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Field Journal | History | 1915 Snow Football

Some images defy logic and tell a story.  Such is the lonely black and white photo of the Endurance crew playing football while stranded on an iceberg.

In 1915, during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, the ship Endurance became frozen in the ice of the Weddell Sea.  The men did not step on land again for 497 days.  On the orders of captain Sir Ernest Shackleton, a regular routine was setup to boost morale... including football games. 


Shipmates would later note how calm Shackleton stayed.  He set new team goals,kept the crew busy and encouraged camaraderie. Other activities included performing in plays, sing alongs, and dogsled races.  Everyone was kept equal with duties. 


The ship eventually tore apart in the ice and sank.  The men built a camp on a nearby iceberg, living on just feet of ice below them.  Eventually, that iceberg also broke apart. 

Yet, with three lifeboats, two open sea journeys and a final overland island trek, Shackleton returned all 28 men home safely.  He later remarked:

"We had 'suffered, starved and triumphed, groveled down yet grasped at glory, grown bigger in the bigness of the whole. We had seen God in His splendours, heard the text that Nature renders.' We had reached the naked soul of man."






(All images courtesy of Royal Geographic Society & BBC)