Antarctic legend laid to rest

In a moving ceremony in the tiny Lutheran chapel and white-picketed graveyard in the now-derelict Grytviken Whaling Station the ashes of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s trusted lieutenant Frank Wild were finally laid to rest alongside The Boss today.

Wild sailed to Antarctica four times with Shackleton between 1902 and 1922 on the Discovery, the Nimrod, the Quest and the legendary Endurance expedition, perhaps the greatest of all maritime sagas of survival. When Shackleton sailed a small lifeboat 1200 km across the Southern Ocean to seek rescue he left Wild in charge of the remaining 22 men on desolate Elephant Island. Shackleton finally returned five months later to find all still alive, bolstered by Wild’s confidence in Shackleton not to let him down.

Shackleton died on the Quest and was buried in Grytviken in 1922; Wild died in South Africa in 1939. He wished to be cremated and buried alongside his beloved leader but WWII intervened. Then his ashes were lost. Only this year did British historian and author Angie Butler find them in a crypt in Johannesburg. The ashes were carried by Butler, accompanied by some of Wild’s great nieces and nephews and the Hon. Alexandra Shackleton, Sir Ernest’s granddaughter. They sailed aboard One Ocean Expeditions’ Akademik Ioffe with 100 passengers from Ushuaia to South Georgia via the Falkland Islands.

The simple church ceremony was performed by Rev. Richard Hines, an Anglican clergyman from the Falkland Islands. It was attended by most of the ship’s crew and all the British scientific staff based on South Georgia. After the ceremony a funeral procession made its way through the ruins and past wallowing elephant seals, gleaming king penguins and snapping fur seals to the tiny graveyard. There, a grave had been dug in the peat and Julie George, a great niece from Melbourne, Australia, placed the urn containing Wild’s ashes in their final resting place next to Shackleton.

The tradition for every ship’s crew into Grytviken is to go first to Shackleton’s grave and have a toast and pour a libation on his grave. Today, for the first time, the passengers of the One Ocean Expeditions’ voyage completed a new ritual – a toast to both Shackleton and Wild together again, and forever, 90 years later.

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