Elephant Island , Antarctica


Elephant Island  

Elephant Island is an ice covered, mountainous island in the outer reaches off the coast of Antarctic and the outer reaches of the South Shetland Islands in the Southern Ocean.  

The island is most famous as the desolate refuge of Ernest Shackleton.  In 1916, following the loss of the ship Endurance in Wendell Sea ice. Shacketon realized that there was no chance of rescue by any passing ships.  Shackleton decided to set out for South Georgia Island where he knew there was a whaling station. In one of the most incredible feats in the history of sailing and navigation, Shackleton sailed off with five other men on an 800-mile voyage in an open lifeboat, arriving at South Georgia almost two weeks later.  

His second in command, John Robert Francis “Frank” Wild remained in charge of the 21 other men on Elephant Island for more than four months while Shackleton led attempts to return with a rescue ship. In his memoir, Wild recalled ‘We gave them three hearty cheers and watched the boat getting smaller and smaller in the distance. Then seeing some of the party in tears, immediately set them all to work.”  

Indeed, there was much work for the stranded party. Because the island had no natural source of shelter, they constructed a shack and wind blocks from their remaining two lifeboats and pieces of canvas tents Blubber lamps were used for lighting.  

They hunted for penguins and seals, neither of which was plentiful during the autumn and winter months. The crew, many of whom were already ill and frostbitten, were now also in danger of starvation. After four and a half months of waiting, one of the stranded men spotted a ship on August 30, 1916 . The ship, led by Shacketon was the borrowed tugboat Yelcho, from Punta Arenas , Chile , which broke through the ice surrounding the island to finally rescue all of the men who set out on original expedition.  

According to Frank Worsley, Shackfeton’s captain, the men pronounced the Island ’s name with a silent‘t’ and an ‘h’ prefixed, which makes it into Hell-of-an-Island.