"the plight of his men trapped on Elephant Island"
Endurance sinking
Public DomainEndurance sinking - Credit: Royal Geographic Society

Ernest Shackleton's attempts to cross the Antarctic continent from sea to sea via the South Pole was known as the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. His ship Endurance set out from England on August 8th 1914, although Shackleton didn't join it until September when it reached Buenos Aires. The Endurance ran into trouble in January 1915 when she got trapped in packed ice in the Weddell Sea off South Georgia. Shackleton and his men eventually had to abandon ship in October, and for months they lived on an ice-floe until that broke apart and they managed to escape by lifeboat to Elephant Island.

The men at Elephant Island
Public DomainThe men at Elephant Island - Credit: Frank Hurley

Shackleton was forced to leave his men trapped on the inhospitable island, far from shipping routes, while he attempted to reach the whaling stations at South Georgia, a journey that took him fifteen days at sea and another two overland across uncharted territory. 

He eventually arrived at the whaling station at Stromness and appealed to the Chilean government for help. A naval tug was sent and all 22 men were finally rescued on August 30th 1916, over eighteen months after their ordeal began. 

The inhospitable Elephant Island
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe inhospitable Elephant Island - Credit: Lieutenant Philip Hall, NOAA Corps