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First Look at Elephant Island, Antarctica
Antarctica is a wonderful cruise destination for adventurous travelers. The story of Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and his Endurance crew of 28 icebound sailors in 1914 is an amazing story of determination.
Most travelers have heard or read about Elephant Island, where 22 of Shackleton's crew spent four long, dark Antarctic winter months awaiting rescue, and marveled at their perseverance. However, visiting Elephant Island in Antarctica on an inflatable Zodiac boat from a cruise ship will give you a perfect idea of just how unbelievable their story actually was!
This photo is a close-up look at Elephant Island, Antarctica, as seen from the Hanseatic cruise ship. The passengers were not nearly as excited as the sailors with the Shackleton expedition were. Doesn't the island look cold and foreboding?
Ernest Shackleton and his 1914 expedition of 26 sailors and one stowaway were stuck in the Antarctic ice pack, which eventually sunk their ship the Endurance. At first, the... expedition team camped on ice bergs, but finally Captain Shackleton and his men used life boats to reach Elephant Island, the first landfall in 497 days.
The expedition was not safe on Elephant Island, so Shackleton took 5 men and a 22-foot open lifeboat and struck out for South Georgia Island, 800 miles away. He promised to return for the 22 men left behind. Despite having to navigate without modern technology, the life boat landed on the south coast of South Georgia Island 17 days later. The boat was damaged and could not be used to sail around the island to the whaling station on the other side. So, the men decided they needed to cross the mountain range that divided the 22-mile wide island. This island had never been crossed on foot, so they did not know what to expect.
Only Shackleton and two of the crew struck out on foot, leaving the three other men who were too weak to walk with the lifeboat. It took many attempts to find a way to cross the mountains, but the three men finally made it, sliding down the last harrowing portion. The whaling station was surprised to see them, and they immediately struck out to rescue the three others on the south side of the island.
After those men were successfully retrieved, Shackleton then began to lobby for help rescuing the remaining 22 men who were stranded on Elephant Island. Several attempts failed because of the ice, and Shackleton feared the men would give up hope of rescue as the Austral winter approached. Great Britain was reluctant to send a ship to help since all of the naval vessels were needed for the World War I effort. After asking other countries for assistance, Shackleton finally got a Chilean ship, the Yelcho, to attempt the voyage to Elephant Island.
It had been four months since Shackleton and the five crewmen had left Elephant Island with the lifeboat, and they were concerned that some of the 22 men might have succumbed to the cold, wind, and desolation. However, all 22 were alive and were rescued. What an amazing story of endurance, dedication, and faith.Continue to 2 of 11 below.
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Launching the Inflatable Zodiacs Used to Explore Elephant Island, Antarctica
Launching the inflatable Zodiacs from the Hanseatic cruise ship. These speedy, easy-to-manuever boats are ideal for exploring.Continue to 3 of 11 below.
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Glacier on Elephant Island, Antarctica
The Zodiacs look small as they approach a glacier at Elephant Island, AntarcticaContinue to 4 of 11 below.
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Hanseatic Zodiac Driver
The Hanseatic had several Zodiac drivers, including a woman! Everyone on the ship loved the Zodiac expeditions each day.Continue to 5 of 11 below.
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Hanseatic Zodiac Heads for Shackleton's Crew Camp on Elephant Island
The tiny Zodiac in the foreground of this photo provides a nice perspective of the size of Elephant Island in Antarctica.Continue to 6 of 11 below.
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Point Wild, Elephant Island, Antarctica
Point Wild was named for Frank Wild, the second-in-command of Shackleton's expedition, which was shipwrecked, but managed to survive on the tiny point for four months until rescued in August 1916. The marker on the island is a bust of Luis Pardo Villalón, the Captain of the Chilean Navy cutter Yelcho, which rescued the 22 men.Continue to 7 of 11 below.
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Seals Greet Hanseatic Cruise Ship Passengers to Elephant Island in Antarctica
Do you think seals greeted Shackleton and his men to Elephant Island?Continue to 8 of 11 below.
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Hanseatic Cruise Ship and Zodiac Off the Coast of Elephant Island in Antarctica
Nice view of the Hanseatic cruise ship anchored off the coast of Elephant Island.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
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Close-up View of Glacier on Antarctica's Elephant Island
Small inflatable Zodiac boats allow cruise passengers to get very close to glaciers and other Antarctica sites on Elephant Island.Continue to 10 of 11 below.
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Close-up View of Penguins on Antarctica's Elephant Island
Everyone loves to see penguins, even if they are far away!Continue to 11 of 11 below.
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Farewell Look at Elephant Island Off the Coast of Antarctica
Cruise ships only stay anchored off Elephant Island for a few hours, but the men of the Endurance endured four months there. After exploring on a Zodiac, most guests are happy to escape to the warmth of their cruise ship. Those 22 men probably thought or dreamed they saw many ships before they were finally rescued!