As faith would have it, Shackleton never got to set foot on the Antarctic continent. Much through poor decision making and a run of bad luck, his expedition became a race against time and nature, in order to survive. Shackleton and his men was forced to endure the wrath of the Antarctic winter, while their ship drifted helplessly in the pack-ice of the Weddell Sea. Later, the ship would be crushed by the enormous force of the ice, forcing the crew to live on floes. As the arctic summer drew closer, the crew set out from the pack-ice in small, open boats, heading for the small islands located in the South Atlantic ocean. The whole ordeal would last 20 months, before their ultimate rescue.
Despite his poor preparation and now all to apparent mistakes, Shackleton was a great explorer. Or maybe calling him a great explorer is a misnomer, a great leader would be more appropriate. Was it not for his great leadership skills and his ability to select and create a crew that worked as a well-oiled machinery, the entire exploration party would have perished in the unforgiving arctic.
Another (in)famous British explorer, Robert Scott, lacked Shackleton's leadership skills and did not possess the humble, realistic nature required of a polar explorer. As a result, Scott and his party of 5, all died on the ice. In the words of Shackleton himself; "...But what the ice gets, the ice keeps". I am continued to be amazed at what the human body and psyche can endure, in order to survive. Just when you think you have no more energy, no more mental stamina to continue - you still have not dipped into the pool of "survival energy". We, as humans, have vast and mostly unexplored capabilities, both physically and mentally. The ability to tap into just a small part of this reservoir could bring great results. The ability to ignore and suppress the feeling of pain and the desire to stop is what often separates the winner from the loser.
If find reading about the hardship and the enormous stress that these explorers endured, is very fascinating. I would highly recommend reading "The Endurance - Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition" by Caroline Alexander. The book has much good information and some fantastically unique pictures. To see some of these beautiful pictures, please visit http://www.coolantarctica.com. What better way to relax after a hard day of training (or working), than to relax with a good, interesting book. If you are anything like me, you will not be able to put the book down.