maandag 10 april 2017

Thomas Orde-Lees -- 11 april 1916

Thomas Hans Orde-Lees (1877–1958) maakte deel uit van Ernest Shackletons Trans-Antarctic Expedition van 1914–1917, die strandde op de Zuidpool toen het expeditieschip Endurance werd kapot gedrukt door de ijsschotsen. Op een gegeven moment probeerde de expeditieleden in drie reddingssloepen een eiland te bereiken. Het fragment hieronder beschrijft een van de dagen uit de week die die tocht duurde.

11 April 1916
Snow set in during the night; the wind increased and so did the swell.
[...]
An unexpected horror was added to our already sufficient discomforts by the presence of a large school of killer whales, which surrounded us on every side like fat bulls of Basan.
Their blood-curdling blast, now coming from the distant darkness, now right alongside the boat, seemed to bring one face to face with "the great leviathan" and every now and again we could see their sinister black forms diving like submarines beneath our frail boats.
These deadly creatures, more rapacious than sharks, and the largest carnivourous animal that has ever lived, would have made short work of a boat's crew had they chanced to upset us, for they chase seals and swallow them whole, as many as eleven seals having been found in the stomach of a single killer.
Whether their unwelcome attentions were prompted by the curiousity or not it is impossible to say, but it is certain that for several hours each one of us was expecting every moment to become the "joint" at a whale's banquet.
Again, we owe to providence the fact that they did not molest us and that we, therefore, escaped scot free from another of the many dangers that beset the path of those who go down to the Antarctic seas in ships.
That they were killer whales we were certain by their short length, their white throats, which we occasionally saw, and by their unmistakable dorsal fins.
It was indeed a miserably spent night, with sea-sickness added to the other horrors for some. The sleet covered us at times half an inch deep, and the keen wind pierced us through and through.
Our Burberry suits were our greatest protection in preventing the penetration of the wind, but eventually even they got wet through with the continued driving sleet, and never was a poor shipwrecked crew more thankful than when dawn at last broke on us.

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