"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Antarctic Journals, Chapter Four

Leaving Your Mark, or Not

 To say that Shackleton’s second expedition to Antarctica sailed from New Zealand in 1908 would be both correct and incorrect.  Shackleton is the leader for this expedition and he chooses to have his ship, the Nimrod, towed 1650 miles by a steamer ship in order to save coal.

Before leaving England, Shackleton promises Robert Scott that he will not use the McMurdo base camp set up by Scott on their previous expedition. 

 This promise will be broken, of necessity.
Therefore, Shackleton heads for the eastern sector of the Great Ice Barrier (now called the Ross Ice Shelf), but finds ice conditions completely unsuitable and unsafe for landing or establishing a base.  He sails for McMurdo Sound and establishes a base hut about 24 miles from Scott’s former base.  Stores are off-loaded and the Nimrod sails back to New Zealand.

Frank Wild, left, Shackleton, Marshall and Adams
Shackleton and his men wait out the Antarctic winter in a pre-fabricated hut and in January 1908, a four-man party consisting of Shackleton, Petty Officers Frank Wild, surgeon Eric Marshall, and Jameson Adams reach a point only 112 miles (97 nautical miles) from the South Pole.  They also establish the approximate location of the magnetic pole.  For this journey, Shackleton uses Mongolian ponies to carry their supplies.  The cold and conditions are far too difficult for the equines and many die during the long Antarctic winter from eating volcanic sand for its salt content, and more perish on the trek inland.

The trip is arduous and food is rationed as the men trudge southward.  One of the ponies falls into a cravasse, taking with it some of the food supplies. Though they travel farther south than any other expedition and are so close, Shackleton decides to return to the ship, knowing that further travel would most likely cause the death of his teammates and himself.  

Marshall, Adams, Shackleton at their farthest point south.  There is some discrepancy as to the identity of the men in this photo, with some sources claiming Shackleton took the photo and that Adams, Wild, and Marshall are in the picture.


The return trip is plagued with starvation and half rations.  Frank Wild writes in his diary that Shackleton gave him (Wild) his allotted biscuit for the day and adds, “All the money that was ever minted would not have bought that biscuit and the remembrance of that sacrifice will never leave me.”

It is but one measure of Shackleton’s character.

 On arriving back at the base camp, the men find the Nimrod had sailed two days previous.  In desperation, they burn the camp.   It works and the Nimrod returns for the men.

Back in England, Shackleton is knighted and receives many awards but only a grant from the government saves him from defaulting on his loans.

The red line shows the route of  Shackleton's Nimrod Expedition trek to within a hundred miles of the South Pole.  Ignore the green line, because Shackleton did not fly from South America to Antarctica.  This was the only map I could find that showed the route of the Nimrod Expedition.  The red line denotes the air route used by a  group that recently duplicated Shackleton's expedition.


Surprisingly, we land in Buenos Aires just about on time.  I say surprisingly because there was some kind of delay in Dallas, one of those things the ticket agents won’t disclose the reason for, but leave your imagination to run wild instead.  

We get off the plane and walk down a long hallway, ride down as escalator, pile up at the bottom, and fall down in a heap. 

Really.  Well, some did.  The escalator continues to deliver more bodies to the heap.

Gold glass-fronted building across from the hotel in Buenos Aires.
Some of us see the heap in time to avoid the escalator.  Turns out, about fifty feet beyond the bottom of the escalator is where we line up in double lines to pay our bribe to get into Argentina. 

They call it “reciprocity,” kind of a turn-about-is-fair-play.  Seems the U.S., Canada, and Australia charge Argentinians a visa fee, so even though Argentina doesn’t require a visa for US citizens, they charge us the fee anyway. 

As I said, a bribe to get into the country.  However, when a 777 full of foreigners de-planes, it requires more than fifty feet to accommodate all those passengers at passport control.  When a herd of sheep is blindly following the sheep in front, it can be difficult to see what happens at the bottom of the escalator, hence the heap.  

Close-up of the reflections in that glass (see above photo).

Someone had the wherewithal to hit the stop control on the escalator, which allowed the poor lady at the bottom to get her feet under her and stand up.  The rest of us take the stairs, not wanting to be part of another heap.

This photo is actually of Kathy trying to get back into the US without fingerprints.
My friend Kathy finally reaches passport control, where an agent inspects her passport, takes her photo, and a digital fingerprint of her right thumb.  It won’t take, so they give her an alcohol swab to clean her thumb.  Still nothing.  They try the left thumb and it, too, won’t print.

Eventually they try a number of fingers, again without success.  A supervisor is called and after a discussion, Kathy is allowed into Argentina without leaving her prints behind.

She thinks the reason for the failure is that she has psoriasis on her hands.  Though she treats it daily, the skin condition has all but eliminated her fingerprints.

And then we encounter the chaos of the terminal where guides holding Vantage signs hope to corral us.


  1. Thanks for the History, just love reading what you write, and the photos/maps are great.


  2. Oh my what an incredible web site you have here .. it is beyond words .. keep on keeping on ! .. smiles from patti and from cap still hanging out in texas ..

  3. Oh my what an incredible web site you have here .. it is beyond words .. keep on keeping on ! .. smiles from patti and from cap still hanging out in texas ..

  4. Traveling can certainly be a challenge. It's a challenge you're definitely able to handle.

    Thanks again for taking me with you via your blog.