Antarctic horror tale sells for £10k
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.