Finish Strong...The Choice is Yours

Excerpt from Finish Strong by Dan Green

On August 1, 1914 Sir Ernest Shackleton set sail with a crew of 28 on an exhibition to the Antarctic. The mission of their expedition was to cross the Antarctic on foot - something never done before. Shackleton was a successful and highly respected explorer known for his faith, determination, creativity and conviction. He was knighted for his successful expedition to Antarctica in 1907-09.

In order to recruit his crew of 28 he took applications from 5,000 men. Many believe that he placed the following ad in a London newspaper to attract the applicants. While there is no evidence that this ad actually ran, it does quite appropriately frame the environment that Shackleton was trying to recruit for.

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.

This expedition was going to be different than any other one that Shackleton had led. Five months into the expedition their ship, the Endurance, became stuck in the heavy ice flows near Antarctica. It was not uncommon for ships to get stuck periodically in the ice flows and Shackleton believed that the ice would eventually recede and free the ship. His focus was on the expedition and he held fast on that course. However, over the next three weeks the ship became solidly frozen in the ice. Attempts to free the ship were futile. At the end of February, 1915, the crew prepared the ship to become their camp for the remainder of winter. At this point, Shackleton abandoned his primary goal for the expedition and turned his focus towards returning to England. His expedition had become a rescue mission.

Earnest Shackleton

By October, eight months after being stuck, the pressure created by the ice finally took its toll on the Endurance. The ship began to come apart and sink; making it uninhabitable. The order to abandon ship was given and the entire crew began to salvage as many supplies as they could. They took the sled dogs, food, gear and three lifeboats and moved their camp to the ice flow next to their sinking ship. The temperatures were brutal; reaching -15°F on average. For the next five months the expedition camped on the ice flow surviving on what little food they had left. In April the ice flow they were camped on began to break apart. Shackleton ordered the crew to take only essential supplies and board the life boats. They fled the disintegrating ice flow and traveled seven days by sea to Elephant Island. Elephant Island was a barren place to be stranded; made up mostly of rock covered snow with temperatures reaching -20°. For the next nine months, under Shackleton's leadership, the broken expedition remained loyal, optimistic, focused and faithful to their leader's belief that they would survive. Ultimately, Shackleton knew that their survival depended upon his ability to reach a whaling outpost that was more than 800 miles across the most treacherous ocean seas in the world. Determined to save his crew, Shackleton set-out in one of the lifeboats with five crewmembers to make the journey. The odds of making it were 1 in 100. Nautical scholars consider this journey by lifeboat to be one of the greatest nautical accomplishments in maritime history. Shackleton successfully made it to the outpost and returned to Elephant Island with a rescue party four months later.

On August 30, 1916 after 22 months of being stranded on a barren rock in sub zero temperatures, the crew of the Endurance was rescued. All twenty eight crew members survived the ordeal and most were quick to credit the strong faith of their leader as the catalyst in their survival.

What an extraordinary story. But wait, there's more. When Shackelton landed on the island of the whaling outpost, they were on the opposite side of the outpost. He and his two companions had to hike over the mountains to reach the outpost. In thirty five hours and sub zero temperatures and without any hiking gear, they made their way over the mountains to reach the outpost.

A few years ago, a group of climbers retraced the path that Shackleton took over the mountain. With modern climbing equipment and experienced climbers, it took 48 hours to retrace the steps of Shackelton - almost thirteen more hours than the trio did ninety years earlier. Now that's what I call finishing strong...

We are half way through 2009. Will you make the choice to finish the year strong?

Make it a Great Day by Making the Right Choice!

Coach Dan