Having abandoned the crippled Endurance on 27 October, 1915, Shackleton and his crew camped and trekked on the drifting ice-floe, finally launching their three boats, the James Caird, Dudley Docker and Stancomb Wills with the break-up of the pack on 8 April 1916, after one hundred and fifty-nine days on the floe.
Just one day after launching the boats the ice closed up again and they landed the boats for the night: 'A big floeberg resting peacefully caught my eye, and half and hour later we had hauled up the boats and pitched camp for the night. Every one of us needed rest after the previous night and the unaccustomed strain of the last thirty-six hours at the oars. Our berg appeared well able to withstand the battering of the sea, and looked too deep and massive to be seriously affected by the swell; but it was not as safe as it looked, and when daylight came we saw that the pack had closed round it, and that in the heavy swell we could not possibly launch our boats. The highest point of the berg was about 15 feet above sea level, and during the day Worsley, Wild and I were continually climbing to this point and staring out to the horizon in seach of a break in the pack.' (Sir E. Shackleton, South, London, 1919, p. 59).
'... Sir Ernest decided to remain and await events. Driven on by the swift tides and heavy swell, the ice swirled around our floe, bearing it along, rolling and rocking alarmingly. In less than an hour the bosom of the sea was obscured by a seething expanse of crushing pack-ice. Climbing to the top of a reeling knoll, we gazed spellbound on a terrifying spectacle. Furious warfare was raging on one of Nature's age-old battle-fields. We had reached the northern limit of the ice-pack, where the endless streams of ice cast adrift from the polar continent were being lashed back remorselessly by temperate seas. ... Around us churned the mills of the world. Gnarled old ice-floes, weather-worn bergs, fragmentary stumps and decayed ice masses were crowded together in one heaving, rolling grind. To the girdling horizon stretched this tempest-ridden, battling confusion ... What helpless atoms we felt - mere human flotsam, caught in the maelstrom of unlimited power, and separated from eternity by only a thin partition of crumbling ice.' (F. Hurley, op. cit., pp. 96-7).