Day 3: January 3 2019

Like Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner (which was much read on the Endurance), I stoppethed one in three.    Which wasn’t bad for a goal-keeper well into his sixties.

Our departure has been delayed while we wait for the arrival of the remainder of the team from Cape Town.   In happy tribute to the men of the Endurance who enjoyed nothing more than what they called ‘a bit of footer’, our expedition leader, John Shears,  decided that a kick-around on the ice would be a good idea.  It was.

Keeping the men fit and happy was important to Shackleton so he much encouraged football and hockey on the ice when conditions allowed.  He himself was goalie.  Their first game was on 20 December, 1914, and was played between the those who were supposed to be going ashore to make the crossing of Antarctica and those who would remain on the ship. The ship won 2-0.  One of the diarists wrote:  ‘In the evening before supper we had a rare game of football on the snow.  It was a farce of course …’   And so was ours, the most memorable moment being when a line of insouciant little penguins strolled by the goal.

As the maritime archaeologist, the research on the Endurance (her construction, the circumstances of her loss and how we best set about finding her) fell to me.  One of the great enjoyments of the past two years has been reading the unpublished diaries of those who were there.  They are full of the kind of detail that does not make it into the many books on Shackleton which tend mostly to be rehashes of those that went before.  It was in one of these diaries that I found the following charming little vignette concerning the discovery of their football that they all thought had been lost with the ship:

‘This morning Blackborrow [the team stowaway] and I went down to where the ship sank.  There we met Greenstreet [First Officer] and Clark [biologist].  We found a few tins of lard, peas and mustard, which had evidently floated up from the sinking ship.  Also conspicuous amongst … [the] broken ice and wreckage was our football, the same that has helped us while away many pleasant and active hours on the floe around the ship.’