I love true stories about explorers and survival in harsh environments. One such story is that of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his expedition, which departed for Antarctica in August 1914. After their ship The Endurance was crushed by ice, Shackleton and his crew abandoned it and survived by camping on the ice. They then used three salvaged lifeboats to find land, the barren and frigid Elephant Island. Because Shackleton cared about the lives of each of the other 27 men with him, he was determined to find a way for all of them to be rescued. He and five others sailed a lifeboat 800 miles to South Georgia Island, the nearest human settlement. Once on this island, three of their party traveled 36 hours over mountains and glaciers to reach the whaling station. From there a Chilean boat was used to rescue the men stranded at Elephant Island. Not one man was lost.
I first learned about these events from a video documentary, and I felt as though there was part of the story left untold. How could these men march so long over a trackless wasteland to reach help? How could all 28 men on this expedition survive when their resources were so limited? I sensed there was a faith angle overlooked by the video.
By reading Caroline Alexander’s book The Endurance I found what I was looking for. Shackleton wrote about this trek: “it seemed to me often that we were four, not three. I said nothing to my companions on the point, but afterward Worsley said to me, ‘Boss, I had a curious feeling on the march that there was another person with us.’ Crean confessed the same idea.”At times when our human resources have reached their limit, God can show up in a dramatic way. His providence can lift us up in the most dire of circumstances.