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After months of travel and within sight of the Antartic coast, their ship, the Endurance, became wedged in the ice and couldn’t go any further.
Shackleton and his men drifted for nearly 10 months before the relentless pressure of the ice began to crush their boat. As a last resort, they abandoned ship, hauling as much gear as they could carry.
With only dogsleds, three small lifeboats and their own feet for transportation, the explorers were now adrift on the ice and over a thousand miles from the nearest civilization.
So the men set out, dragging all the food and gear they could manage.
The travel was grueling. Every day they faced life and death through extreme cold, starvation and unstable conditions.
After months of making little progress, they finally reached open water. They launched the boats they’d been dragging and three days later, their feet touched solid ground.
Unfortunately, the ground under their feet was on the uninhabited Elephant Island.
With several of the crew too exhausted to go on, Shackleton took only a few courageous men on a desperate attempt to reach the nearest whaling station on South Georgia Island. Despite being short on supplies and traveling in a single boat, Shackelton was determined to complete the 800 mile trip across the most treacherous waters in the world.
After nearly two weeks they finally reached the island but they quickly discovered they were on the wrong side. The whaling station was seventeen more miles, straight across the ice-capped mountains, a route no human had ever attempted.
For thirty six torturous hours, they struggled over snowfields, mountain ranges, and glaciers. When they finally saw the glow of warmth radiating from the whaling station, Shackelton and his men rejoiced.
It took Shackleton three months to plan the rescue and get back to Elephant Island.
He was on the bow of the rescue ship when the castaways were spotted on the beach. He shouted, “Are you all well?” One man called back, “All safe, all well!”
“Thank God! Thank God!” was all Shackleton could say, overwhelmed that all of his men were still alive.
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