This is perhaps my favorite Antarctic picture. It was taken by Frank Hurley during Shackleton’s Endurance expedition 1914-1916. Whenever I am down, I look at this photo. It is the last time this beautiful ship, the Endurance, was in full sail. It was completely encased in ice and had been this way for many months. Shackleton was low on fuel and supplies. To put this ship at full throttle with those sails open was Shackleton’s Hail-Mary to get her free. She never left the ice again and not too long after this photo was taken, the Endurance was crushed and swallowed by ice.
There’s so much that this image means to me. First off, the name of the ship – Endurance. She endured more than any other ship and put in a valiant effort to resist the ice. Shackleton himself showed immense endurance himself. When this photo was taken, his last hope to free his home that served his men and him so well, he still had hope. He had hope to get her free and get either to his destination on the continent of Antarctica or to one of the whaling stations. After this photo was taken, when he realized that the Endurance would not come free, was probably Shackleton’s darkest moment.
Instead of giving in and surrendering to the ice, at his darkest moment, Shackleton decided to endure. He had to make some of the most difficult decisions anyone ever had to make. He went on to lead 28 men to safety. They camped for many months on the sea ice, they sailed without modern navigation to the nearest land mass. Once there Shackleton knew they couldn’t stay there forever and took off with 6 men to make an epic journey to South Georgia where there were several whaling stations. When he made landfall he realized he was on the wrong end of the island and hiked across never-navigated lands (which were not navigated again til a couple years ago) with no equipment. They put nails into the soles of their shoes to make crampons. They reached their destination and were able to rescue all of 28 men.
So whenever life to me feels impossible, and it seems like I cannot go on, I look at this photograph. It shows both hope and despair. It shows people who wouldn’t give up, even in the face of the impossible