Antarc­tic hor­ror tale sells for £10k

Daily Express - - News - By News Re­porter

A VIVID mem­oir from Ernest Shack­le­ton’s doomed at­tempt to cross Antarc­tica has sold for al­most £10,000 at auc­tion.

The let­ter was writ­ten by Frank Wild, his sec­ond in com­mand dur­ing the Im­pe­rial Trans-Antarc­tic Ex­pe­di­tion in 1914 which went wrong when their ship, the En­durance, got crushed by pack ice.

Wild was left in charge of 21 men stranded on Ele­phant Is­land for six months while Shack­le­ton and his five-man crew tra­versed 800 miles in an open boat to get help.

Upon Wild’s re­turn, he was asked by an ac­quain­tance to write to his grand­daugh­ter about his ex­pe­ri­ences on the ex­pe­di­tion.


He obliged with a seven-page hand-writ­ten let­ter to Kath­leen Block­sidge of Sur­rey.

De­spite her ten­der years, he shared the hor­rors of bat­tling star­va­tion and frost­bite.

In one som­bre ex­tract, he told of his sad­ness at hav­ing to put down the dogs, writ­ing: “I had a great af­fec­tion for all of them (the sledge dogs) and it was a very sad day when they had to be shot as we had no food for them.

“This was after our ship had been crushed and sunk by the ice and we lived for

Frank Wild, above right, and his vivid let­ter, right. The En­durance falls prey to pack ice, left six months on float­ing ice, hav­ing great dif­fi­culty in get­ting food.”

In an­other ex­tract, he re­vealed how the party sur­vived by eat­ing seals and pen­guins, de­scrib­ing the taste of the lat­ter as “re­ally nice, the legs taste like mut­ton and the breast very like hare”.

He also tells of a dra­matic es­cape from killer whales.

The man­u­script from the late col­lec­tor Roger Cas­son sold for £7,500, al­most £10,000 with fees.

Paul Hughes, of Ten­nants auc­tion house, Ley­burn, North York­shire, said: “While it is writ­ing in the style of some­thing meant for a child, some of the ex­pe­ri­ences per­haps weren’t ap­pro­pri­ate.

“It is a fas­ci­nat­ing and unique ac­count from a fa­mous ex­plorer.”

Wild went on five ex­pe­di­tions to Antarc­tica and took com­mand when Shack­le­ton died of a heart at­tack in Jan­uary 1922.

English ex­plorer Sir Vi­vian Fuchs’s 12-man party fi­nally achieved the Trans-Antarc­tic cross­ing after 99 days in 1958.

Pic­tures: GETTY, BNPS

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