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A true survivor

Shackleton Expedition member honored

July 31, 2010
By CLAIRE ABENT Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE - A historical marker was dedicated Friday to the late William Bakewell, the only American aboard SIr Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated voyage to Antarctica on the Endurance in 1914-1916.

Bakewell was also a longtime Upper Peninsula resident and is buried in Skandia, in a cemetery near the churchyard where the marker now stands.

On hand were Bakewell's descendants: his daughter Elizabeth Bakewell Rajala, and her three daughters, Sarah, Mary and Nina. Sarah Rajala said her grandfather would tell them stories of his journey but often they didn't understand the magnitude of them.

"Like everyone else here, we didn't appreciate them at the time" she said.

She also noted that only after she, her mother and her sisters took a trip to the Antarctic did they truly know and appreciate what he went through.

Born in Joliet, Ill., in 1888, Bakewell spent his teen years in logging camps in the U.P. He later traveled to South American where found work on a number of ships, eventually landing on the Endurance, claiming Canadian citizenship to join the British expedition.

The story of the Endurance and her journey to Antarctica is one of legend - the boat was crushed by ice and the crew was forced into three lifeboats. They camped on the ice for three months before reaching Elephant Island, where Bakewell becomes a larger part of the story. It was during this time that he helped retrofit one of the larger lifeboats so that Shackleton could travel 800 miles to South Georgia to seek help for the entire crew. Twenty-two months after it began, their journey ended with a rescue.

Bakewell returned to the U.P. in 1945 and settled at a farm in Dukes, where he lived until his death in 1969.

During the ceremony, it was evident the number of lives that Bakewell had reached with his stories. People had traveled from across the U.P., downstate and as far away as Washington D.C. State Rep. Steve Lindberg, D-Marquette, was even on hand to share his personal memories of Bakewell and visiting his farm as a child.

"I remember going with my dad to the Bakewell farm. And I remember him telling me, 'Mr. Bakewell went to the Antarctic on the Shackleton expedition,'" Lindberg said. "I remember him as being a remarkably quiet, kind person. And I had no idea how tough he was to have done what he did. It was years late when I read one of the books on the Endurance and a lightbulb went off, that's the Mr. Bakewell that lived right down the road."

Elizabeth Rajala has published a book based on her fathers memoirs - "American on the Endurance: Ice, Seas and Terra Firma Adventures of William D. Bakewell."

The historical marker dedicated Friday stands in the churchyard of Emanuel Lutheran Church and Cemetery, located near the intersection of U.S. 41 and M-94 in Skandia.

Claire Abent can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her e-mail address is cabent@miningjournal.net.

 
 

 

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