Lutheran church at Gritviken.

“Sunday, March 5th, broke clear and calm. The managers from all five whaling stations had assembled at the church by three o’clock that afternoon, and a crowd of about one hundred fishermen were present to pay their last respects to Sir Ernest. The first part of the funeral service was said in English and Norwegian, Mr. Binnie, the magistrate, officiating. Then the coffin was taken by six Shetland islanders—all ex-Service men who happened to be working at Leith Harbour whaling station—to a light decauville railway, and carried over tiny mountain streams formed by the melting snow, and past huge boilers and piles of whalebones to the little cemetery on the hill. On arrival there the funeral service was completed, and with the British and Norwegian flags at half-mast at the gate of the cemetery the coffin was lowered to its last resting-place.

“After the grave had been filled in I had a simple wooden cross erected, and on it I hung wreaths which I had brought from Monte Video on behalf of Lady Shackleton and her children, Mr. and Mrs. J. Q. Rowett, and the members of the expedition.

“Many more floral and other tributes were placed round and on the grave.

“When the funeral service was over Mr. Hansen, the manager of Leith Harbour whaling station, very kindly offered me the hospitality of his house till I could get passage in a homeward-bound ship. Nothing had been heard of the Quest, and I was anxiously waiting for news of my companions. On the morning of April 6th Hansen wakened me with the news of the ship’s arrival. We were not long in going aboard, and I reported at once to Commander Wild, giving him a full account of all that had happened. While the Quest was in harbour I went aboard and shared in such work as was necessary, and Commander Wild decided that I had better return to Monte Video as quickly as possible, collect all Sir Ernest’s gear which I had left there in store, and proceed to England, there to report to Mr. Rowett and Lady Shackleton and give them any information that they might require.

“Accordingly I arrived at Monte Video on the Neko on April 24th, and, accompanied by the British Minister, I thanked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Buero, on behalf of Mr. Rowett and the members of the expedition for the way that this great little Republic had honoured our late leader’s memory.

“I arrived in England on May 28th and was met at Southampton by Mr. Rowett, whose many encouraging and sympathetic cables had greatly cheered me on my sad and lonely mission, and to whom I gave a full report of all that had happened since the Quest had left England in September, 1921.”

A Glacier Face in South Georgia | Photo: Wilkins
A Rocky Outcrop in South Georgia | Photo: Wilkins

Whilst Hussey was telling me all that happened there flashed into my mind the remark Sir Ernest had made when the Quest first entered Gritviken Harbour—“The cross has gone from the hill-side!” When he spoke I little thought that when next we should round the headland and look across the harbour to those slopes another cross would be there to replace the one that had gone, erected this time to the memory of his own brave spirit.

Hussey was still awaiting a chance to go home, for since the arrival of the Woodville there had been no return steamers. The Neko, a floating factory belonging to Messrs. Salvesen & Co., was due from the South Shetlands in about ten days, and he hoped to secure a passage in her. I was glad to see this cheery little man again, who within a few hours had settled down amongst us as if he had never been away.

The first work to be done after our arrival in South Georgia was the getting up again from the bunkers of all the heavy deck gear which had been placed below as ballast for the run from Elephant Island, where, owing to depleted stores and small remaining supply of coal, the ship had become very light and top heavy. It was not at all a pleasant job, for the bunkers contained a considerable quantity of blubber, and, owing to the heavy seas, the gear had shifted about and become covered with the most disgusting mixture of coal and grease, which had to be removed from each article as it came on deck. The remaining pieces of blubber were passed up and dumped overboard, for with the heat from the engine-room they had started to become very offensive. This done, the bunkers were cleared completely and made ready to receive coal. Attention was then turned to the ship and engines, to both of which there was a good deal to be done, as may be understood, owing to the severe bumping and the continued bad weather we had experienced.

Distended Whale Carcasses in Prince Olaf Harbour | Photo:
Cape Pigeons (Daption Capensis) at South Georgia | Photo: Wilkins

These birds flock in thousands to feed on the offal from the whaling stations

Under Jeffrey’s direction, Dell, McLeod and Marr proceeded with the deck work, reset up the rigging generally, replaced all worn gear, and put everything into shipshape order ready for once more proceeding to sea. The greater part of the next portion of our journey would be in the “Roaring Forties,” which by no means belie their name, so I was particularly anxious that this part of the work should be thoroughly carried out.

Kerr and his staff had a busy time in the engine-room, where all parts of the machinery were subjected to a complete overhaul. The main pump was taken down, new parts fitted, and the whole put into good working order. The hull was still leaking badly, and all the time we were in harbour we had to keep the hand pumps going vigorously whilst the steam pump was out of action. It was found that the engines as a whole had withstood the unusually hard conditions much better than was expected, and credit is due to the engine-room staff for the careful nursing they gave them throughout the period spent in the South.

The contents of the hold were tallied and re-stowed, and space made to receive the mails for Tristan da Cunha, which had been deposited here in charge of Mr. Hansen. Whilst in the ice regions I kept the boats provisioned for thirty days, but I now reduced the amount to supplies for ten days only, as the larger weight is apt to make the boats unhandy.

I found it necessary to take aboard some fresh provisions, and a small amount of equipment to replace damaged gear, but our requirements in this respect were small. I was fortunate in obtaining from Mr. Hansen a supply of fresh potatoes, which are, perhaps, the most valuable of all foodstuffs to people living under our conditions.

Wilkins and Douglas were set free from all work about the ship so that they might have all their time free to carry on their scientific observations.

A certain amount of carpentry was necessary about the ship, for which work the managers of the whaling stations supplied me with men. The broken after-scuttle was renewed and strengthened, and the deck-house, which had leaked badly, re-canvassed and covered with a coating of red lead.

Throughout the whole of this work I received the most valuable assistance from Mr. Hansen, to whom nothing proved too much trouble. In addition, he gave us a most cordial welcome to his house, where we renewed our acquaintance with Dr. and Mrs. Aarberg. It was indeed “Liberty Hall,” for we came and went as we pleased; the bathroom was thrown open for our use, and there was always an unlimited supply of hot water. We certainly needed it—words cannot give an idea of the luxury of that first long wallow in the bath. I was much touched by Mr. Hansen’s kindly and practical hospitality, and tried many times to express my thanks, but he brushed them aside as if it were all a matter of no moment. Indeed, I was surprised at the warmth of welcome we received from everybody we met. I have an inkling that the Quest was regarded as far too small a vessel for the undertaking, and that the enterprise was considered a somewhat hazardous one.

While the work of the ship was going forward I made a point of allowing the members of the expedition as much time for rest and recreation as possible. The period spent in the South had proved a trying and wearing one to everybody, and all were in need of a rest and change of exercise. Time also was required for “make and mend,” washing of clothes and attention to personal gear generally, which had been impossible whilst the Quest was the plaything of the heavy southern seas.

South Georgia

I sent the men ashore, whenever the opportunity afforded, to walk over the island, play football, or visit the people employed at the station, of whom a number were British, chiefly Shetlanders. There was a football ground behind the station, situated at the foot of a high mountain and overlooked by a glacier; the ground was more remarkable, however, for its romantic position than for the condition of its surface. We received a challenge from the Shetlanders, which I accepted. In so small a company as ours, numbering nineteen all told, it was not easy to raise eleven footballers, for many were Rugby players, and had never played the Association game. However, we succeeded in putting out a side which, after a good game, defeated the Shetlanders by one goal to nil. Anxious 182 for revenge, they challenged us to a return match, and beat us. Unfortunately, the opportunity for a third and decisive game did not occur.

I encouraged incidents of this nature, for they provided an entire change from the routine of ship’s work and served to draw the men more closely together on a common level than the routine ship’s work could ever do. Also they gave a new topic for conversation and discussion which lasted for days.

On April 14th the Neko arrived, and I accompanied Mr. Hansen on a visit to her, when I discovered that her master, Captain Sinclair, was an old friend whom I had met in South Georgia eight years before. He readily consented to take Hussey to Rio de Janeiro, where he could transfer to a mail boat for home, and offered him the only accommodation available on board—the settee in his cabin. The Neko is a floating factory. Each spring, as soon as the ice opens, she proceeds to Deception Island, and thence as her captain may think fit. She is accompanied by four steam whale-catchers, which, when they have killed a whale, bring it in and lay it alongside the parent ship. She herself is provided with boilers and vats and all the apparatus necessary for trying down the blubber into oil. The pursuit of whales has changed largely since the days of the old Dundee fleet, when the actual killing was carried out from boats by means of hand harpoons and lances. Now, instead of boats, small but fast steel steamers are used, which carry in their bows powerful guns from which the harpoon is fired. Attached to the harpoon is a strong rope coiled ready for running on a small sloping platform over the bows. A bomb is fitted to the end of the harpoon and forms the point. If the aim is good, this bursts inside the animal, causing instantaneous death.

The Northern Coast of Drygalski Fiord | Photo: Wilkins
Cape Saunders | Photo: Wilkins
The New Type of Whaler | A Modern Steam “catcher” Entering Harbour at South Georgia Through Newly Freezing Ice | Photo: Dr. Macklin
The Black-browed Albatross or Mollymauk | Photo: Wilkins

In the case of the stations located on South Georgia the process is much the same, but the shore factory replaces the parent ship and everything is on a larger scale.

The newer method of hunting is a much more lethal one—for the whale; from the catchers’ point of view it is, of course, much safer and more comfortable. In the old days the chase of these huge animals was looked upon as a dangerous undertaking and might be regarded in the nature of a sport, for the whale had more than a sporting chance of getting away and the hunters stood a good chance of being drowned. Nowadays it has become a mere business. Nevertheless, the floating factories, in pushing south to good whaling grounds, take considerable risks of being crushed by the ice.

Captain Sinclair is an old and very experienced hand at the work, and in addition to his whaling activities has added largely to the charting of the South Shetlands and the Palmer Archipelago. He has succeeded also in bringing home some unique live specimens of seals and penguins, which have been added to the collection in the Zoological Gardens in Edinburgh.

On the 15th we went to Stromness Harbour, where we were welcomed by the manager, Mr. Sorlle.

When Sir Ernest Shackleton, accompanied by Worsley and Crean, made the crossing of South Georgia during the Endurance expedition, it was here that they arrived and were received by Mr. Sorlle, who fed them and provided them with hot baths and beds, and was instrumental in fitting out a relief ship to go to the rescue of the marooned party on Elephant Island, getting it ready within twenty-four hours of his first hearing of the state of affairs. This relief ship, the Southern Sky, was unfortunately held up by the ice, and her return was dictated, not by the Norwegians who manned her—they were ready to hang on for many more days—but by Sir Ernest Shackleton, who was anxious to get to the Falkland Islands so that he might set going the preparation of a larger, properly ice-protected wooden ship.

I decided to lay the Quest alongside the Perth, a large oil transport which acted as tender to the station. A strong breeze was blowing, which made the Quest very unhandy to manœuvre, and whilst Worsley was putting her alongside she struck her bowsprit against the steel sides of the Perth and snapped it off short. This might have proved a serious disability, but, fortunately, Mr. Sorlle had a spar which he not only presented to us, but had cut down and shaped to our requirements.

Here, as at Leith, we received every kindness, and we had hardly made fast before a present of a pig and a reindeer—the latter shot by Mr. Sorlle himself—were sent aboard. All the officers were invited to dine with Mr. Sorlle at his house in the evening, and we received a dinner of six or seven courses which rivalled anything to be had in civilization. Afterwards we spent a very pleasant evening with reminiscence, story and song. Mr. Sorlle is a most charming host.

Whilst lying in Stromness Harbour we experienced one of those tremendous hurricanes which are characteristic of the southern volcanic islands. Descending from the hills without a moment’s notice, it blew with such violence that the whole surface of the bay was lashed into a torn mass of driven water, the tops of the seas being snatched off and blown in a blinding spume to leeward. One of our boats lying alongside the ship was swamped, and all gear that would float, such as oars, bottom boards and fishing tackle, were swept out of her and lost. Fortunately, the painter held, and there was no damage to the boat itself.

There was no coal available at Leith, Stromness or Husvik, so on the 17th I proceeded to Prince Olaf Harbour to see if I could obtain what I required. The whaling station there is the property of Messrs. Lever Brothers, and is under English management. On my arrival I called at once on the manager, Mr. Bostock, who relieved my mind very much when he said he would give us what we required for our purpose. We accordingly lay alongside the Southern Isles, the oil transport steamer and station tender which was to supply us. Here, again, we received much help from Captain Sapp, who supplied all the labour necessary to put the coal on our decks.

Whilst we were here Carr developed a nasty abscess of the face, and on the invitation of the company’s doctor went ashore to the hospital, where he could get a bed, with clean sheets and other comforts not available on the ship. Macklin was suffering from an inflamed hand, the result of an accident whilst in the ice, and McIlroy found it necessary to incise it for him.

On the 19th we had completed coaling, and on the 20th set off for the Bay of Isles to study the bird life of the numerous islands dotted about it. On this day Hussey left us to join the Neko at Leith. He had taken his old place amongst us and had joined fully in all the work of the ship. His unfailing optimism and cheerfulness had done much to enliven us, and it was with genuine regret that we said good-bye. I think he felt the going. With him went Carr, who was now suffering a good deal from his face. Hussey had instructions to take medical charge of him, and if his condition became worse to take him home on the Neko, but if it showed signs of improvement he was to hand him over to Dr. Aarberg, to await our arrival at Leith Harbour.

We made first for Albatross Island, under the lee of which I lay to, and sent Jeffrey with the boat to put Wilkins and his party ashore. They effected a landing in a small cave, and, having scaled a cliff, reached the summit of the island, where they found albatross and giant petrels in large numbers.

A Pair of Adult Wandering Albatross | Photo: Wilkins
A Young Albatross | Photo: Wilkins
Gentoo Penguin Feeding Its Chick | The Beak of the Young Is Thrust Right Inside the Throat of the Parent | Photo: Wilkins
The Chick After Feeding | Photo: Wilkins

Macklin, whose hand prevented him from working, asked permission to go with them, and I quote from his diary:

We landed on a little beach inside a cave which was occupied by a number of sea-elephants, which showed their resentment of our approach by opening their mouths very wide and making stertorous windy noises which could hardly be described as “roaring”—“breathing” defiance with a vengeance.

In the enclosed atmosphere they smelled horribly, for they are unclean, swinish brutes. From the cave we clambered up a steep cliff to the top of the island, which we found to be irregular in shape and covered with tussock grass. Wilkins, with the assistance of Marr and Argles, immediately set about collecting albatross for addition to the natural history collections. These birds, when seen at close quarters on the ground, prove to be much larger than one would imagine, being about the size of large geese, but with much longer legs. Their appearance on land is ugly and ungainly, and contrasts strongly with the grace and beauty they exhibit when in flight. Wilkins, by going slowly, was easily able to get within reach, when he grabbed their beaks and “pithed” them by passing a needle through the back of the skull into the brain. He took the heads, wings and legs as specimens and made them into neat parcels for transmission to the museums. Jeffrey and McLeod had stayed to look after the boat, so, being at a loose end and remembering Worsley’s ecstatic remarks concerning baby albatross, I set about collecting enough of them for a meal for all hands. The island was covered with little paths worn by the birds, which formed a regular maze amongst the tussocks and hummocks of grass. Here and there one came across little circular plateaux which apparently formed a meeting-place for numbers of birds, for they were worn absolutely bare to the mud. The nests of the albatross are placed on the top of small, raised, cone-shaped mounds composed of earth and tussock grass, which are nearly always situated on the windward side of the island, so that the birds when preparing for flight have merely to spread their wings to get a good take off. The inside of the nest is hollowed sufficiently deep to allow the young bird to crouch and take shelter from the winds. The young are pretty little things covered with white down, and from the highest point of the island I could see them all round me standing out in marked contrast to the dark green of the tussock grass.

The giant petrels, “Nellies” or “Stinkers,” as they are variously called, nest in much the same way. They are most unpleasant creatures and receive from sailors none of the veneration accorded to the albatross. We had been ashore some hours when Commander Wild sent up a detonator as a signal for our recall. The cliffs on the side where we had landed are steep and overhanging, so that we had to approach cautiously, and had some difficulty in finding the way back to our cave. We at length found the spot where we had ascended. I flung my collection of birds over the cliff to be picked up below, and all of us having got safely down we rowed back to the ship.

Macklin, in speaking of “the veneration accorded to the albatross,” voices a very old superstition amongst seamen of the old sailing ship days. When I first went to sea as a boy this was still a common belief amongst sailors, but though there are a few of these old-timers left who still hold to the old romantic ideas, they are becoming more and more scarce. Romance is not dead, as Kipling says, but it moves with the times. Masefield says:

Them birds goin’ fishin’ is nothin’ but souls o’ the drowned,
Souls o’ the drowned an’ the kicked as are never no more;
An’ that there haughty old albatross cruisin’ around,
Belike he’s Admiral Nelson or Admiral Noah.

I recalled the party on account of the weather, for a strong wind had blown up, the seas were increasing and there were indications of a heavy storm. I did not care to be caught with the Quest on a lee shore, so went back to Prince Olaf Harbour, where we found that all their own whale catchers had returned for shelter. In addition there were a number belonging to other stations which had put in here till the weather should abate. We had for dinner the next night the baby albatross which Macklin had brought off. This was the first food obtained by Sir Ernest Shackleton on his arrival at South Georgia from the boat journey, and often had we listened to Worsley’s telling of the story, this much of which never varied: “Baby albatross just off the nest—we ate them! By jove, they were good, damn good!” By one of life’s little ironies he was having dinner ashore that night and so missed them; his disappointment on hearing of it was keen.

On the 22nd, the weather having abated somewhat, we left to carry out an extensive series of soundings about the north-western end of South Georgia. This we accomplished in spite of very bad weather. The Quest, as usual, behaved abominably, having a most uncomfortable motion as we butted into the head seas, which sent the spray in clouds high over the yards.

We returned to Prince Olaf Harbour on the 25th. There was still much to be done, and Mr. Bostock kindly lent me his shore carpenter for some jobs that were still outstanding on the ship.

On the 27th we said good-bye to our friends and left for Leith, passing en route the Woodville, which was coming up the coast, and presented a fine sight as she dipped her nose deeply into the swell.

We arrived in Leith Harbour in a blinding snow squall which made mooring to the buoy a difficult matter. The Quest’s engines were of such low power that manœuvring in close spaces was an extremely difficult matter during the squalls, which came out of the mountains with hurricane force and startling suddenness.

On the 29th Mr. Hansen was able to make room for us alongside his little pier, where we proceeded to take in water. Owing to the low temperature the water in the hose froze solid and it became necessary to clear the galley to thaw it, the process being carried out section by section till all was clear. Green had the dinner in process of cooking, and was quite perturbed when he had to sweep away all his pots and pans to make room for the hose—such is an example of what a cook has to put up with at sea.

On May 1st we took aboard what stores we required and the mails for Tristan da Cunha. We received from Mr. Hansen some final presents in the form of a pig and several small but useful sundries, and from Captain Manson of the Albuera an additional two crates of fresh potatoes.

On the 2nd we said good-bye to Leith Harbour, which we had regarded as our South Georgia home and where we had received so much kindness, not only from Mr. Hansen, the manager, who had done everything in his power to assist us, but from Dr. Aarberg, who had looked after Carr whilst we had been carrying out the soundings about the island and had been of assistance to the surgeons in many ways. Our thanks are due to Mrs. Aarberg also, for with much kindly thoughtfulness she had asked us to entrust to her care such articles of clothing as might require the “stitch in time.”

On the Way to the Cairn—seen in the Distance | Photo: Wilkins
Looking Shorewards From the Cairn | A Winter View of Gritviken Harbour, With the Magistrate’s House in the Foreground | Photo: Dr. Macklin
Our Farewell to the Boss | Old companions of Sir Ernest Shackleton gathered about his grave in the little Gritviken Cemetery | Photo: Wilkins

As a result of our stay we were refreshed and full of vigour, for the spell ashore and in harbour had done us all good. Thanks also to the various managers we had been able to vary the diet from our own preserved provisions to fresh food in the form of pork, reindeer and whale-meat, which provided a most pleasant change. We were able to catch also Cape pigeons and albatross, which when properly cooked make quite good eating. The former have an oily taste which can be largely removed by soaking them for twenty-four hours in dilute vinegar.

I seized every chance of sending away the boats to catch fresh fish, which are found in great quantity about the coast. Macklin, Jeffrey, Green and Hussey (whilst he was with us) were those most often engaged in this work, which was not always pleasant. An entry in one diary reads:

Some people fish for fun, some consider it a sport, others fish because they have blooming[11] well got to. I am one of them. Down here the job is often anything but a joyous one in cold driving wind and snow, fingers so cold that one can scarcely remove the hooks from the fishes’ mouths. Sometimes the blizzards sweep down and it is all we can do to fight our way inch by inch back to the ship….

Macklin writes in this connexion:

The fish here are of excellent quality and have the peculiarity that when cooked they do not taste fishy. Green usually fries them in olive oil and they are particularly good. The best spots for finding fish are in belts of kelp close to the edge where the tides sweep in and out. Whale meat (not blubber) makes a good bait and a spinner (or any piece of bright tin) helps to attract the fish. One can usually moor the boat to the strands of kelp, but it is advisable always to have on board a small kedge anchor and a good length of line in case of being swept away by the blizzards which blow from the hills with strong, sudden blasts.

Green is a great enthusiast, and is always willing to come, whatever the weather….

There is no sport in the actual fishing, for the fish abound in great quantities and are very sluggish. The chief art lies in knowing just where to go for them. There are two kinds, which we speak of as “ordinary” fish and “crocodile” fish. The first, as the name implies, have nothing peculiar about them. The latter have immense mouths with crocodile-shaped jaws and look hideous. The tail is small, and indeed it may be said that there is more mouth than anything else.

The trip to Gritviken was uneventful and we arrived there the same day.

Before leaving South Georgia we had rather a sad duty to perform. For a long time I had desired to erect some mark which would serve to perpetuate the memory of Sir Ernest Shackleton. We had no time to do it before we left for the South, for every day was precious and it was essential that we should get away at the earliest possible moment. After some consideration I decided that the mark should take the form of a cairn surmounted by a cross, and I selected as a site for it a prominent spot on the headland which stands out from the lower slopes of Duse Fell, at the entrance to Gritviken harbour. I determined that it should be the work of his comrades, something which we ourselves could create without help from outside sources. Everyone on board was anxious to have a hand in the building, so I arranged things that they might do so. On the night of our arrival the temperature fell very low and the surface of the harbour froze over, not sufficiently to permit of walking but enough to make it an extremely difficult matter to get the boat to the shore. Also snow fell thickly. We broke a way through the ice and proceeded to the headland, where we made a search for suitable building stone. There was none convenient, and to obtain it we had to go some distance up the hillside to where a shoulder of rock jutted out through the tussock grass. Having removed the snow we bored the rock and blasted it with sabulite, afterwards breaking away suitable pieces with crowbar and pick. For sledging it down the hill we had to make special box-containers; even then with the steepness of the declivity and the roughness of the track it was a difficult matter to prevent the loads from falling off. The work was awkward and hard; on several occasions the sledges broke away and careered down the slippery hillside with the men clinging desperately behind. No one grudged the labour and time spent, for it was the last job we should do for the Boss. The foundations were laid and the cairn began to grow. There were no expert masons amongst us, but the work when completed had a most pleasing appearance. Into the stone we cemented a brass plate on which was engraved very simply:


The cairn is solid and will stand the ravages of frost and blizzards for many years to come.

It will be the first object picked out by any ship entering the harbour, and to anyone looking back as the vessel steams away it will stand out in lonely prominence long after the station has disappeared from view. It can be seen also from every part of the harbour.

Our last act before leaving was to pay a visit to the Boss’s grave, for which purpose I gathered together all those who had served under him on the Endurance and had shared with him all the trials and vicissitudes that followed her loss in the ice. There were, in addition to myself, Worsley, Macklin, McIlroy, Kerr, Green and McLeod. That I included none of the newer men who had known him for so short awhile casts no shadow of aspersion upon them. My feelings in the matter are hard to describe. We were joined to each other and to him by ties so strongly welded through the long months of common danger and uncertainty that I felt there would be something wrong in introducing anything in the nature of a less intimate element.

So our little party rowed across the bay, walked to the little graveyard and gathered for the last time round his grave. It was deeply snow-covered. We carefully removed the snow and disclosed a number of bronze wreaths: from Lady Shackleton and from numerous friends and relatives at home. There were others from the Uruguayan Republic, the British residents in Uruguay, the Freemasons of Uruguay and the French Maritime Society. Two others hang in the little church, placed there by Hussey: one from His Majesty King George V and the British people, the other from his old school-fellows resident in South America. There was also the flower wreath placed with such kindly thought by the doctor’s wife, Mrs. Aarberg.

The graveyard is a simple little place. In it are already a few crosses, some of them very old, mute reminders of forgotten tragedies. Four of them mark the resting places of officers and men of the sailing ship Esther, of London. They had died of typhus fever and were buried here in 1846. There is one inscribed to W. H. Dyke, Surgeon, who in his devotion to duty in attending the sick had also contracted the disease and died. There are some newer crosses erected to Norwegian whalers who had lost their lives in the arduous calling which brings them to these stormy waters. All of them are the graves of strong men.

It is a fitting environment. Gritviken is a romantic spot. All around are big mountains, bold in outline and snow-covered. Below lies one of the most perfect little harbours in the world, at times disturbed by the fierce winds from the hills and lashed by the gusty squalls to a mass of flying spume and spindrift. Often it lies calm and peaceful, bathed in glorious sunshine and reflecting in its deeps the high peaks around, whilst the sea-birds, “souls of old mariners,” circle in sweeping flights above its surface and fill the air with the melancholy of their cries. An ideal resting-place this for the great explorer who felt, more than most men, the glamour of such surroundings.

So we said good-bye to the “Old Boss,” and I who have served with him through four expeditions know that if he could have chosen his own resting-place it would have been just here.

Here—here’s his place, where meteors shoot, clouds form,
Lightnings are loosened,
Stars come and go! Let joy break with the storm,
Peace let the dew send!
Lofty designs must close in like effects:
Loftily lying,
Leave him—still loftier than the world suspects,
Living and dying.
—Robert Browning.

We had still some work to do before finally setting course for Tristan da Cunha.

Before leaving Gritviken I entrusted our last lot of  letters and messages for home to Mr. Binnie, the magistrate, who, together with the other Government representatives on the island, had been very helpful to us in many ways.

We went alongside the little pier where we hardened up[12] the water tanks. Mr. Jacobsen paid a last visit to the ship and presented us with a parting present in the form of a fine young sow, which was carried aboard in a box, receiving the excited attentions of Query. I did not kill her at once, intending to keep and feed her up so that we might have some fresh meat when at sea. Someone gave her the name “Bridget,” and so she was known until her demise some weeks later at the hands of Dell, who did our butchering.

We received also from Mr. Jacobsen some packets of dried Swedish oaten cakes, which were of particular interest in that they had formed part of the stores of Filchner’s German expedition which had come to grief and been abandoned here. They were still, after eleven years, in excellent condition.

We left on May 7th and had been some hours at sea when we discovered a stowaway aboard. This was “Micky,” a small black-and-white dog belonging to Mr. Binnie, the magistrate. He was discovered by Macklin who, whilst descending into the hold, stepped in the darkness upon something which moved and yelped and which proved, upon being dragged to the light for inspection, to be this animal. We lavished upon him no loving remarks, but knowing that Mr. Binnie set great store by him I put back and in the small hours of the morning sent Jeffrey with the boat to put him ashore, having previously tied to his neck a message to Binnie, explaining his disappearance and requesting him as a magistrate to award a punishment of at least three days jail for having caused us so much trouble and loss of time.

On May 8th we visited Royal Bay and Moltke Harbour, where the German Transit of Venus Expedition had had a station in 1882. One of the huts then set up is still standing.

The glacier running into this harbour is of great geological interest because in the last forty years it has advanced about a mile and receded to its original position. I sent the boat ashore with Jeffrey, Macklin and Ross to find suitable landings for the scientific parties. There was a heavy surf running which made the operation difficult, but they succeeded in putting Douglas with Carr and Argles on to a steep rocky beach which ran along the side of the harbour. Marr, still very inexperienced in boat work, fell overboard during the process and was rolled over and over in the surf, to be eventually cast upon the beach; but he escaped with nothing worse than a ducking—which is not a joke in these temperatures. Wilkins, who with Marr had wished to land on the beach at the side of the glacier, was unable to do so.

I sent Macklin, McIlroy, Marr and Green to catch as many fish as possible for taking away with us. Finding a suitable spot at the edge of a belt of kelp, they secured a good haul and brought back enough to last for several days, for in these temperatures there was not much fear of its going bad.

Shortly before dark I recalled all hands, who were picked up and brought off safely.

Before leaving, Worsley took a line of soundings along the front of the glacier. This was our last work in South Georgia.

This remote island has drawn to it scientists from all nations, yet there remains much to interest the investigators of to-day. During our stay we made a great number of observations and collected a mass of data which when sorted and worked out fully will, I hope, be of great interest to the scientific world.

We now put to sea and set course for Tristan da Cunha. As we left the bay the moon came out—a big golden moon which cast a broad pathway on the sea and bathed the huge glaciers and the snow-covered mountains and valleys in a soft golden glow. Our last sight of South Georgia was a very beautiful one, and my last thoughts as I gazed back over our rippling wake, gleaming in the moonlight with brighter phosphorescence, were of my comrade who stayed there, and I hoped for his sake that our completed enterprise would be the success that he himself would have made it.

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