As a business student in college, leadership was a big topic of discussion. Most people want to be leaders, but not everyone has the skill and talent to do so. I was sitting in my dad’s office one day looking at his bookshelf. I absentmindedly picked a ‘business’ book from the shelf and started reading. My dad picked up another book and told me I should read this one instead. He handed my Shackleton’s Way, the story of Ernest Shackleton and how his leadership brought home every single crew member (28 including himself) stranded in the Antarctic. Talk about a huge accomplishment. When Audible gave this book away for their 20th anniversary event, I had to dig into it.
Ernest Shackleton sent sail with a crew of 27 men in 1914. Their goal was to explorer Antarctica. After years of preparation, they were finally sailing. Once they reached the frigid climate, ice blocked the ship Endurance, leaving the men stranded on the boat in the middle of the icy sea. They made do on the ship, converting below decks into a reasonable living space, killing penguins and seals for food, and being fairly content given the situation. But the ice closed in on their ship, and it eventually sank. Thankfully, Shackleton saw the risk and the crew had made camp on the ice.
From there, the crew living on ice flows. They made do with what they had. Shackleton assigned everyone to certain tents. He had a good reading of people and knew how to separate potential trouble makers from those of good cheer.
After months on the ice flows, the crew had to start sailing for land. They prepped and repaired the three smaller boats from the Endurance and escaped the ice flows just as they started to melt and shrink. The crews finally arrive at Elephant Island and make camp on the shore. But they could only survive here for so long.
Shackleton makes the tough decision to take a small crew out on the boats in search of civilization. From here, the struggles continue to mount. The entire crew of 28 people is eventually split into 3 groups while in search of rescue. But with Shackleton’s ability and leadership, every single one of the men made it home.
I knew about Shackleton’s exploration and the general hardship that came upon them. But Endurance goes in to so much detail about their everyday lives and what they had to do to survive. They last over 400 days without being on land. Can you imagine spending a year on ice? The entire account is built from testimonies and diary entries from the men. We get insights into what they really felt and how each of them dealt with the being stranded. After reading this book, I have a new found respect for what this crew went through and the difficult decisions Shackleton had to make. But all that brought his crew home.