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March 2024 Character Core

Merriam Webster states that endurance is “the ability to withstand hardship or adversity.” One person that demonstrated this to the fullest was Sir Ernest Shackleton.  He set sail (incidentally, in a ship called Endurance)in December of 1914 with a crew of 27 men and a stowaway. His goal? Establishing a base on Antarctica’s Weddell Sea Coast. For several weeks, the ship plodded through the pack ice. On January 18, the ship came to a standstill. It was trapped in the ice. History.com states, “They had been within a day’s sailing of their landing place; now the drift of the ice was slowly pushing them farther away with each passing day. There was nothing else to do but to establish a routine and wait out the winter. Shackleton wrote Alexander Macklin, one of the ship’s surgeons, ‘did not rage at all, or show outwardly the slightest sign of disappointment; he told us simply and calmly that we must winter in the Pack; explained its dangers and possibilities; never lost his optimism and prepared for winter.’”

For over a year, they floated with the ice, until finally, in April of 1916, they could see the Clarence and Elephant Islands. Soon after that, the ice broke up. Shackleton gave orders to launch three smaller boats (the Endurance had sunk some time before) and head for the Islands. Their troubles were far from over, however. For six days, they battled the open ocean. History.com says, “The men were exhausted. Worsley[the captain] had by that stage not slept for 80 hours. And while some were crippled by seasickness, others were wracked with dysentery. Frank Wild, Shackleton’s second-in-command, wrote that ‘at least half the party were insane.’ Yet they rowed resolutely toward their goal, and on April 15, they clambered ashore on Elephant Island.”

They finally were on dry land, but they still needed rescue. Shackleton and five other men set out to get help from South Georgia, which was over 800 miles away. They eventually made it to South Georgia, but storms had pushed them to the wrong side of the island. Shackleton and two other men hiked over glaciers and mountains for 36 hours before reaching the whaling station.

It took three tries to rescue the remaining men at Elephant Island. Finally, on August 30, 1916, twenty months after starting their expedition, the men were saved. Incredibly, all the men survived.

Though we likely will not be shipwrecked on ice, we can all learn from the endurance that these men showed. We can face hardships head on, and we will endure.

https://www.history.com/news/shackleton-endurance-survival

https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/shackleton_ernest.shtml

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