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Shackleton items from the Archives

Ernest Shackleton's diary of the Quest Expedition, 1921-22

Ernest Shackleton died of heart failure in the early hours of the morning on the 5 January 1922.
These last diary entries recall his thoughts as the ship approached South Georgia.

1 January 1922
Rest and calm after the storm. The year has begun kindly for us. It is curious how a certain date becomes a milestone in ones life. Christmas day in the raging gale seemed out of place I dared not venture to hope that today would be as it was.
Anxiety has been probing deeply into me for until the end of the year things have gone awry. Engines were liable: furnace cracked. Water short. Heavy gales. All that physically can go wrong but the spirit of all on board sound and good.

'There are two points in the adventure of the diver.
One when a beggar he prepares to plunge
One when a prince he rises with his pearl'

2 January 1922
Another wonderful day. Fine clear slight head wind but cheerful for us after these last days of stress and strain. At one p.m. we passed our fist berg. The old familiar sight aroused in me memories that the strenuous years have deadened. Blue caverns shone with sky glow snatched from heaven itself. Green spurs showed beneath the water

'and bergs mast high
came sailing by
as green as emerald'

Ah me: the years that have gone since in the pride of young manhood I first went forth to the fight.
I grow old and tied but must always lead on.

3 January 1922
Another beautiful day. Fortune seems to attend us this new year but so anxious have I been when things are going well I wonder what in time difficulty will be sprung on me. All day long a light wind and clear sky was our happy position. I find a difficulty in settling down to write. I am so much on the qui vive. I pray that the furnace will hold out.

'Thankful that I can
Be crossed and thwarted as a man'

4 January
At last after 16 days of turmoil and anxiety on a peaceful sunshining day we came to anchor in Grytvitken. How familiar the coast seemed as we passed down. We saw with full interest the places we struggled over after the boat journey. Now we must speed all we can but the prospect is not too bright for labour is scarce. The old smell of dead whale permeates everything. It is a strange and curious place.

A wonderful evening

'In the darkening twilight I saw
a lone star hover: gem like above the bay'