Ice Captain: The Life of Endurance Expedition's Other Hero, Joseph Russell Stenhouse
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Much has been written on Antarctic explorer, Ernest Shackleton. This is the story of the Endurance expedition's other hero, Joseph Russell Stenhouse (1887-1941) who, as Captain of the SS Aurora, freed the ship from pack ice and rescued the survivors of the Ross Sea shore party, deeds for which he was awarded the Polar Medal and the OBE. He was also recruited for special operations in the Arctic during the First World War, became involved in the Allied intervention in Revolutionary Russia, and was later appointed to command Captain Scott's Discovery. Stenhouse was one of the last men to qualify as a sea captain during the age of sail.
tale of their engagement. A few weeks before this skirmish, Stenhouse had written to Leonard Tripp to tell him that ‘Since my arrival in England I have been in the “Scrap” so have had little or no time for “looking up” the people I had intended to (I have had only three days at home). . . . I am fit and enjoying life immensely although the “fed-up-ness,” caused by the mismanaging Relief Committee, has not yet worn off.’5 Part of this ‘fed-up-ness’ had resulted from his concern that the Admiralty
passengers as well as the driver, the occupants could enjoy a relatively comfortable and sociable ride. ‘On a fine day with no head wind and temperature not too far below zero,’ Worsley recounted, ‘you sit up and take notice in your bag, occasionally fingering your revolver to make sure it’s ready and pass your time in improving conversation with each other and the driver . . . otherwise you yell Tallyho! . . . and sing ribald or otherwise songs and sailor shanties in more or less unison.’33 The
shipping. Initially, however, Lake Onega could only be viewed as a longer-term objective. In the first instance the smaller lakes, Vigozero and Segozero, would have to be captured and then patrolled. Though tactically sound, these plans for waterborne operations presented Maynard’s commanders with a number of extremely challenging logistical problems, not least the identification, repair and transportation of suitable vessels, hundreds of miles to the southern front. Such an exercise would have
told Wordie, ‘ . . . both are out for themselves.’ For Stenhouse, however, he had nothing but praise, stating that he ‘is dead loyal to any cause he takes up. I served with him in Russia and liked him. He is a better man than either of the other two . . . Stenhouse is a good man, and an honest one and loyal.’8 Having received so glowing a reference from such a reputable source, the Committee offered the post to Stenhouse on a salary of £500 per annum during the period of the Discovery’s refit,
however, upon his return from the frozen south in 1917 Stenhouse did not experience any debilitating sense of anti-climax or bathos. In particular, the war offered him an opportunity to excel, both at sea and on land, and to build upon an already firmly established reputation for courage and daring. During its course he earned the Distinguished Service Cross for sinking an enemy submarine and the Distinguished Service Order and the French Croix de Guerre for his part in the Allied struggle with