You wait. Everyone has an Antarctic.

April 5, 2020

 

 

In this particular time, we need templates from what has gone on before. I turn to Ernest Shackleton.

 

In January 1915, his ship was trapped in pack ice one day's journey from his intended landing site.

 

In October of that same year, 9 months later, he and his men are forced to abandon his ship, the Endurance.

 

In November, they watch as the vessel breaks apart, crushed in vise-like seas of moving ice.

 

Living on a shifting ice floe, they cobble together Patience Camp. It was April 9th, 1916. They had not set foot on solid ground since December 5th of the previous year.

 

Blown off-course, they then sail and row and drag their boats sixty miles in seven days, not counting all the zig-zags around frozen ice thrusts and open water.

 

They reach Elephant Island. They know they are so far off course no passing ship will ever spot them.

 

Shackleton divides his band of sailors and scientists, artists, and carpenters. He and five men set out for South Georgia, 800 miles away, in a 22 and 1/2 foot boat. 

 

The weather in the Antarctic turns especially bad. It takes another seventeen days for them to reach their goal.

 

May 10th, 1916, they land, 30 miles from Stromness station. But that is as the crow flies. They walk across "mountains, glaciers, frozen streams and lakes, and a waterfall to get there." It is all uncharted.

  

May 20th, 1916, they hear the "sweet music" of the steam whistle calling whalers to work. They arrive exhausted.

 

Shackleton immediately enlists a boat to rescue his men back at Elephant Island. The Yelcho arrives on August 30th with Shackleton aboard. His first words to his men? "Are you well?"

 

So there you have it. Twenty-seven souls and everyone he brings back alive. "It is a tale so amazing you'll wonder why the Endurance saga hasn't become a part of every school-age child's reading."

 

About 60 years after the rescue, his First Officer was asked, "How did you survive when so many expeditions perished?" The old explorer, then 82 years old, answered in one word: "Shackleton."

 

Here is perhaps one of his best tributes:

 

"For a joint scientific and geographical piece of organization, give me Scott; for a winter journey, give me Wilson, for a dash to the Pole and nothing else, Amundsen.

 

And if I am in the devil of a hole and want to get out of it, give me Shackleton every time."

 

It's that "devil of a hole" phrase that gets my attention every time. Some of us have been there. Some of us might feel like we are there now.

 

In the next post, I'll share a number of Earnest Shackleton's practical and common-sense virtues and habits. They are drawn from the book Shackleton's Way by Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell.

 

They write: "In our search for worthy heroes, to find result-oriented leadership, Shackleton is needed.

 

He is a person for the present, especially (because) we've grown weary of the culture of victimization and despair and are searching for leaders who are survivors and optimists."

 

How can Shackleton help us? What traits did he possess or cultivate that enabled him in crisis? What views did he instill that kept his shipmates positive in adversity, what routines did he insist on to keep morale high?

 

Some may fit your situation; some may not. No matter. All are worth thinking about and mulling over. 

 

For now, here are two taken from the book to consider:

 

"A leader is a dealer in hope." (Napoleon) and

"Optimism is true moral courage." (Shackleton)

 

 

 

For a terrific read, try Shackleton's

Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer.

 

Comments on F/B would be appreciated. 

 

 

The ship's image is not the Endurance.

Title attributed to Thomas Pynchon, V.

Photos courtesy of Pixabay.

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