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Sir Earnest Shackleton’s epic tale of survival and courage began with dreams of being the first expedition to cross the Antarctic continent. En route, the Endurance became beset in the ice deep within the Weddell Sea and drifted with the pack for ten months before finally being crushed and sunk in November 1915. Shackleton’s party sledged lifeboats over the ice toward Paulet Island, eventually taking to the sea, and landing on Elephant Island. After setting up a small camp at nearby Cape Wild, Shackleton and five other men first braved the freezing, stormy ocean in their 22-foot lifeboat, the James Caird, on an 800-mile journey to South Georgia Island. Then, he and two of the men traversed the 6,000-foot mountain range to reach help at Stromness, a whaling station on the opposite side of the island.

One night nearing the end of this desperate journey across the frozen wasteland Shackleton woke to find a friend who he would have entrusted his life to at a moments notice opening the food box of their companion.

They were down to their last pieces of food and the other man was extremely weak from the terrible journey. That night Shackleton couldn’t sleep. It ran over and over in his mind, a picture of the man who he never dreamed could steal another man’s last food reaching into his box.

When they awoke the next morning Shackleton is both relieved and encouraged when he learns that his friend has not stolen the other man’s food, but instead had opened his box in order to place his own ration inside.

Perhaps this quote from Sir Raymond Priestley, a member of Shackleton’s earlier expedition on the Nimrod, puts it best:

"For scientific leadership, give me Scott, for swift and efficient travel give me Amundsen. But when you are in a hopeless situation, when you are seeing no way out, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton."

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