This past weekend I watched a riveting documentary on the incredible journey the Anglo-Irish South Pole explorer Ernest Shackleton made in 1914 -17 in his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.
This program reminded me of another Shackleton story I read many years ago about the most successful ad in history that appeared in the Times of London newspaper in 1908. The story was about how we respond when we are challenged by greatness, no matter how stressful the event may be.
“Men wanted for hazardous journey, low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in the event of success.”
It was signed, “E.Shackleton”
Ernest Shackleton was looking for a hardy crew he could take on his quest to discover the South Pole.
The next morning, over 5,000 men were lined up waiting outside the Times office.
After the race to the South Pole ended in December 1911 with the conquest by Roald Amundsen, Shackleton decided to cross Antarctica from sea to sea, via the pole. He created the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of1914–17. Disaster struck this expedition when the temperature overnight went from +20 degrees to -20 degrees and his ship, Endurance, became trapped in pack ice and was slowly crushed.
The crew escaped and camped on the sea ice until it disintegrated. Months later his team launched the lifeboats to reach the tiny uninhabited Elephant Island. Two of the three lifeboats had become unseaworthy. He left most of his men there. They lived for months inside the upturned rowing life boats as the weather was severe.
With three men Shackleton ultimately made it to the inhabited island of South Georgia through a stormy ocean voyage of 720 nautical miles in a rowing boat after many weeks.
Several months later after three failed attempts, Shackleton made it back to Elephant Island on a Chilean icebreaker to rescue his stranded men. This was
Shackleton’s most famous exploit.
Shackleton became a role model for leadership as one who, in extreme circumstances, kept his team together. He taught his men that overstress can be a very useful tool when used in a positive way to create a successful team outcome.
Every man survived the expedition. An incredible outcome.