Scott looked up from the heap of papers as Lieutenant Shackleton came into the cabin. “Well?” he asked, his voice brittle.
“The dry dock did some good, Captain, but she’s still taking on water.”
Scott passed a hand over his tired face, glanced at the barometer. “How’s the tide?”
“We’ve about a half hour until the flood.”
“The dogs are all aboard? All hands accounted for?”
“Yes sir,” said Shackleton. Then, with some asperity, “Since yesterday.”
Scott glowered at the tone. “No ship I command will ever set sail on a Friday, Lieutenant. We’ve enough bad luck as it is.”
“Of course not, sir.”
“Let us weigh anchor, Lieutenant.”
On deck, Scott was astonished to see the docks packed with cheering crowds. Perhaps this voyage would be have some luck after all.
The crowd gasped. A sailor capering atop the mainmast lost his footing and fell, smashing into the deck.
The Discovery Expedition was the first official British exploration of the Antarctic regions since James Clark Ross’s voyage sixty years earlier. Organized on a large scale under a joint committee of the Royal Society and the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), the new expedition carried out scientific research and geographical exploration in what was then largely an untouched continent. It launched the Antarctic careers of many who would become leading figures in the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, including Robert Falcon Scott who led the expedition, Ernest Shackleton, Edward Wilson, Frank Wild, Tom Crean and William Lashly.
On 21 December, 1901, as the ship was leaving Lyttelton to the cheers of large crowds, a young able seaman, Charles Bonner, fell to his death from the top of the mainmast, which he had climbed so as to return the crowd’s applause.
You can read more about this amazing adventure here.