TheJames Caird—A remarkable voyage 80 years ago.

Episodes: 29 & 45a. Site Number: 010. Date Posted: 28 November 1996. Location: Dulwich College, London, England. Type: Boat.

James Caird The James Caird is one of the more storied vessels in the history of Antarctic exploration. A whaleboat named for Sir James Caird, a Dundee jute manufacturer and the principal backer of Shackleton's British Imperial Transantarctic Expedition (1914-17), it made that remarkable sixteen-day voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia, 800 miles across some of the most daunting ocean anywhere. Rescued from the Endurance as it was crushed in the Weddell Sea, hauled over the ice, altered by the ship's carpenter for added seaworthiness, the 23-foot long James Caird was sailed by Shackleton, Worsley, Crean, Vincent, McCarty and McNeish.
      Today the James Caird sits restored and on display at Dulwich College in the southern outskirts of London. Shackleton attended Dulwich while growing up nearby (his house still stands and will be the subject of a future episode). From 1968 to 1986 the boat was at the National Maritime Museum, where I first saw it (previous to that it was at the College). Not long ago I ventured to Dulwich to where it has been permanently repatriated. It is nicely exhibited in the North Cloisters, sails raised, sitting on a bed of rocks imported from South Georgia. There is an informative display of photographs, clippings and such. The public may view it without charge, although it might be best to call the College first.
      Dulwich College is itself an interesting place to visit, a marvelous concoction of elaborate Victorian architecture. The nearby Dulwich Picture Gallery, Britain's oldest, is certainly worth a visit, too.
      Antarcticans may be interested in the James Caird Society, "formed in 1994 to educate the general public about all of Shackleton's . . . expeditions and related aspects of antarctic history." Information may be obtained from the Hon Secretary, The James Caird Society, c/o Dulwich College, London SE21 7LD, UK.

An update of Episode 29 (posted as Episode 45a):

Episode 29 focused on the James Caird, the ship's boat that made that remarkable voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia during Shackleton's Endurance expedition. Since that Episode I've come upon Harding McGregor Dunnett's book Shackleton's Boat; The Story of the James Caird (Cranbrook, Kent, UK: Neville & Harding Ltd., c1996). This very informative book (with many illustrations previously unpublished) traces the history of the Caird from its construction in 1914 at W & J Leslie's Thameside boat yard to its present home at Dulwich College. Sir Vivian Fuchs in the Foreword writes: "Originally she was saved by the Norwegian whalers at South Georgia in 1916. The boat then arrived in Birkenhead in 1919. Thereafter the history of her travels is quite remarkable--Middlesex Hospital, then the Albert Hall, the roof of Selfridges, Ely Place in Frant, Kent, Dulwich College as a gift, the British Polar Exhibition, the National Maritime Museum; and so to her final resting place back at Dulwich College in 1989."