The Camp Site at Cape Wild, Elephant Island

4  x  6  inches,   Gouache,   1999

This view from the nearby cliffs is based on one of Frank Hurley's photographs and shows the location and environment of the camp site at Point Wild where Shackleton's crew survived the winter on Elephant Island awaiting rescue.           

Although the landing at Cape Valentine of Shackleton's Weddell Sea party provided temporary respite and relief, the beach was found to be liable to flooding at a high tide with easterly winds.  Therefore Shackleton sent Frank Wild in search of a more secure site.  In finding a short spit of shingle and rock joining the coast to a rocky islet, he had located the most suitable camp site there on that part of the northern coast of Elephant Island.   It was also a penguin rookery, a sure sign of a relatively safe location.

The party moved there as soon as possible but in deteriorating weather it was another hazardous boat trip.  It was on this desolate and lonely speck of land between icy, steep grey cliffs and a threatening glacier that they survived for 128 days before Shackleton returned at his fourth attempt.  This promontory was named at the time 'Cape Wild'.  Here the men endured their enforced winter camp, permanently damp cold and hungry, living in cramped squalor beneath within the confined shelter of their two  up-turned boats. . On this bleak spot, battered by incessant blizzards they found a more suitable name for the place, "Cape Bloody Wild".   

However, the scene in the painting shows winter's northern glow over Point Wild on a more tranquil day.  The upturned boats were sheltered between rocks on the rising ground at the foot of the small rocky islet Shackleton called 'Penguin Hill'.  Their campsite is now commemorated by a cairn.  A glacier at the head of the bay to the left of the scene has retreated since 1916.On one occasion then waves from a calving iceberg all but swamped their precariously situated camp.

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