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Y10-Week17 Notes Beards & Icicles (courtesy straycat)

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Noble Member
Joined: 18 years ago
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This is about the Shackleton Expedition to Antarctic. A big sprawling saga and this is a big sprawling mess in trying to describe it!
Some of the timeline details I have to double check, but all other details are true:

Where: In the open Southern Ocean, aboard the James Caird, a modified lifeboat.
Wood with a canvas top, it's shallow and 22' long. It's been made deeper with planks cannibalized from their destroyed mother ship, the Endurance. The new seams made water tight with a combination of artist's oil paints and seal's blood.

5 men on an 800 mile journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia. A speck in the Southern Ocean, days over the horizon. No record of any vessel having successfully made the trip. It's the island they initially set off from X months ago.
Their Captain, 'The Boss' is Earnest Shackleton, a 2 time Antarctic failure. Virtually from the start, nothing has gone right on this 3rd venture and all his effort has gone into saving the life of each of his crew. So far, 'victorious'.

They are 5 days into their desperate race. Fierce weather and waves. 2 days without a visible sun for navigation. They have no idea if they've stayed or strayed the course.
They take turns at the helm, crawling into the squalid, 4' high space 'below deck' for rest. One man sings incessantly when at the helm, but no one can ever figure out what the song is.
The salt spray dries their mouths and heightens their thirst. They chew on leather to maintain saliva.

Why and When: 18 months since the grand send off from Britain, 16 months since launching their Antarctic exploration, 15 months since their ship, The Endurance, became locked in pack ice, 8 months since the Endurance was crushed by floes in the spring thaw and they abandoned ship, wintering on an ice floe, 5 days since they set out into in the open sea leaving behind the other 24 crew members on Elephant Island.

Next: After another 7 days, they're successful in their attempt to reach South Georgia (albeit the 'wrong' side; the whaling station they hope will provide assistance is on the other side and they have to climb over a glacier ridge to reach it). An albatross has accompanied them the last few days. They knock at the home of the harbourmaster who had seen them off X months before. He asks, 'Who are you?' The pack ice that's trapped the whaling station mysteriously retreats and with the help of a proper vessel, they return to Elephant Island and rescue each and every member of the crew. They then return to the UK for a momentary hero's welcome. In short order, WW1 overshadows the remarkable adventure and almost a generation passes before the thread is picked up again.

I doubt think this is going anywhere with my lyrical skills, but I thought I'd post it up for the purposes of discussion. Having rewatched a wonderful PBS documentary on the whole misadventure, I have a number of evocative descriptions from crew members that could do a bunch of the work for me. One is, 'the Endurance was frozen like an almond in a chocolate bar' .

Any and all feedback welcome. Don't worry, you won't hurt my feelings!

One question: I chose this moment in the narrative because it seemed to lend itself to flash backs and forwards. But it seems sort of inert. Is there another moment in the timeline you feel might be a better jumping off point?

Or maybe the main problem is I feel like I have to tell the whole story and it's just making for a diffuse, er, mess?

Thanks in advance!

Edit Weds: Minor augmentations to main description.


Trusted Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 47

That is packed full of brilliant stuff!!!! Maybe you'll end up with multiple songs... a series even. That would allow you to tell the whole story without stuffing it all in one bag.



Reputable Member
Joined: 12 years ago
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The description has detail but in my read I am only getting partial visual of the scene. My read would be augmented by more description of sounds, smells (seal's blood in the seams is begging for a simile or metaphor, the southern ocean), touch sensations, tastes, more names, etc. Invented sensory details if you need to.


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Joined: 18 years ago
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Topic starter  

Thanks for the feedback, guys.

Thanks hagrider! I agree a series and/or focus on a portion of the story is needed. It's the craziest story. I got all tense and excited watching the documentary again, even though I knew what was going to happen. :lol:

Andy, I hear you. I get why they say, 'write what you know'. I don't know the first thing about life on boats, so the details aren't coming too freely! I'm going to watch the doc again and just concentrate on jargon and details...



Noble Member
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that documentary's on my to-watch list now, thanks! :lol:
love the chocolate bar description but wonder if it would clash (maybe favourably/excitingly so?) with all the ice/harshness?

anyway, it's all up to you, of course, but i think a series of songs is a good idea if you want to tell the "whole" story - maybe the "why and when" bit could help put the individual songs into some sort of order/natural series..

however, i also love the idea of taking all the brilliant soundbites (i.e. harbourmaster's "who are you?") and descriptions (more like the incessant singer than like the actual construction of lifeboats) and turning them into a blizzard of a song, i.e. snapshots of the feel of it all rather than coherent descriptions.

if i'm making sense :lol:

good luck!!

"oh, eventually it will break your heart" - anders wendin

Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
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Yes, unlike most songwriting ideas, there's too much material here. I just finished reading a 500 page book about Scott and Amundsen's attempts to be the first to reach the South Pole. Lots of references in it to Shackelton.

A good idea for a song or series of songs. You'll probably have to focus on one specific event.