The Time Capsule at the Bottom of the Sea

article by Karen Wasson , illustrated by Fifi Colston | photo by Alamy

Learning intention: 

I am learning how to experiment with text structures and vocabulary so that I can compose a coherent and well-structured text. 

Success criteria: 

  • I can research and summarise information from several sources to plan for writing. 
  • I can use research and my imagination to create a believable diary entry. 
  • I can make intentional vocabulary, grammar and structural choices to portray information, feelings and mental images that affect an audience.

After reading the article, view the following websites and videos: 

ABC’s article Ernest Shackleton's ship Endurance found beneath Antarctic ice after more than a century 

Highlight the paragraphs starting from: “Despite being stranded on the ice…” to “…Trans-Antarctic Expedition left London.” 

ABC’S video Ernest Shackleton's ship Endurance found beneath Antarctic ice 

Watch the story of Shackleton and his crew from 2.24-3.38. 

BBC’s article on Perch Blackborow, Endurance: The Newport stowaway on Shackleton shipwreck 

Read the story under the sub-heading ‘How did Percy end up on board?’ 

The University of Cambridge’s archives on Ernest Shackleton's Endurance diary, 1915 

Click on the diary entries to view Shackleton’s writing. 


Students are to write a diary entry in a similar style to Shackleton, as if they are one of the crew members aboard the Endurance. They are to choose from one of these moments during the expedition: 

  • setting out 
  • getting stuck on the ice 
  • the long trek to Elephant Island 
  • getting rescued 

Students use the information gathered from The School Magazine’s article and the various sources provided above to write their diary entry. They are to write in first person point of view and to use evocative language that will affect the reader. Remind students that a diary entry can have slang, crossed out words and punctuation that is different from the usual rules, but there must be a reason for why they make these decisions. If you have a digital subscription, complete the interactive activity Intentional Choices in Writing. 

Ask students how it would feel to be setting out on adventure, lost on the ice for so long or finally seeing a rescue party, and what they want their reader to feel when reading their diary entry – sadness, excitement, hope, worry? This will be different for each student depending on what part of the expedition they’re writing about. For guidance, as a class brainstorm vocabulary that might be used in their diary entry, such as freezing, survival, desperate, starvation, frostbite, dire. 

An example entry set during the long trek to Elephant Island: 

Excuse my handwriting. It’s so cold, I can barely feel my fingers. Percy’s toes have frostbite – I think they’ll have to chop remove them. We’re living on rowboats in the ice, trying to get to freedom. But freedom feels like an eternity away. There is white as far as the eye can see. We’re so hungry, we had to eat the last of the huskies. Poor Rover. He was a great dog. My stomach is roiling from the meat, but my muscles shake with starvation. I hope we get out of this ice soon. Don’t think we can last much longer. I’d do anything to see my wife and children again. 

Students use the checklist below to evaluate their writing: 

  • I have used first person point of view the whole way through 
  • I have used information from the resources 
  • I can identify what emotion I want my reader to feel 
  • I have made intentional vocabulary, grammar and structural choices to affect the reader