NOVA: What do you think was going through your grandfather´s mind when they
had to move onto the ice?
Shackleton: It was an awareness that there would almost certainly have to be
a boat journey or several boat journeys. Each man was told he could bring two
pounds weight of his own possessions. (Leonard Hussey), who had a banjo,
thought that he would have to leave it behind because it was too heavy, but
my grandfather described it as a vital mental tonic. It proved to be that,
though people got quite tired of his repertoire of six tunes.
My grandfather himself set an example. He threw out a handful of gold coins
and his gold watch onto the snow, along with the Bible that Queen Alexandra had given him. He tore off the flyleaf and put it in his pocket and threw the
Bible onto the snow, but it was rescued by a sailor who thought it was very
bad luck to throw a Bible away. Eventually both found their way to the Royal
Geographical Society in London.
NOVA: How did you think he felt when he realized that his plan to travel over
the ice was just not going to work?
Shackleton: When that method didn´t work, I think he simply switched to the
next method. He was extremely pragmatic, and he always had many alternatives
in his mind. Ernest Shackleton did not go in for soul-searching and
recrimination. He would have called it a complete waste of valuable time.
NOVA: During the final night of the boat journey to Elephant Island, he
feared that all of the men might not survive the night. How do you imagine he
felt at that moment, and how do you think he felt at daybreak when he saw
that they all lived?
Shackleton: Well, in his book South, he simply said, "I was afraid they would
not last the night." He did not add anything to it. But naturally this must
have caused him extremely acute anxiety, and commensurate relief the next
morning when he saw they were all well.
NOVA: Now, on the journey to South George aboard the Caird, how did your
grandfather help the men cope with the horrendous conditions?
Shackleton: Well, he was well aware of the importance of a hot drink. Every
man was fed every four hours, but if he noticed any member of the expedition
failing slightly, he would order hot milk then and there, not just for him,
but for everybody, so this man would not, as he put it, have doubts about
himself. When he noticed one man suffering particularly from cold, he would
rummage in the damp supplies and dig him out a pair of gloves, say.
They also all suffered dreadfully from the fact that their sleeping bags were
made of reindeer skin, which rotted. The bags became extremely smelly and
were also very heavy. Eventually they were thrown overboard, because when one
watch took over and got back into the bags, they did not need one of their