Relatives of a man who joined Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated expedition across Antarctica have completed the final leg of his journey.


Antarctica. Image by Christopher Michel / CC BY 2.0

Shackleton’s famous expeditionary party was forced to abandon the ship Endurance a century ago after it became icebound, ending their hopes of reaching the South Pole. Members of the family of James Wordie, geologist and chief scientific officer on the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, set out to the frozen continent last month.

The group of 12, led by explorer David Hempleman-Adams, completed a walk and ski of the final leg of Shackleton’s intended route on Thursday – 100 years and two days after the original party hoped to do so. It was the idea of Tim Holmes, head of property company Endurance Estates in Cambridge, and his wife, Alice, who is Wordie’s granddaughter. Speaking from the Antarctic, Mr Holmes: “It has been a very rewarding trip and very hard at times too, with extreme cold, wind and snow ridges to deal with.”

As well as marking the anniversary, the project – named Endurance 100 – raised funds to create a digital archive of papers relating to the original expedition. The intention is to raise enough money to digitise Wordie’s diaries and relevant papers belonging to other members of the expedition. These will be made available for public research with the help of St John’s College, Cambridge, where Wordie was a student, fellow, and later master; and the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge.

“As a team we feel that one of the best legacies of our trip would be the creation of an archive covering Wordie and the other members of the Endurance expedition, so that their narrative can be available to anyone interested in polar science, its history, and climate change,” Mr Holmes added.

Shackleton's ship trapped in the ice.

Shackleton’s ship trapped in the ice. Image by martin_vmorris / CC BY-SA 2.0

Originally from Glasgow, Wordie was 25 when Shackleton recruited him for the trans-Antarctic expedition, which he described as the final “one great main object of Antarctic journeying”. His detailed volumes capture the spirit, courage and determination of the men trapped in gruelling conditions in Antarctica for nearly two years after setting off in early 1914. After the crew were forced to abandon ship they drifted on ice floes for several months before reaching uninhabited Elephant Island. From there, Shackleton and five others made a daring, 800-mile sea crossing to South Georgia, from where a rescue was mounted.

Wordie was one of the men left on Elephant Island for four months and is credited with playing a vital role in maintaining morale. His account concludes in November 1916, when all 28 of the crew returned home. In later life, he became one of the more prominent figures in British polar exploration.

It is estimated that the full cost of creating a digital archive could be as much as £50,000, which the Endurance 100 team has set as its initial target.

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(Press Association)