Tag Archives: ice

Shackleton polar expedition photos by Frank Hursley

Frank Hurley photos from Shackleton expedition Frank Hurley photos from Shackleton expedition

Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1914-17 expedition was an attempt to cross Antarctica from one side to the other via the South Pole, but in January 1915 the expedition ship, the Endurance, became locked in the ice of the Weddell Sea, which slowly crushed and finally sank the vessel over the following months, while Shackleton and his men camped on the ice.

The photos above by expedition photographer Frank Hursley are from this period – a much bigger selection can be seen at howtobearetronaut.com.

Eventually they were able to travel with their boats to Elephant Island, from which a small group led by Shackleton sailed one of the Endurance’s ship’s boats, the Sir James Caird, over a distance of 800 miles to the the inhabited island of South Georgia to get help.

For more posts about Shackleton’s Endurance expedition and about the celebrated Sir James Caird voyage to South Georgia click here; for photos of South Georgia itself, click here.

Strange and beautiful landscapes from the Row to the Pole expedition to Magnetic North

Row to the Pole photographed by ANTONY WOODFORD  Row to the Pole photographed by ANTONY WOODFORD

Row to the Pole photographed by ANTONY WOODFORD Row to the Pole photographed by ANTONY WOODFORD

These fascinating landscapes come from members of the Row to the Pole expedition led by veteran Arctic explorer Jock Wishart.

Click on the shots for a much bigger and better view: all but the last image are taken by Antony Woodford by the way – so thanks Antony!

The expedition sponsored by Old Pulteney Whisky aims to row to the Magnetic North Pole to demonstrate how much ice has gone from the area through global warming, and it certainly seems strange to note that until recent years the rocks and land at these high latitudes probably haven’t seen the sky for hundreds of thousands of years. That’s my guess, but no doubt the expeditions scientific advisers can provide the real figure.

The seriously scary information these rowers want to get across is that at its current rate of melting, the polar ice cap could disappear completely in three decades.

Doubtless this would have a profound effect on our weather systems.

Regular readers may recall reading that boatbuilder and historian Will Stirling is skippering a BBC camera boat following the expedition.

Row to the Pole photographed by ANTONY WOODFORD Row to the Pole photographed by ANTONY WOODFORD Row to the Pole photographed by ANTONY WOODFORD

Row to the Pole photographed by ANTONY WOODFORD Row to the Pole


YouTube clips of ice yachting in Holland



Ice yachting in Holland

Dominic von Stösser has emailed to point out another intriguing YouTube clip, this time showing ice yachting in Holland:

‘Hi Gavin!

‘Seems USians aren’t the only ones sailing on ‘hard water’ — I found a YouTube clip of ice sailing in Holland:


I’t looks like they’ve just strapped their gaff-rigged ‘soft water’ skiffs onto runners!

‘I can’t help but wonder what a Bolger Light Schooner would be like on ice…

‘Cheers -


Many thanks Dominic! I doubt the boat-shaped ice yacht fuselages could possibly sail with those huge rigs, but it’s fun to imagine.

Dominic’s email piqued my interest in what else might be around on YouTube, and searching revealed this sequence, which includes graphic evidence of what happens when one of these ice yachts falls through the ice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HvpNIkFtMEE


Accident on the ice

PS Jaap in Holland has made some interesting comments – see the comments link below – and included some splendid links. If you’ve interestede in ice sailing in particular, you definitely should not miss this one in particular: http://www.ijsschuiten.nl/ and http://www.icesailing.nl/robbenvloot.html – amazingly, they’ve got a ice yacht that goes back to the 1830s.

Now, I have a historical question: was it the Dutch who taught New Yorkers to sail on ice?

Ice yachts on the Hudson



The Hudson River has been in the news across lately due to the cool-nerved heroism of a pilot who saved lives in the air and on land by successfully crash-landing a stricken airliner on its chilly surface.

In times past, however, it was also known for ice yachting. The old river freezes less often these days, but the ice yacht sailers still go out on the thin ice to travel at speeds that would make most water-borne sailers blink.

See some instructions and plans on building ice yachts from Charles H Farnham and published by Cornell University Library, this article from the New York Times and – probably best of all – these wonderful photos of old-style ice-yachting.

PS – I won’t put up a post on Saturday the 14th, as Julie and I are getting married.

Canoe and Boatbuilding for Amateurs


Body plan of tandem canoe

“The number of boating men who find pleasure merely in sailing a boat is small compared with those who delight not only in handling, but as well in planning, building, improving or ‘tinkering’ generally on their pet craft, and undoubtedly the latter derive the greater amount of pleasure from the sport. They not only feel a pride in the result of their work, but their pleasure goes on, independent of the seasons. No sooner do cold and ice interfere with sport afloat than the craft is hauled up, dismantled, and for the next half year becomes a source of unlimited pleasure to her owner – and a nuisance to his family and friends. We know one eminent canoeist who keeps a fine canoe in his cellar and feeds her on varnish and brass screws for fifty weeks of every year.”

So wrote WP Stephens in the preface to his classic 1889 manual Canoe and Boatbuilding for Amateurs. It was written at a time when the word ‘amateur’ meant something slightly different to what it says to us today, but we probably all recognise the typical boat owner’s compulsion to change and adapt. Go down to anywhere boats are moored on a Saturday morning, and whatever the tide you’ll probably find half of the craft have a happy tinkerer mooching around on board, armed with nuts and bolts, some odd fittings and a tin of varnish. What could be better, apart from actually sailing?

WP Stephens’ book is a fascinating way into the world of sailing canoes in particular, and will make your next trip to a maritime museum showing old canoes much more worthwhile. Perhaps its value lies in the way canoe designers of the time shared their designs in a way that is much less frequent now – the designs laid out in WP Stephens’ book are complete with their offsets and can be built straight off the page.

So I’d encourage you to find any excuse you can to spend an idle hour with an online book that will take you, for free, back to an earlier time:


Sailplan of Tandem Canoe