Crossing of South Georgia - by Endurance, Faith and Providence
20 x 30 inches, oil on canvas, 2016
This picture was painted to mark the centenary of the Crossing of South Georgia when Shackleton and his two colleagues completed the journey from King Haakon Bay to Stromness Whaling Station on 20th May 1916. From there, a whale catcher was sent to rescue the three other crew members left in King Haakon Bay sheltering under the upturned |James Caird. Only at his fourth attempt on 30th August 1916 did Shackleton succeed in rescuing the rest of his men marooned on Elephant Island.
The painting was auctioned by the South Georgia Heritage Trust from their web site. Bids ended on 20th May 2106 - the successful bidder coming from the US. The announcement may be found on the SGHT website.
This painting depicts Shackleton and his weary colleagues staggering up the last snowfield forming the slopes up from Fortuna Bay over the low pass to descend to the flat area of at the back of Stromness Whaling Station. It is early afternoon of 20th May 1916, and the painting is based on my own photographs looking across the head of Fortuna Bay to Breakwind Ridge, which were taken in December 1966.
Beyond Breakwind Ridge, clouds are building up to bring to an end to the period of fine weather the men had been fortunate enough to experience during their crossing of the island. Had they left King Haakon Bay a day later, with bad weather approaching it is likely they would never have made the crossing! Meteorological records for 1916 show that the 36 hours which it took to cross South Georgia was the only period of fair weather during the whole of that South Georgia winter!
The painting shows Shackleton pointing the way using their carpenter’s adze carried and indeed used as an ice axe, with Worsley trudging behind holding his knapsack containing his logbook and navigational instruments, and behind him, Tom Crean with their manila climbing rope wrapped around his body. They are struggling up the final snow slope leaving a trail of footprints behind them.
In his book ‘South’, Shackleton recalls that each of his companions later remarked that they felt there was a fourth person with them on their perilous journey. A keen observer of the painting will note the footsteps leading up the slope in front of Shackleton...,,,,,
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