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The Rescue

Part of the Shackleton exhibition.

"Skipper, if anything happens to me while those fellows are waiting for me, I shall feel like a murderer."

- Sir Ernest Shackleton

Map of the 1916 path of the tugboat to rescue men stranded on Elephant Island, off the coast of Antarctica.

On the afternoon of May 20, 1916, Shackleton, Worsley and Crean walked into South Georgia's Stromness station. They had marched non-stop for 36 hours. Dressed in rags and black with blubber smoke, they were unrecognizable to the station manager, whom they had met nearly two years before.

"Who the hell are you?" Mr. Sorlle, the manager, reportedly asked. "My name is Shackleton," the Boss replied.

The whalers received the trio with open arms. After reuniting with the men on the other side of the island, Shackleton made immediate plans to rescue the Elephant Island group. The Norwegians volunteered a ship; but 60 miles from Elephant Island, the ice prevented the unprotected vessel from continuing.

As the months passed, Shackleton made increasingly frantic rescue attempts, each time thwarted by ice or weather. At last, on August 30, they succeeded in bringing through the Yelcho, a tug loaned by the Chilean government. It was their fourth attempt. Four months had passed since the Caird's departure, and Shackleton feared the worst.

On Elephant Island, the Yelcho was spotted. As the castaways ran onto the beach, Shackleton, straining through binoculars, counted anxiously. "They are all there!" Worsley reported him crying.