The men finally hit the waters when survival on the floe was out of the question. This began an extremely dangerous leg of their journey. A new water-specific danger surfaced, quite literally. Whales were all around them. Camping options were few and far between and one of their first attempts after leaving Patience Camp and their first attempt landed one of their men in the icy waters after a crack split right under his tent. Things did not get easier from here. In fact, Shackleton eventually let the men know that there would not be any more camping after how futile their attempts were after leaving Patience Camp.
Originally, they planned to set their course for Clarence or Elephant Island (which is where they ended up), but the conditions changed and they did set sail for King George Island and then on to Deception Island. Deception Island was thought to be a good goal because there would supposedly be supplies and food there. Even these plans were disrupted by the unpredictable weather and other variables affecting their course. They had to fight hard after getting caught in a current that took them much further east than they should have been. After even more set-backs, they again looked to Elephant Island as a possible destination.
Without the option to camp, the men lived in the boats which was a challenging experience. There was no cover from the elements and the water that splashed into the vessels soaked them. Their felt boots kept their feat soaked in icy water for extended periods of time. Blackboro, the young man who had stowed away on the Endurance was wearing leather boots and complained that he could no longer feel his feet after several hours. Hudson was developing an intense pain in his butt as well as frostbite in his hands. They were overcome by thirst and hunger.
Just as Elephant Island became an attainable goal, the boats were separated. The Docker disappeared. The men in the Caird and Wills lit a candle at night so that the Docker may see them. When they approached the island they found it difficult to locate an appropriate and safe point to bring the boats to shore. The Caird and Wills searched the shore as the Docker was also looking for landing. Both groups were unaware of the other’s proximity to the island. Luck was on their side – their searches for safe landing brought them back together, an astonishingly fortunate turn of events.
The two groups made for the best available spot to bring the boats in and then they made for land. Blackboro, whose feet had been declared “dead” at this point was brought onto land. Actually, Blackboro was the first man on the island. This was a move planned by Shackleton to try to raise his spirits, which makes sense given Shackleton’s fear of the men losing their optimism and drive to forge forward. They had finally hit land and were ready to make camp without the worry that the ground beneath them might split into two allowing the waters to engulf them. This was a good day, although the men were sick, tired, and hungry, they were as happy as they could be in their situation.
In this section, motivation cannot be described. It was an necessity. To have been unmotivated when those oars struck the waters could have meant a cold and wet ending for these men who had already fought mother nature herself to survive. This part of the journey was one of pure survival – no rest; no certainty; and, no guarantees.