Made in Dundee
RRS Discovery 2
Shackleton wrote to James Caird asking for a £50 donation. Caird wrote back and said that he would give him £10,000 if he came to Dundee to discuss the matter. Caird gave Shackleton an unconditional donation of £24,000 – the equivalent of £1.7 million in today's money and almost the entire cost of the expedition. The donation came just in time. Shackleton and the Endurance sailed five weeks later.
The Endurance expedition never even made it to the continent. As they made their way towards their landing point on mainland Antarctica, the ship became stuck in the frozen Weddell Sea and remained there throughout the Antarctic winter of 1915. Eventually, in October 1915, the ship was crushed by the ice and sank, leaving the 28-man crew on the ice. They had managed to salvage many things from the ship, including three lifeboats. These lifeboats were then christened with the names of the expedition's sponsors. The largest of these boats was named the James Caird.
With no ship, the crew of the Endurance spent months on the ice. Throughout the Antarctic summer the ice melted, broke up and began drifting northwards. In April 1916 the crew took to the boats and reached Elephant Island, an uninhabited and inhospitable place. During their journey in the open boats they were regularly soaked by seawater and temperatures dropped to minus 30 degrees Celsius. Now they were on the island they were relatively safe. But it was not a permanent solution.
They needed to get help. Shackleton decided that he and five others would sail the James Caird 1,300km to South Georgia. They would, hopefully, return with a rescue party.