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Bakewell, William Lincoln

Bakewell, William Lincoln

Alias: None

Title: Mr

Dates: 1888-1969

Nationality: American

Awards: Polar Medal (bronze)

The only citizen of the United States to serve as a member of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, Will Bakewell was born in Joliet, Illinois. He ran away from home at the age of 11, and subsequently worked as a lumberjack, a farm hand, a rancher, and a seaman. In 1914 Bakewell joined the ship Golden Gate, which then foundered off Montevideo, Uruguay. Making his way to Buenos Aires with his shipmate Perce Blackborow, Bakewell applied for a position on Endurance, which had just arrived in Buenos Aires and was short of men, as Shackleton had dismissed several members of the crew. Thinking that those in charge might be more sympathetic to a member of the British Empire, Bakewell claimed to be Canadian. He was taken on as an able seaman, and when Blackborow was not hired, Bakewell helped his friend stow away on the ship. During the expedition, Bakewell studied navigation, hoping to one day own a small motorboat of his own. He was described by Thomas Orde-Lees as a man 'of some refinement, who is always respectful as well as being self-respectful.'

After the expedition, Bakewell initially remained in Argentina, working on sheep farms in the Santa Cruz province of Patagonia. He later described the day he left the other men who were still waiting to return to England: 'Some of my old shipmates were down to see me off. What I had always thought impossible happened. Old McLeod, one of the most hard-boiled sailors I ever ran across, started to blubber like a baby when I bade him goodbye. Some of the others' eyes were moist. As for me, I did not cry, but I sure would have liked to. We had been through hell together, sharing food, tobacco and clothing when each was worth its weight in gold to us. We were now parting and it was very hard to say goodbye. They stood on the dock and waved a last farewell as the ship sailed out of the harbour' (Cockram, The Antarctic Chef, 1999: 88). Bakewell was awarded the Polar Medal in bronze for his participation in the expedition, but he could not be traced at the time. He finally received it in 1964, shortly after attending the fiftieth reunion of the sailing of Endurance.

During the First World War, Bakewell joined the merchant navy, and twice the ship he was serving on was sunk by enemy torpedoes. He headed back to the U.S. in 1921 and almost immediately considered going south with Shackleton again, on the Shackleton-Rowett Antarctic Expedition 1921-22 (Quest). Deciding against it, he spent several more years as a merchant seaman, working around the Caribbean. He later returned to Illinois, where he worked as a railway switchman and at an electric plant. In 1945 he and his wife bought a farm in Michigan, where he lived until his death at the age of 80.

Bakewell Island (74°50'S, 18°55'W), a small ice-covered island in the southern part of the Riiser-Larsen Ice Shelf, was named after him.


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