“Ernest Shackleton

…. a name to remember.”

By D.S. Hansen

What???   As I thought about it, I realized he always achieved almost every goal he set.  Of those who know this name, I’ll bet I have a few people thinking?   A goal, like anything, is relative, and someone who is a good leader can prioritize and “adjust” them as the situation demands.  This is part of a skill called, “Situational Awareness.”

Climbing on heavily glaciated, high altitude mountains often requires ferrying loads up the mountain because expeditions can exceed months. Loaded to the gills on the Kahiltna Glacier, Mt. McKinley (20,320 ft) AK. The wand (center right) with the red marker tape on the top is used to mark hidden and otherwise, crevasses. They are also used during “White-out” conditions. We had the good fortune to welcome some Japanese Climbers into our tents. They had been traveling in White-out conditions and could not make the high camp. They dug a snow cave the first night, and found us in our tents on the next. We shared our tents, hot drinks, … with them for the next three days, while the storm dumped snow and rattled our tents. Finally we had some good days we were able to continue climbing.
Photo by: D.S.Hansen

For example, let us look at his goal to have his team be the first to reach the South Pole.  I would like to suggest, as a good leader who truly understood goals and achieving them, Shackleton realized that the priorities had changed.   In 1908, his team attempted to be the first team to make it to the South Pole.  As much as he liked the idea, the fame, glory, etc. that would come from being the first to ever reach the south pole,  it would not mean much if he and his team died, or came back severely injured.  Even his family motto, which he named his ship after, suggests he was very driven; “By Endurance We Conquer.”  

 In 1908 Shackleton had passed the closest point anyone had reached, in their attempts to get there.  In this case, Robert Scott’s team had made it in 1902.  Shackleton continued for almost a month and a half longer towards the South Pole.  Shackleton came to within 97 miles of the South Pole, but due to conditions, or the situation, he turned his team around and headed home.  Traveling 97-miles, in good conditions, could be made in one day, surely in a few days.  Why would he turn them around?  No one had ever made the South Pole before.  Others had tried quite a few times.  Again, Shackleton’s team made it back alive, although pushed very close to the end of their strength and resources.

 In 1911, Roald Amundsen’s team was the first to reach the South Pole.   Robert Scott’s team, was in a sort-of race with Amundsen’s Team to reach the pole. They made it, about 30 days after Amundsen did had reached it.  Unfortunately, they all perished on their way back from reaching the South Pole.  

In another situation, Rob Hall’s well-known climber/guide had summitted Mt. Everest several times, and chose to push on and get a client to the summit, despite the fact; they had past their proposed turnaround time.  Scott Fisher, another well-known climber/guide, whom we spoke with while preparing for our expedition, remains on the mountain.  That day eight people died “trying to pin the Everest feather in their cap.” They put standing on a summit ahead of life itself, of course they did not think it could or would happen…

When I snapped this picture my googles were iced so badly I could not use them. I had to lift them, see where to go, then cover my eyes again and blindly climb on. Without them, my eyelashes froze shut! Crazy… Fortunately the wind blew the snow off the ice and revealed where the crevasses were.
Just in case you are considering changing a hobby or interest into a profession, this is what I learned. There are easier professions, but life took me down this path. Work is work, and generally I don’t mind it. Various jobs have their pluses and minuses, none are perfect. You would think it would be like a young climber told me, “You have the best job in the world.
If you consider turning your hobby into a profession, you may want to consider the fact that it changes it. You don’t spend months in advance planning for the up coming adventure, it become more labored.
Usually about a week in advance I would pack my packs, and do the other things in a work like manner. Then I would arrange to meet everyone one else, and move to the next step of the expedition. Like everything in life, there are pluses and minuses. I enjoy (usually) interacting with the team. People are the spice of life. Like with food, spices change the bland and give is some snap.

Shackleton was exceptionally skilled in arctic life, leadership, etc.  Even when his Transcontinental Expedition became stuck in an early freeze of the Antarctic ice, he, along with his team, worked together for over two years to continue to survive, fight off the depression, fear, and desperation of what surely must have seemed a hopeless situation.  They had a family saying something like, “With Endurance we Succeed.” Since world war I had began, there would not be anyone was coming to rescue them, they had to put together their own rescue.   No, he did not cross the Antarctic, nor was he the first to reach the South Pole, but does that mean he and his team were losers?   

I think not, quite the contrary, they are winners of the highest degree.   They understood and maintained important priorities of life.   They all returned alive, to explore another day.  It seems our egos, and false pictures lead to wars, poverty, bad feelings, and much more.  Maybe it is time we, as “human beings” re-evaluate this concept?  Comments like, “Winning is not everything, it is the only thing!” only lead to …?

 I would like to suggest Ernest Shackleton, and his team always reached their objectives or goals?

 Here is some food for thought:  Why be winners?  I think in general our overall game of competition should be looked at and reconsidered.  I believe: 

“The real winners, or the champions of tomorrow, are champions of cooperation, rather than of simple competition.”  

Special Note: We can still have competition, but it would be on a much higher, more inspiring level, and even enjoyable level . . . (once we this concept works.)