In the history of Antarctic expeditions of the early 1900s,
the name of Frank Wild ranks high and yet
it seems strange to think that today he is
half-forgetten. For with the recent revival of Shackleton
one must not forget that without his faithful second-in-command the survival of the Endurance
crew (1914-16) would, arguably, not have happened.
I'm thinking primarily of the 4 months Wild
was in charge of the 21 men at miserable Elephant Island
and 5 others rowed to South Georgia for rescue.
And it is but one of countless examples of Wild
's unquestioning and unswerving loyalty to the man he called "Boss".
Th plain facts about Wild
is this: between 1901-1922, Wild accompanied not just
Ernest Shackleton, but
and Douglas Mawson on five major
Antarctic journeys. Few men from that now long lost era
can claim to have spent longer on the ice in that region.
The son of a schoolmaster, Wild
entered the merchant Navy in his teens
and by 1900 he had extensive
experience of overseas voyages. In 1899 he joined the Navy.
He was quiet, modest, wiry, and intermittently pugnacious.
Wild belonged to a new breed of naval rating.
Higher pay and long service engagements had
started to bring into the Navy
at the turn of the century a better class
of man, more educated and ambitious than
before. Many, like Wild, were merchant seamen,
tired of looking for a new ship after every voyage,
and attracted by the security of naval service.
However, he soon became discontented with naval routine and
he volunteered for Scott's
expedition (1901-04) to the Antarctic
within 2 years of joining the Navy.
It was on this expedition that he first met Ernest Shackleton,
a man Wild would literally follow to the ends of the earth.
Under him he took part in his
expedition (1907-09) as well as Endurance. Wild
again volunteered to join Shackleton
in his final voyage to the Antarctic
between 1921-23 aboard the Quest. Shackleton
died during the expedition though the Quest
carried on, under Wild's command. Without Shackleton,
however, Wild was lost. He was soon drinking heavily,
something he had never done before at sea.
He seemed practically an alcoholic. It was his last Antarcic expedition as well.
Eventually, 16 years later, he died in miserable
circumstances in South Africa. he was 65.
- "Endurance": Shackleton's Incredible Voyage to the Antarctic
"Endurance": Shackleton's Legendary Journey to Antarctica