History does not tell us if Earnest Shackleton was a particularly religious man, but surely he was prophesying when he christened his ship The Endurance. Even though he understood the overwhelming challenge he face in attempting the first march across Antartica, so much happened that he could not possibly have anticipated.
How would he have known…
- That the ice would be early in the fall of 1914, leaving them trapped in the ice, far from their goal by January of 1915?
- That the spring melt of 1915 would not free their ship, but that it would remain fast until October?
- That once the ice did begin to shift, rather than breaking free, his ship would be crushed, leaving his men to abandon the craft, only to stand on the ice staring down through the hole where the ship used to be?
- That he and his men would spend 497 days either on the ship or on ice floes before they set foot on land once again?
- That once they found their way to land, it would be Elephant Island, one of the most inhospitable places on earth.
- That he would be forced to split the party, and a portion of them would have to once again take to their open boats for a fifteen day sail through a storm that sunk a 500 ton steamer?
- That his portion of the party would include McNish, a carpenter that he threatened to shoot for insubordination, but recognized that he would need his skills later.
- That on their second landing, they would put ashore on an island that was inhabited, but find themselves on the opposite side of the whaling camp, separated by a glacier never before crossed by man?
- That after climbing the glacier with little or no climbing equipment, they would need to slide down the other side through thick fog, sitting in shovels for sleds? When his men objected, Shackleton is credited with saying “Well, we very well can’t go back…”.
- Do you cancel an outreach because it rains? You’ll cancel it for other reasons.
- Do you boldly approach strangers or hang back, waiting for them to make the first move? You’ll hang back your entire life.
- Do you lead by example, knowing it’s going to be harder – and more rewarding – than you expected?
You can’t pre-imagine every struggle that will materialize. At the end of the journey, you innately know it was worth it all, even if it required every bit of your endurance.
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