“Wanted, men for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success.”
Above was the job advertisment which Ernest Shackleton used to recruit crew for his famous Antarctica Expidition of 1914. Shackleton, was one of the great explorers in the age of polar exloration who first started his expedition to Antarctica in 1902 under the command of a Naval officer Robert Falcon Scott but due to lack of food supplies and the temperature, failed terribly. Having learned a lot under Scott, specially things which are not to be done and having an urge to do more, Shackleton decided for his own expidition.
In 1907, he leads his own expidition but fails to reach South Pole. In 1914, exactly at the outbreak of World War I, Shackleton asked Winston Churchill if he can go for his next expidition, on which Churcill said, “Proceed” which then became his famous expidition to Antarctica. He started his expidition on August 1914 and in January 1915 while solving jigsaw puzzle of ice and coming very close to Antarctica, his ship Endurance was stuck and locked in ice. As days turn weeks and weeks turn months, in November 1915 the ship which was crushed and battered into pieces by ice finally sank, leaving them with three lifeboats and making it clear that the expidition was over too.
In this high stakes situation and unfathomable period comes Shackleton’s character in play which makes this expidition famous than any other expidition. They say leaders are not born but are made and yes a leader was made whom the crew nicknamed ‘Boss’ who owed them their safe return. Though from his diaries it was clear that Shackleton had not all the answers but he was a man of character, with a strong will to rescue his 27 crew and himself from ice.
Shackleton and his crew drifted in ice for almost two years when finally they spotted Elephant Island and with the help of three lifeboats tied together, encountering high seas they finally made it to Elephant Island. Though back on dry land, the Island was too remote to get further rescue, Shackleton with only five crew sailed out again for whaling station in South Gerogia Island, 800 miles away from Elephant Island. This time too the journey was impossible to sail through and at a point close to the end of the journey they encountered a storm which made a ship in nearby waters with 500 people to sink. With everything stacked against their success they somehow managed to make it to South Georgia Island but on the other side of the Island from the whaling station.
As the boat was damaged they walked across the uncharted territory to reach the whaling station. Now to rescue 22 of the remaining crew from Elephant Island, Shackleton needed a boat capable of this voyage. Not once, not twice but thrice his attempts were failed by icebergs threating to grab and lock the boats when finally on 31st August, 1916, with a tugboat, Shackleton made it to see all 22 crew waiting for their rescue.
Finally they all made it… They all made it home…..
Though Shackleton was not able to make South Pole but I believe his expidition was a success. In his famous TED Talk, “The Difference between Winnning and Succedding” coach John Wooden coined his definition of success as, “Peace of mind attained only through self satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you’re capable.”He further added, “If you make the effort to do the best of which you’re capable, trying to improve the situation that exists for you, I think that’s success, and I don’t think others can judge that; it’s like character and reputation. Your reputation is what you’re preceived to be; your character is what you really are.” What else but Shackleton’s 1914 Antartica expidition can define this definition at best.
There is a difference between reputation and character. Likewise there is a difference between Winning and Success too. We don’t necessarily have to win all the time to be successful. Though, some of the former crew had not received all their wages from Endurance expedition, Success is to sign on again with their former ‘Boss’ when summoned again for a new expidition in 1921 and sign on again they did.
Let me end by sharing a great poem by George Joseph Moriarty
“The Road Ahead or The Road Behind”
Sometimes I think the Fates must
Grin as we denounce and insist
The only reason we can’t win
Is the Fates themselves that miss
Yet there lives on an ancient claim
We win or lose within ourselves
The shining trophies on our shelves
Can never win tomorrow’s game
You and I know deeper down
There’s always a chance to win the crown
But when we fail to give our best
We simply haven’t met the test
Of giving all, and saving none
Until the game is really won
Of showing what is meant by grit
Of fighting on when others quit
Of playing through, not letting up
It’s bearing down that wins the cup
Of taking it and taking more
Until we gain the winning score
Of dreaming there’s a goal ahead
Of hoping when our dreams are dead
Of praying when our hopes have fled
Yet losing, not afraid to fall
If bravely, we have given all
For who can ask more of a man
Than giving all within his span
Giving all, it seems to me
Is not so far from victory
And so the Fates are seldom wrong
No matter how they twist and wind
It is you and I who make our fates
We open up or close the gates
On the road ahead or the road behind.