Ernest Shackleton and his crew had already spent a month living on the ice when, at 5pm on 21 November 1915, the inevitable happened. With a single cry of ‘She's going, boys!’ the Endurance, which had carried the men all the way from Britain to the Southern Ocean, and yet spent the past ten months trapped in ice, was finally lost to the sea. As the ice floes opened, the wreckage of the ship was swallowed up, and disappeared beneath the ice.
‘We are not sorry to see the last of the wreck,’ wrote photographer Frank Hurley in his diary, ‘for we have rifled it of everything likely to be of value to us; apart from being an object of depression to all who turned their eyes in that direction.’
With the Endurance gone, the men had to double-down and prepare for a long haul living on the ice. Using materials salvaged from the doomed ship, Shackleton had his men assemble, in what became known as ‘Ocean Camp’, a makeshift blubber stove for cooking penguin and seal meat, a protective gallery, and a platform to use as a lookout for seals and penguins. ‘On this platform, too,’ wrote Shackleton, in his memoir South, ‘a mast was erected from which flew the King’s flag and the Royal Clyde Yacht Club burgee.’
They had no knowledge of how or when, if ever, they might be able to escape what Shackleton called their ‘icy prison’.