Brother Shackleton, Antarctic Explorer
Brother Sir Ernest Shackleton is best known for his incredible journey from the Weddell Sea to Elephant Island and South Georgia after his ship Endurance was lost in pressure ice.
One of the most fascinating stories relating to Shackleton begins on the ice at the point called Dump Camp, just after the Endurance was engulfed in the ice of the Weddell Sea.
The Fatal Day
Finally the pressure of the ice became too much for the Endurance. The decks buckled and the beams broke; the stern was thrown upward 20 feet, and the rudder and sternpost were torn out of her.
The water ran forward and froze, weighting her down in the bow, so the ice climbed up her sides, inundating her under the sheer weight of it.
As Shackleton left the ship, he carried the Bible given to the expedition by the Queen Mother, Alexandra of England. Shackleton called all hands together and explained it was imperative all weight be reduced to the barest minimum.
Shackleton in Black Hat
No article was of any value when weighed against their ultimate survival and he exhorted them to be ruthless.
He then reached under his parka and took out a gold cigarette case and several gold sovereigns and threw them into the snow at his feet.
He then opened the Queen Alexandra Bible and ripped out the flyleaf and the page containing the Twenty-third Psalm. He also tore out the page from the Book of Job with this verse:
Out of whose womb came the ice? And the hoary frost of Heaven, who hath gendered it? The waters are hid as with a stone. And the face of the deep is frozen.
Then he laid the Bible in the snow and walked away.
Shackleton died believing this was the end of this Volume of the Sacred Law, however this is not the case.
One of the Endurance crewmen, Able Seaman Thomas McLeod, believed Shackleton was courting bad luck by throwing away a Bible. So, notwithstanding the need to reduce weight, he picked it up when no one was looking. He secreted it throughout that terrible journey to Elephant Island and the subsequent voyage to South Georgia.
Early in 1971, Commander M. K. Burley, leader of the 1970-71 Joint Services Expedition to Elephant Island, gave a talk at the British Embassy in Buenos Aires. After his talk, Commander Burley was given a Bible by a Miss I. McLean. It was the Bible from Endurance.
After Shackleton's men had been rescued by the Chilean vessel Yelcho, many stayed to recover in Chile. McLeod presented the Bible to Miss McLean's parents, with whom he had stayed, in appreciation of their hospitality. Commander Burley later gave it to the Royal Geographical Society for safe keeping, where it remains today.
Sir Henry Ernest Shackleton was initiated in Navy Lodge, No.2612 EC, on 9th July 1901 and in the words of John Hamill, UGLE Director of Communications: "must hold a record for the time taken to go from the first to the third degrees". He was passed in the Guild of Freemen Lodge in November 1911 and raised there in November 1913! In 1914, he was unanimously elected an honorary member.
He remained a member of both lodges until his death of heart attack during his third expedition to the South Pole in 1922. He is buried on South Georgia Island.
Photographs by Australian photographer Frank Hurley are used with permission of the National Gallery of Victoria and the National Library of Australia. More information about Hurley can be found on the KODAK WEB-SITE.