Ferring homeowners pay tribute to Antarctic explorer who survived legendary Endurance mission and retired to the West Sussex village
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They had set out to make the first land crossing of the south polar continent but now the challenge had become survival. Back in England, nobody knew exactly where they were and there was no little hope of a rescue.
That was the situation for Ernest Shackleton and his team of 27 in October 1915. Ahead lay a freezing journey of hundreds of miles by sea and on foot before reaching help.
Death seemed inevitable but every one of the men survived. Their experiences are one of the greatest tales of endurance and leadership ever told. It is almost unbelievable but it happened.
Afterwards Leonard Hussey, the expedition’s meteorologist, wrote down the story and using photos taken at the time, went on to retell it to enthralled audiences for many years.
The story of the legendary Endurance mission to Antarctica and that day the ship was crushed has been brought to light again 108 years later as part of Ferring Scarecrow Festival 2023, where the owners of Hussey's former home in St Aubins Road have created a scene referencing the expedition.
Their sign reads: "Dr Leonard Hussey survived the epic 1914-16 Shackleton expedition on the Endurance. It was his house that was his final home and is named after the ship. There is a famous picture of Hussey and a large dog called Samson. Unfortunately the dogs on the expedition did not survive. The Shackleton expedition's aim was to cross Antarctica from sea to sea via the South Pole."
As well as a scene featuring Shackleton, Hussey and Samson, a signpost marks South Ferring and points to both Endurance and South Pole. There is even a stained glass window in the garden wall featuring the ship and a Blue Plaque marking it as the home of the meteorologist and explorer.
The idea for the plaque came about after former home owners Robert and Lesley Crompton researched the property’s history nearly 20 years ago. They felt Hussey's adventures were a piece of history to be remembered for the house and village alike.
Arun District Council and Inspire Leisure agreed to award a Blue Plaque and it was unveiled in July 2007 by Graham Tyler, council chairman at the time.
Hussey was born in 1891 and graduated from Kings College with a degree in meteorology. He volunteered to accompany Shackleton as a meteorologist on the ill-fated attempt to cross Antarctica. After the men were marooned, they had to survive in sub-zero temperatures in a hostile climate with little resources.
They made the dangerous journey to Elephant Island in the lifeboats and days after landing in April 1916, Shackleton and five of the team set off again, risking life and limb to get help.
It was not until more than four months later that they were eventually rescued and returned to England as heroes. Hussey then trained as a doctor and joined Shackleton’s final Antarctica expedition, in 1921, as assistant surgeon.
Speaking at the unveiling of the Blue Plaque, Mr Tyler said: "Leonard Hussey, like every other volunteer who embarked on that famous voyage, was a man of extreme courage and valour. He was a character in one of the greatest real-life adventures ever seen, and part of a generation of explorers the like has never been seen again."
Hussey moved to St Aubins Road in 1960 and lived there until his death, aged 72, in 1964. The plaque was designed to honour his remarkable achievements and make the residents of Ferring and Arun as a whole proud to know such a noteworthy figure lived there at the end of his days.
Shackleton made many references to Hussey in his written account of the Endurance expedition, entitled South. He especially focused on Hussey’s ability to raise the crew’s morale through his frenetic banjo playing, which he branded 'indispensable' to their mental state.