A Legendary Journey to an Unforgettable Island
This mountainous, ice-covered island off the coast of Antarctica was named for the elephant seals early explorers sighted on its shores. It is most famous as the refuge of Ernest Shackleton and his crew, following the loss of their ship Endurance.
Twenty-eight exhausted men reached Elephant Island after a harrowing ordeal on drifting ice floes. Realizing there was no chance of rescue, Shackleton set out with five men on an 800-mile (1,287 km) voyage in an open lifeboat, heading for South Georgia, where he knew there was a whaling station. He returned four months later with a ship, and against all odds rescued everyone who had originally set out on the expedition.
Retracing part of Shackleton’s legendary journey—and seeing the island where this incredible feat of courage and determination occurred—is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
One of the earliest sightings of Elephant Island dates back to 1821, when the island was named after its many elephant seals. Almost 200 years later and there are still plenty of elephant seals to be seen, as well as Antarctic fur seals and leopard seals.
It may be named after a seal, but Elephant Island is a bird watcher’s paradise. Be on the lookout for cape and stormy petrels, sheathbills, and thousands of penguins, including chinstrap, Gentoo, and Macaroni.
At Point Wild, there’s the Endurance Memorial Site with its bust of Captain Pardo to commemorate the Chilean captain who rescued the Shackleton survivors, and Hampson Cove contains the wreckage of a wooden sailing vessel.