Elephant Island is an ice-covered mountainous island off the coast of Antarctica in the outer reaches of the South Shetland Islands, in the Southern Ocean. Its name was given by early explorers sighting elephant seals on its shores. The island is situated 245 kilometres (152 mi) north-northeast of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, 1,253 kilometres (779 mi) westsouthwest of South Georgia.
The island is most famous as the desolate refuge of Sir Ernest SHACKLETON and his crew in 1916. Following the loss of their ship ENDURANCE in the ice of the Weddell Sea, the 28 exhausted men reached Elephant Island after a harrowing ordeal on drifting ice floes. They established a camp at a place they called POINT WILD where they were able to regain some strength.
It is from here that Shackleton with five other men decided to sail in an open lifeboat, the JAMES CAIRD, the 1.287 km to South Georgia where he arrived two weeks later. The episode is considered one of the most incredible feats in the history of sailing and navigation.
« The longing for the Ice, the sadness of departure… it is as if I cannot after all bear to leave this bleak waste of ice, glaciers, cold and toil. » – Sir Ernest Shackleton