Project 4 – Safeer Aziz
Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.
Sir Ernest Shackleton posted this ad, for an Antarctic exploration. Twenty-even men responded positively to this blunt statement of facts.
They started off in December 1914, in a wooden ship, named Endurance, after the saying,
“By endurance, we conquer”.
Very soon, in the unusually harsh ice conditions the ship became trapped in an ice pack. For ten months, they drifted along locked in the ice, until the ship was destroyed. Shackleton and his men were stranded on ice for the next six months. Seizing opportunities that came their way, they sailed on lifeboats to the uninhabited Elephant Island. However, since it was far from shipping lanes there was no hope for rescue.
Recognising the severity of the physical and mental strains on his men, Shackleton and five others travelled 800-miles in a lifeboat through the world’s worst seas to South Georgia. Starved, frost-bitten and wearing rags, they then trekked another 26 miles of impassable mountains and glaciers, to reach civilisation. By then they had accomplished the impossible to get help for the stranded men.
In August 1916, more than 20 months after the start of the journey, Shackleton returned to rescue his remaining men. Twenty-seven ordinary-turned-extraordinary men led by The Boss, as Shackleton was called, survived nearly two years of unimaginable hardship at the end of the Earth. They became history not because of their success, but for the determination, endurance and courage they showed in the most adverse and harsh conditions.
Shackleton earned the respect of these men by being a leader who put their mental and physical well being above all else.
He sustained morale and created a unified team by keeping everyone busy and equal. Nobody received any preferential treatment. Scientists scrubbed floors alongside seamen and professors ate beside fishermen. Shackleton and some of the officers got only woollen sleeping bags, when lots were cast for the 18 available ones. The warm fur bags all went to the men under them. The men played football on the ice together, participated in nightly sing-alongs, and organised highly competitive dog-sled races, and even collectively shaved their heads.
Shackleton used to wake up early in the morning, made hot milk and hand-delivered it to every tent in the camp. During the brutal lifeboat journeys, Shackleton stood at the tiller, hour after hour. He monitored the health of his companions constantly. Whenever he noticed that a man was extra cold and shivering, he immediately ordered another hot drink served to all. He was careful not to single out the man suffering the most, not to frighten him about his condition.
His mantra of unity and show of humanity was infectious. When a First Officer spilled his precious milk, one by one, the seven men who shared his tent silently poured some of their equally precious ration into his mug refilling it.
Today, Shackleton is revered by millions, as a leader who put his crew’s welfare before personal glory. Shackleton led by example and maintained his men’s morale while they were stranded on ice for months. When there seemed no hope of rescue, he eventually brought all of them home safe and sound. All of this is now seen as a unique achievement in the history of exploration.
Friends, lets learn from the perseverance, courage and leadership qualities of Ernest Shackleton and remember “Real leaders are ordinary people with extraordinary determination”.
* Four Slide PP presentation was used