This is an incredible against-all-odds story. I believe that I will be drawing courage and inspiration from this man and his courage for the rest of my life.
The story of Sir Ernest Shackleton, as told by Allyson Lewis. The Seven Minute Difference, pp. 2-5.
Sir Ernest Shackleton, one of history's most daring navigators, was a manwhose purpose was to leadexplorations of earth'sunknown areas.In pursuit ofthat purpose, Shackletondetermined that he would leadan expedition to explore theAntarctic. He knew that the area held a wealth of important scientific information, and that such an expedition would be both historically and scientifically significant. He had a vision, he had a purpose, and he had a burning desire to accomplish things that no man had ever accomplished.
Shackleton and a crew of 26 (and a stowaway) set sail from Plymouth, England, on August 1, 1914, aboard the Endurance, a ship named for the Shackleton family motto "By Endurance We Conquer." After sailing around the tip of South America, the ship slowly made its way through the thickening ice of the Atlantic Ocean until the crew could see the Antarctic continent before them. Then, on Janurary 19, 1915, the ship stopped completely as the huge ice floes that clogged the sea trapped it.
With no other perceived options, Shackleton decided to wait until the spring thaw. Throughout the long dark Antarctic winter the ship was locked in place, the men stranded. As a leader, Shakleton knew that he must keep the crew's spirits high or they would never be able to endure the horrible cold and loneliness of this desolate situation. He led the men in games of football and hockey on the ice. The celebrated holidays, sang patriotic songs, and raced their dog sleds in what they called the Antarctic Derby.
After ten long months, the ice floes began to shift; but instead of freeing the Endurance, they slowly crushed the ship and dragged her to the bottom of the ocean. The crew unloaded as many supplies as they could, salvaging food, lifeboats, sled dogs, and supplies, then made camp on the ice floe that had crushed their ship. If you have ever felt trapped by circumstances beyond your control, adrift, or crushed by the shifting changes of the world around you, you might have some concept of the challenges facing Shackleton and his crew during these agonizing months.
Again, Shackleton stepped forward as the leader stepped forward as a leader. He gave his men his word that he would return every one of them safely to England. He did not allow them to consider the possibility that they would fail. Shackleton assigned daily rotating duties to the men, to keep them all engaged and actively at work on achieving their purpose. He reminded them frequently of their return voyage, and he kept their dreams of home always vivid in their minds. He asked the men to describe their homes; the counties where they lived; their wives, children, parents, and friends. He treated the idea of a successful voyage home as a forgone conclusion, and made the goal of achieving that dream the driving force behind every crew member's work and purpose.
On April 12, 4 months after the breakup of the Endurance, the ice floe on which the men were camped broke free and drifted within 30 miles of tiny Elephant Island. In a courageous dash, Shackleton and his crew boarded their three tiny lifeboats and sailed for the relative safety of the island. Amazingly, all three boats landed safely. Although they were able to shelter in the inhospitable place, the only source of food on the island was its flocks of penguins. Shackleton knew that without vegetables, he and his men would contract scurvy and die, and he was determined to avoid such a horrible conclusion to their venture.
So, in a 22 1/2 foot lifeboat named the James Caird, Shackleton and five of his men set out to make the whaling station on South Georgia Island, a 25 mile strip of land 800 miles away, across the open and stormy sea. With nothing more than a compass to guide them, Shackleton and 5 other crew members accomplished on of the greatest navigational feats in history and landed on the southern coast of the Georgia Island on May 10, just 17 days after launching.
Leading his tiny crew over uncharted mountains, through an icy rushing stream, and down the 30-foot drop of a waterfall, Shackleton successfully reached the whaling station within 36 hours after landing on the small island. Then after 4 months of repeated efforts to return, Shackleton successfully sailed back to Elephant Island and rescued his remaining 22 crew members. When he landed back on the island 105 days after leaving, he was amazed to find that all of his men remained alive. As Shackleton had promised, he and his men realized their dream; all of them returned to their homes in England. These were ordinary men with the same dreams and fears we ahe, but, by sharing the deep and passionate purpose of their leader, they persevered in the pursuit of an incredible achievement. Shackleton and his crew formulated common goals, and made sue that every choice they made and every action they undertook specifically moved them closer to those goals. The drew upon their strengths to survive throughout enormous hardship. Shackleton's core belief in a single, powerful dream guided them.