Lessons from Earnest Shackleton and The Endurance

Lessons from Earnest Shackleton and The Endurance

Lessons from Earnest Shackleton and The Endurance

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Question… Where are you trapped? Where do you feel surrounded? Where do you feel pressure? Where have you decided to just go with the flow?

You had a dream, made a plan, and stepped out in faith on your big adventure. But you got stuck. Maybe it’s in your marriage. You called and asked your mom if you could sleep at her place, and she told you no. She told you to leave and cleave. You have nowhere to turn. It might be finances, your family, business, emotions, your relationship with God. All you see is a dead end.

Thumbing through my Twitter feed, one tweet caught my eye. A pastor posted the books that impacted him most. One of the titles stood out, a book by Alfred Lansing called Endurance, written some 60 years ago.

Earnest Shackleton was a rugged Irishman with a square jaw and the physique of a boxer. In 1914 Shackleton, and 27 other brave souls, set out to be the first to cross Antarctica by foot, officially known as the Imperial Trans-Atlantic Expedition.

But on January 24, 1915, their ship, appropriately called The Endurance, got caught in the ice. A powerful wind blew massive ice floes against the land, trapping the ship in a vice. Then on October 24, the pressure became so great the ship began to snap under the pressure. Shackleton said it sounded like the cries of a living creature. They had no choice but to abandon the ship.

Their new home was a massive chunk of ice about a mile long, and 10 feet thick. While they were optimistic at first, the waiting grew tiresome. Everything was always wet and cold. As they attempted to sleep their body heat turned the snow into pools of water. Their tents were so thin, the bitter wind blew right through. Many times they woke up in frozen sleeping bags.

The cold and howling wind made their eyes water. But as the tears ran down they froze on the ends of their noses. When the frozen chunks were removed it always peeled off a layer of skin producing an infected sore.

In a short time their food supply began to dwindle. They even had to put down their dogs because they were consuming too much. There they sat and waited for change, day after miserable day. When would the wind change? When would things warm up? When would the dreaded ice crack?

As they came into April of 1916, after camping out for over 5 months, they could feel the floe beginning to move with the swell of the sea. Then a crack appeared. All tents and gear were thrown to one side. Days passed and another crack, forcing another move. Their campsite was shrinking. After another crack they found themselves standing on a floe of ice just 50 yards wide.

What would they do now? Another crack and they would fall into the icy waters. As they looked out through the fog, for the first time they could see water between the cracks. They could no longer wait for things to get better. Shackleton gave the order, “To the boats.” They dropped their 20-foot rescue boats into the Weddell Sea and began to paddle like mad. That’s when something incredible happened. The more they paddled the more the sea opened. Even though they were surrounded by killer whales and waves, they were free!

That decision to get in the boats saved their lives. After a stormy trip that lasted several days and nights, the entire crew landed safely on Elephant Island – their first time on land in 497 days.

Let’s remember, we may feel trapped like our boat is sinking. But none of us is trapped by a sea of ice. There’s a next step to every challenge. The key is to give up waiting for change, for the wind to blow in the right direction, and for things to warm up. It’s time to get in the boat, to get off the floe that has become familiar and comfortable. You were not made to suffer alone in the cold. So, take that step, that crazy step that seems dangerous. That step takes you out of your comfort zone and into the wind-tossed sea. The feeling of adventure will awaken you. You’ll come alive, and as you paddle like mad you’ll find the ice breaking and your destination drawing closer.

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