The James Caird takes its name from Sir James Key Caird (1837-1916), a wealthy Dundee jute manufacturer and philanthropist, to whom Sir Ernest Shackleton wrote in 1914 asking for a donation of £50. Caird promised £10,000 and in the event gave £24,000 – a huge amount of money in 1913/4, amounting to many millions of pounds in today’s terms – to Shackleton’s 1914-16 Imperial Transantarctic Expedition, thus making the privately-financed Endurance trip possible.
Shackleton showed his gratitude by naming not only the small 23 foot lifeboat, in which he and five others (Worsley, Crean, McCarthy, McNeish and Vincent) were to make their terrifying 800 mile journey to raise help, after Sir James Caird, but also the Caird Coast, which abuts the Weddell Sea close to where Endurance was trapped and sank in 1915. Worley tells us that it is an ‘undulating barrier’ of ice-laden landspill, ending in cliffs from 10 ft to 200 ft high, that links Coats’ land (doscovered by Bruce’s Royal Scottish Geographical Expedition in 1902) and Luitpold Land (discovered by Wilhelm Filchner’s German expedition in 1912). To the south it is broken by numerous mighty, close-grouped, crevasse-crossed glaciers, devoid of bare land, rock or projecting nunataks.