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Holness, Albert Ernest

Holness, Albert Ernest

Alias: Holie

Title: Mr

Dates: 1892-1924

Nationality: British

Awards: None

Ernie Holness was born in Hull, one of thirteen children. His grandfather, Richard, was a master mariner lost at sea, and Holness was raised to a great extent by his grandmother.

Only 21 at the start of Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, he joined the crew as the second stoker behind William 'Bill' Stephenson. Holness nearly lost his life during the expedition. After Endurance was abandoned, the men drifted around on the sea ice. One night, while the ice was cracking right through the middle of their improvised camp on an iceberg, Holness disappeared into the water, stuck in his sleeping bag. Wally How described the situation: "we were all in our sleeping bags when it happened to break just where Holness was lying. He couldn’t help himself – it dropped him into the drink. Shackleton luffed him out. you all right, Holness?" yes, Boss, only one thing I'm thinking about is my 'baccy' I’d left in the bag". That was his greatest anxiety, his tobacco! We kept him on the run all night long, because we had no clothes to change to give him, kept him up and down, and every movement he made with his legs and arms, there was a crackle of icy clothes. Well, he got over it'.
Holness remained on Elephant Island for four and a half months before being rescued along with the rest of the men in August 1916. Although Thomas Orde-Lees described him in his diary as 'the most loyal to the expedition,' Shackleton must not have seen it the same way, because Holness was one of four members of the crew (along with Stephenson) not to be awarded the Polar Medal.

After the return of the expedition, Holness married a woman from Hull, named Lillian Rose Bettles, with whom he had two daughters and a son. He worked in the fishing industry until he was washed overboard and lost at sea near the Faroe Islands while serving on the trawler Lord Lonsdale in 1924.


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