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Sunday 1 January 1922

Shackleton has made no entries in his diary since five days after leaving Plymouth, 29 September, but now writes: “Rested and calm after the storm. The year has begun kindly for us. It is curious how a date becomes a factor in one’s life. Christmas Day in the raging gale seemed out of place. I dared not venture to hope that today would be as it was. Anxiety has been probing deeply into me, for until the very end of the year things have gone awry. Engines were unreliable; water was short; there were heavy gales – all that physically can go wrong has done so, but the spirit of all on board is sound and good.

He then adds lines from Browning: “There are two points in the adventure of the diver; one when, a beggar, he prepares to plunge; one when, a prince, he rises with his pearl”.

Monday 2 January 1922

Shackleton, on the night watch, writes in the deck log: “WSW light breeze. Rain and light airs til 3.00 then rain continuing. Whale blows close to the ship. SW swell. Rolling easily. 10 blue whales sighted.”

He writes in his diary: “Another wonderful day, and very cheerful for us after these last days of stress and strain. At 1pm we passed our first iceberg. The old familiar sight aroused in me memories that the strenuous years had deadened. Blue caverns shone with the sky glow snatched from heaven itself; green spurs showed beneath the waters. Ah me! The years that have gone since, in the pride of manhood, I first went forth to the fight! I grow old and tired, but must always lead on”.

Tuesday 3 January 1922

Quest is closing in on South Georgia. Two icebergs are passed and there are numerous seabirds around.

Shackleton: “Another beautiful day. Fortune seems to attend us this New Year, but so anxious have I been when things are going well that I wonder what new difficulty will spring on me. I find a difficulty in settling down to write. I am so much in the qui vive.

He again quotes from Browning, this time from the poem Easter Day: “Thankful that I can be crossed and thwarted as a man.”

Wednesday 4 January 1922

Willis Islands, off the northwest tip of South Georgia, are sighted at 1.00 am and by 4 am Cape Buller is in sight.

Quest travels along the coast finally dropping anchor in Grytviken Harbour in sunshine at 3 pm. Shackleton immediately goes ashore with Mr Jacobsen, the station manager, to arrange for provisions and coal. He returns to the Quest in good spirits.

Wild asks Shackleton about work for the following day to which he replies “Don’t bother about that now, there is plenty of time tomorrow; let us have a good sleep, you have not had one for some time”. Shackleton plays cards with Worsley and McIlroy for a while and then turns in.

That evening, Shackleton writes in his diary: “The old familiar smell of whale permeates everything. It is a strange and curious place. Douglas and Wilkins are at different ends of the island. In the darkening twilight, I saw a lone star hover gem-like above the bay.