24-27 December, 1921
Saturday 24 December, 1921 – Christmas Eve
At 8 am, in 40 ft waves, with the engines still giving trouble, the ship is turned to head the storm and Shackleton orders the helm to be lashed. Oil-containing gunny bags are deployed to calm the seas. Everyone and everything is completely soaked. Carr is injured with a blow to the face from a block on deck. The storm calms in the evening but picks up again in the night.
On South Georgia, the storm rages too but Wilkins decides to have Christmas dinner there and then, as it may be fine enough to get out and about tomorrow. He writes: “I roasted a duck, some onions and potatoes and had some peas from a tin. We were given Christmas pudding from the Quest but I had insisted on Douglas taking that and I had some tinned cake that Bostock had given me, also some nuts, dry ginger, bottle of wine + one of good old brandy. I had a jolly fine meal which was quite acceptable in the cold conditions for the storm is still blowing and the wind is lurking round the tent threatening to tear it down any minute.”
Sunday 25 December, 1921 – Christmas Day
The day dawns with Quest rolling 50 degrees in 40-50ft seas in a full force hurricane. Green gallantly manages to serve bully beef sandwiches and “piping hot cocoa” that Wild suspects “to have been made from engine room water” while the ship “almost stood on its head” as Green puts it. Christmas dinner is postponed for when the expedition reaches South Georgia.
On South Georgia, Wilkins studies albatross. Shoots three skua.
Monday 26 December, 1921
The hurricane eases but the main fresh-water tank has sprung a leak and run empty or, as the Deck Log puts it “Fresh water tank For’d goes west”. So water is rationed. Bad weather continues.
Tuesday 27 December, 1921
Master Ray Shackleton, aged 16, Shackleton’s eldest son, arrives to stay until the end of the week with the Rowetts at Ely Place.
For Quest, the bad weather continues, with 40 ft waves. The winds increase overnight. The seas drive the ship forward, causing the ship to overrun her engines, so they are shut off. They carry on under sail and make 9 knots. Quest is still 875 miles away from Willis Islands, off the northwest tip of South Georgia.
Wilkins photographs albatross and landscapes in the hillsides around Elsa Bay and Undine Harbour.