Survivor of Shackleton voyage settled in the Upper Peninsula
Wreckage of Endurance found in 10,000 feet of icy water
MARQUETTE — The discovery of the sunken ship Endurance has a connection to the Upper Peninsula, the Marquette Mining Journal reported.
William Bakewell, a member of the Endurance’s crew, would come to reside in Marquette County after taking part in Ernest Shackleton’s famed expedition.
Bakewell was “a participant in one of the greatest sea adventures ever in the history of the world,” local author Sonny Longtine said during a February 2019 talk about his book titled “U.P. People: Incredible Stories about Incredible People.”
Bakewell, who was born in Illinois in 1888, was a “wanderer” from the start, Longtine said. He worked all over the country before eventually convincing a ship captain in San Francisco to hire him despite his lack of experience.
“So then he started his adventure of sailing around the world on different ships,” Longtine said.
Bakewell eventually ended up in South America, where he would make “a very fateful decision” by becoming part of Shackleton’s crew on the Antarctic-bound Endurance, Longtine said.
Bakewell took off with Shackleton’s crew in 1914, first stopping at South Georgia Island to prepare for the journey. However, as they approached Antarctica, where Shackleton hoped to embark on a 1,400-mile trek, the Endurance became “mired in ice,” Longtine said.
At first, the crew wasn’t concerned — they read books and played football on the ice to pass the time.
“They all believed totally in Shackleton,” Longtine said.
But six months later, spring arrived, and the ice began to move and crush against the ship. The men could hear the “creaking boards, the timbers cracking and breaking,” and watched the ship slowly sink into the icy waters over a period of a few weeks,” Longtine said.
“There they are, just off the coast of Antarctica. Nobody knows where they are,” he said, noting Bakewell said that was the first time he had a “lump in his throat.”
The men and dogs then floated north on an ice pack for 1,000 miles for six months, hoping to find their salvation in open water — and hopefully solid ground.
Then they finally hit open water and knew they were just a few days away from Paulet Island, which they could travel to in several 30-foot boats they had with them. But after five days of travel, they realized they passed Paulet Island.
The next closest island was Elephant Island, a five-day journey over open water. Finally, they arrived at Elephant Island and constructed makeshift shelters out of two of the boats.
The crew realized there was no hope of anyone finding them there, so Shackleton and four of his men took the third boat back to South Georgia Island, where they started.
After 18 days in open water in “miserable conditions,” they finally reached South Georgia Island, but were on the wrong side and had to scale an 11,000-foot peak to reach the whaling station on the island’s other side — which was nearly impossible with the lack of equipment, Longtine said.
Against all odds, they made it up and down the peak and arrived at the whaling station, where whalers were shocked to see them return.
Then they traveled back to Elephant Island for the remaining men. Four trips and four months later, all 27 men were rescued, nearly two years after the journey began.
“Not one died,” Longtine said. “And every one of them faithfully believed that Shackleton would get them out of the mess. And he did.”
After that fateful journey, Bakewell eventually went on to reside in Dukes in Skandia Township, for the remainder of his life, Longtine said, with the odds-defying expedition truly making him an incredible Upper Peninsula person.
Researchers on Wednesday reported the discovery of the remarkably well-preserved Endurance in 10,000 feet of icy water, a century after it was swallowed up by Antarctic ice.
A team of marine archaeologists, engineers and other scientists used an icebreaker ship and underwater drones to locate the wreck at the bottom of the Weddell Sea, near the Antarctica Peninsula. Images and video of the wreck show the three-masted wooden ship in pristine condition, with gold-leaf letters reading “Endurance” still affixed to the stern and the ship’s lacquered wooden helm still standing upright, as if the captain may return to steer it at any time.
The ship is protected as a historic monument under the 6-decade-old Antarctic Treaty that is intended to protect the region’s environment.
The Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust’s search expedition Endurance22 filmed the wreck, but nothing was recovered or disturbed. Instead, expedition organizers say they want to use laser scans to create a 3-D model of the ship that can be displayed in both traveling exhibits and a permanent museum exhibit.