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Perce Blackborow (1896, Newport, Monmouthshire – 1949), was a Welsh sailor, a stowaway on Shackleton's ill fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition .


Shipwrecked sailor

Blackborow and William Bakewell sailed aboard the Golden Gate, which was wrecked on the shore of Montevideo.

Stowaway on Endurance

The friends traveled to Buenos Aires looking for new employment. Bakewell was taken on as an Able Seaman by Endurance. Blackborow however was not hired, his youth (he was 18) and inexperience counting against him. Fearing that Endurance was shorthanded, William Bakewell and Walter How helped Blackborow to sneak aboard and hid him in a locker. [1] On the third day at sea he was discovered.

Unable to stand, he had to remain seated in a chair when he met Ernest Shackleton for the first time..

Shackleton's tirade

Apparently in a fit of genuine rage, Shackleton subjected the stowaway to a most severe and terrifying tirade in front of the entire crew. This had the desired effect and the reactions of the two accomplices were enough to unmask them.

Shackleton finished his performance by leaning close to Blackborow. “Do you know that on these expeditions we often get very hungry, and if there is a stowaway available he is the first to be eaten?” Blackborow looked at the fairly heavily built Shackleton and replied “They’d get a lot more meat off you, sir.” Shackleton hid his grin and handed him over to Frank Wild to pass on to the Bosun, with the words “introduce him to the cook first”.[2]

Blackborow proved an asset to the ship as a steward and was eventually signed on.

His cheek, however, was not entirely forgotten. Following Endurance’s entrapment and crushing, the crew relocated to Elephant Island. On arrival in the Dudley Docker and James Caird the crew of the Dudley Docker lifted Blackborow, already weak from exposure and frostbite suffered during the march from Patience camp to the open sea, overboard into the foam, and he became the first person to set foot on Elephant Island.


On April 14 the rescue party set sail in the James Caird for South Georgia, hoping to return in weeks. The rest of the crew resigned themselves to waiting. Almost to a man they were in poor health and spirits. Blackborow had contracted gangrene and was Macklin’s greatest medical concern.

On June 15 with Shackleton and the James Caird crew now away for a month, Macklin, assisted by Mackleroy, carried out the necessary amputations. Greenstreet described the operation. “Blackborow had … all the toes of his left foot taken off ¼ inch stumps being left … The poor beggar behaved splendidly and it went without a hitch … Time from start to finish 55 minutes. When Blackborow came to he was cheerful as anything and started joking directly.”[3]

After Endurance

Blackborow returned to live in Newport, South Wales and received the Bronze Polar Medal.

He later died in 1949, of chronic bronchitis and a heart problem.

Blackborow's Antarctic adventures are the subject of a fictionalized account, Shackleton's Stowaway by Victoria McKernan (ISBN 0-440-41984-0).


  1. ^ NOVA Online | Shackleton's Antarctic Odyssey | Perce Blackborow, Steward
  2. ^ Huntford, R. "Shackleton", p. 384. Carroll & Graf, 1998.
  3. ^ Huntford, R. "Shackleton", p. 533. Carroll & Graf, 1998.

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