Bond Street Bridge blog: The Wreck Of The Endurance

By Bond Street Bridge

Bond Street Bridge share the story behind their song The Wreck Of The Endurance, from their album Bond Street Bridge presents The Explorers Club: Antarctica.

Frank Worsley, captain of the Endurance.  Photo / Emily Cater
Frank Worsley, captain of the Endurance. Photo / Emily Cater

It was ninety-nine years ago that Sir Ernest Shackleton, that titan of high latitudes, embarked on what has become known as the last great expedition of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration.

In 1914, as the world exploded into war, Shackleton launched the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition with the goal of crossing that frozen continent from the Weddell Sea, below South America, overland to the pole, along the Polar Plateau, down the Beardmore Glacier in the footsteps of Captain Scott, and out across the Great Ice Barrier to McMurdo Sound in the Ross Sea, thousands of miles south of New Zealand.

The Endurance trapped in the ice.   Photo / Emily Cater after Frank Hurley
The Endurance trapped in the ice. Photo / Emily Cater after Frank Hurley

Just before Christmas of 1914 Shackleton left the whaling station on South Georgia Island with twenty-seven men, sixty dogs and a cat. He was aboard the good ship Endurance, one of the last of the great wooden Ice-ships.

She was purpose-built for the expedition, her bows four foot thick of solid oak and her sides sheathed in Greenheart timber as hard as iron, to fight the ice that they knew they would meet.

The Endurance with pack ice in foreground.  Photo / Emily Cater after Frank Hurley
The Endurance with pack ice in foreground. Photo / Emily Cater after Frank Hurley

The ice that year though was worse in the Weddell Sea than any of the whalers or the sealers of South Georgia could remember, and in January of 1915 the endurance was beset. Frozen hard into the ice, she drifted for ten months, powerless in the pack.

Through an Antarctic winter - ten weeks of darkness with the Aurora flaring overhead and blizzards roaring through the rigging - millions of tons of pressure bore down on the little ship. She was built strong, and she fought, but the ice was stronger. In October of that year a mighty floe twisted the Endurance, shook her like a dog, and snapped her at the stern-post.

The Endurance crushed by the ice. Photo /  Emily Cater after Frank Hurley
The Endurance crushed by the ice. Photo / Emily Cater after Frank Hurley

The water flooded in. Desperately, her crew raised steam and manned the pumps for three days and three nights. Not a man slept, the dogs howled on the deck, but still the waters rose in the hold. Finally Captain Frank Worsley - he was a South Island boy from Akaroa - he stuck his head into the hold, he saw the rising water, and he said "She's going boys - time to get off."

Frank Worsley, captain of the Endurance.  Photo / Emily Cater
Frank Worsley, captain of the Endurance. Photo / Emily Cater

Over the following nine months unfolded one of the most remarkable survival stories ever told - all the more extraordinary for being true, and carefully documented through the diaries, letters and published accounts of expedition members, as well as Frank Hurley's astonishing photographs and George Marston's oils and watercolours.

Video

Working with these stories and images has been an incredible creative experience for the band and for Emily Cater, our resident illustrator. In The Wreck Of The Endurance, we tell the first part of this classic story in the style of a traditional sea shanty, of the sort that the sailors would have sung as they pumped the icy water from the hold nearly a hundred years ago.

The details - the sound of the pressure waves resembling distant artillery, the calling of the seabirds, the carpenter's discontented muttering - are all taken from the accounts left by Shackleton and others, and we've tried to be as faithful as we can to the tone of the original writing. We're really pleased with the results, and it's been a privilege to be able to tour the country this year sharing these unique stories.

The Explorers Club: Antarctica is available now from stores and online - click here for more info.

ON TOUR:

Auckland: Thursday October 31, Voyager New Zealand Maritime Museum (with Great North) 7pm. Tickets 09 373 0800 info@maritimemuseum.co.nz

Wellington: Friday November 8, Museum of Wellington City & Sea (with Veronika Meduna) 7pm. Tickets 04 4728 904 museumtours@wmt.org.nz

Whanganui: Saturday November 9, Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare O Rehua Whanganui, doors as 6:45 show at 7pm. Tickets 06 349 0506

Oamaru: Friday November 15, Oamaru Victorian Heritage Celebrations at Oamaru Opera House Festival Explorers Club.

Napier: Friday November 22, MTG Hawke's Bay, 7pm

Rotorua: Saturday November 23, The Rogue Stage

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