12-19 October, 1921 – Madeira

Wednesday 12 October, 1921

Not long after leaving Lisbon, the knocking of the engines begins again. More bad weather. Almost everyone is suffering from seasickness.

Thursday 13 October, 1921

Still rough seas and Quest rolls so much that it is impossible to do much in the way of meteorological balloon work, although some kites are sent up.

Saturday 15 October, 1921

Having decided to send the seasick photographer and cinematographer J C Bee Mason home, Shackleton asks Wilkins to take on the photographic duties on top of his work as naturalist.

Sunday 16 October, 1921

The Quest reaches Madeira and anchors in Funchal Harbour, near to the French battle cruiser, Gueydon. The mail packet steamer RMSP St Margaret of Scotland is in port and members of Quest crew put their signatures on some of the mailship’s notepaper. The steamer runs a regular service between England and the Canary Islands. Carr and Wilkins have dinner on board and afterwards attend a dance, having “a very good time”.

Shackleton transmits to England: “The Quest arrived here today after still continuous southerly winds. The ship keeps her reputation for activity in short seas. We are leaving on Tuesday for St Vincent.

We have carried out the Air Ministry’s programme, finding the wind blowing from S.S.W. at 5,000ft, while it is south-east at sea level. We consider your high temperatures in England largely due to a great anti-cyclone extending almost to Madeira.

I regret I am sending home Mason and Mooney. Both are unable to stand the continuous pitching and rolling, though both are willing and competent. The doctor’s orders demand this action. Everyone else is well, including Query our dog and Questie the Daily Mail kitten

Quest at Madeira

Monday 17 October, 1921

J C Bee Mason and Scout Norman Mooney depart on RMSP Avon bound for England, via Lisbon, Vigo and Cherbourg.

Shackleton and other members of the expedition are entertained for lunch with Senor Antonio Vieira de Castro and other local businessmen.

Gerald Lysaght (left), Frank Wild (4 from left), Roddy Carr (centre), Dr McIlroy (4 from right) and Sir Ernest Shackleton (2 from right) at lunch with Senor de Castro (right) and other local businessmen

Later, Shackleton and senior members of the expedition are looked after by Mr John Ernest Blandy and his wife Elinor at their estate Quinta do Palheiro. Others explore the island themselves.

Some of the crew stay at the Monte Palace Hotel, where they appreciate the comforts.

Tuesday 18 October, 1921

At Madeira, Shackleton has received mail, including several letters from John Rowett. Shackleton writes to his wife Emily, Lady Shackleton, telling her that Rowett’s letters are a “mixture of moans and friendship. …moans at the expense [of the expedition] and terms of friendship combined……fundamentally he is all right but he feels the parting with the money”. Shackleton warns Emily that Rowett and his wife are “very kind”, but inclined to be possessive, especially Rowett himself, and so Shackleton advises “..don’t be too dependent on him and don’t discuss little household things with him….. Let him run after you more than you talking to him otherwise you will have no peace and Keep your independence. You can afford to, whatever he has paid, he has had his money’s worth”.

Shackleton also writes ton John Rowett’s wife, Ellie:

This letter must be short, but I want to thank you for yours. Both have a keenness that has done me good. Keep writing to me. It is a bit of a strain just now but that’s all right. I feel I have put a heavy load on John but he is very good. This time you will see in spite of troubles it will come out all right. I am a bit lonely of course. The men are fine but they have no worries, yet I am happy ever as I look up and see her masts reeling across the steady stars, and she lifts to the sound of the sea. We blunder south Ellie but she is strong and there are good men on board. You are indeed right about Orkney people. I am sure that’s what it is. We will have much to talk about in the days to be and when good discoveries are made John will feel all he is doing will not have been in vain. He is good.
My love to you. You cannot write too long a letter. The swallow is leading South.
Ever, Ernest
PS: I am glad you like Cook, he is loyal to me to the core. You are right and John about the motor bike”

“Cook” is James Aloysius Cook, Shackleton’s business secretary. The mention of the motor bike refers to the wish of Shackleton’s eldest son, Raymond (Ray) Shackleton, then aged 16 and at Harrow School, to have one, which (it seems) that the Rowetts have advised against.

Wilkins hires a car and takes photographs of Funchal harbour including some colour autochromes.

Quest lying next to the French battle cruiser Gueydon in Funchal Harbour 18 October 1921. Autochrome by G H Wilkins (Quest Chronicle Collection)

Wednesday 19 October, 1921

Quest leaves Madeira early in the afternoon. Although Gerald Lysaght had intended to leave the expedition at Madeira, he stays on for the next leg of the journey. Dr James McIlroy decides to remain permanently with the expedition.