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Elephant Island is a very rugged and isolated island that is mostly covered with ice. It is located far off the eastern end of the South Shetland Islands chain. It is often windswept and pounded by waves which is exactly how we found it. We were on our way to South Georgia on January 31st, but we all wanted to see Elephant Island, made famous in the ill-fated Shackleton expedition of 1914-1916. Shackleton's ship, the Endurance was beset by pack ice in the Weddell Sea in January 1915. The 28 men aboard were trapped for more than 9 months until late October, at which time the ship was crushed and destroyed. The men then lived on sea ice for nearly 6 months until they were able to launch their three salvaged life boats and sail up to Elephant Island. They ended up along the northern shore at a place they named Point Wild. There they over-wintered in 1916 and it was from here that Shackleton and five of his men set off in the 22 foot life boat James Caird to sail nearly 800 miles in very rough seas for 16 days to reach South Georgia and eventually effect a rescue 4 months later of the men left behind at Point Wild.

Point WildBecause of the rough seas around the island, we were unable to take the planned Zodiac cruise around. However, the captain got the ship as close as possible to Point Wild so we could see the area where the 22 men lived. The original rocky beach has been nearly eroded away but it was exciting to see this important historic site. From Elephant Island, we spent the next 2 days at sea cruising to South Georgia, following in the wake of Shackleton's epic 16 day voyage on the James Caird.

To read about the next location visited, go to St. Andrew's Bay, South Georgia.

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