Hull's 'Endurance' Connection

31/03/2022   |   Hannah Thompson

The recent discovery of the resting place of famed explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton’s doomed vessel Endurance by the 'Endurance22' expedition has brought about a lot of attention regarding the unfortunate voyage of 1914, and the consequent loss of the ship in November 1915 after being engulfed by ice and eventually sunk.

Rediscovered in a near perfect state of preservation on 5 March 2022, the 100th anniversary of Shackleton’s funeral, the discovery brings a sense of closure to a the sad story of the fate of the endurance which has been left undisturbed for over 100 years.

Due to the protection of the wreck by the Antarctic Treaty, the Endurance cannot be touched and can only be observed and surveyed in her final resting place, but nothing retrieved.

27 October 1915- Entry in Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Diary:
The end came at last about 5pm - she was doomed, no ship built by human hands could have withstood the strain - I ordered all hands on to the floe and as the floe near us was cracking we started to sledge all the gear. [1]

It is recorded that the crew all made it off the ship before it was eventually engulfed by ice. However, whilst Shackleton himself is renowned for his part leading the doomed expedition to cross the Antarctic, the rest of the crew of the Endurance are less well known. 


The 28 crew members were from varied backgrounds and skill levels, each hired from amongst a large pool of potential crew members who put themselves forward to join the famed expedition.

Although it has not been located, it is said that Shackleton posted an advert in a London newspaper stating “Men wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger. Safe return doubtful, honour and recognition in event of success”.

Following their return from the unfortunate Antarctic expedition, all but four of the crew on board were awarded the Polar Medal, which was introduced in 1904 following Captain Scott’s Antarctic exhibition, and awarded to ‘those who gave valuable service in any subsequent expedition in conditions of extreme hardship, whether explorers and scientists or naval officers and crew’. [2]

So what of the connection to Hull? Third Officer Alfred Buchanan Cheetham was originally born in Liverpool before moving to Hull in his early years, a place he subsequently returned to after the voyage. Interestingly, whilst a plaque to Cheetham and fellow Antarctic explorer William Colbeck, captain of Morning, the ship sent to free Captain Scott’s Discovery in 1904, has been erected in the train station in Hull, no mention is made of Cheetham’s crewmates, able seaman (previously Boatswain) John Vincent and engine stokers Albert Ernest Holness and William Stephenson, who also had key links to the city.

These three men were amongst the four crewmen who were not awarded the Polar Medal upon their return from the fateful voyage. The reasoning behind this is somewhat unclear; whilst previous Hull trawlerman Vincent is said to have been known to make trouble on the voyage, (Shackleton was said to have kept a close eye on him throughout and demoted him from boatswain to able seaman), the reason that the two engine stokers were not awarded the medal is unknown.

The fourth man not to be awarded the medal was Harry McNeish, a Scottish carpenter known as ‘Chippy’, who is known to have clashed with Shackleton on quite a few occasions, not least after the unfortunate loss of his cat ‘Mrs Chippy’ who sadly had to be shot when the Endurance was at last abandoned as it was believed the cat would not make it on the rescue voyage. 

With even the stowaway crewmember Perce Blackborow receiving the medal, there have been some arguments that potential class issues at the time may have played a part in the reason that these men were not awarded the medal, although of course this is simply speculation. [3]


[1] Extract taken from Ernest Shackleton's Endurance Diary. Available at:,3,8.html 

[2] About the Polar Medal - UK Parliament

[3] Campsie, A. 'Fresh Polar Medal appeal for Scots carpenter denied honour by Ernest Shackleton' in The Scotsman, Sunday, 20th February 2022. Available at:

Mrs Chippy monument, added to Harry McNeish's grave
Mrs Chippy monument, added to Harry McNeish's grave