The men had built up a backlog of shared experiences that offset the vast differences between them.
Nevertheless, there was a remarkable absence of discouragement. All the men were in a state of dazed fatigue, and nobody paused to reflect on the terrible consequences of losing their ship. Nor were they upset by the fact they were now camped on a piece of ice perhaps 6 feet thick. It was a haven compared with the nightmare of labor and uncertainty of the last few days on Endurance. It was quite enough to be alive – and they were merely doing what they had to do to stay that way.
There was even a trace of mild exhilaration in their attitude. At least, they had a clear-cut task ahead of them. The nine months of indecision, of speculation about what might happen, of aimless drifting with the pack were over. Now they simply had to get themselves out, however appalling difficult that might be.
From studying the outcome of past expeditions, he believed that those that burdened themselves with equipment to meet every contingency had fared much worse than those that had sacrificed total preparedness for speed.
The rapidity with which one can completely change one’s ideas … and accommodate ourselves to a state of barbarism is wonderful.
The adaptability of the human creature is such that they actually had to remind themselves on occasion of their desperate circumstances.
Though he was virtually fearless in the physical sense, he suffered an almost pathological dread of losing control of the situation. In part, this attitude grew out of a consuming sense of responsibility. He felt he had gotten them into their situation, and it was his responsibility to get them out. As a consequence, he was intensely watchful for potential troublemakers who might nibble away at the unity of the group. Shackleton felt that if dissension arose, the party as a whole might not put forth that added ounce of energy which could mean, at a time of crisis, the difference between survival and defeat. Thus he was prepared to go to almost any length to keep the party close-knit and under his control.
It was the basic human need to love something, the desire to express tenderness in this barren place.
For the first time in many days, I have finished a meal without wanting to start all over again.
In time, it became a kind of gruesome game – seeing who could hold out the longest before asking again what time it was. When finally somebody succumbed to the temptation, every head rose to await Worsley’s answer.
One cannot help but be a bit anxious about Sir Ernest. One wonders how he fared, where he is now and how it is that he has not yet been able to relieve us. But the subject is practically taboo; everyone keeps their own counsel and things different, and no one knows just what anyone else thinks about it, and it is quite obvious that no one really dare say what they really do think.
Their plight was known only to the six men in this ridiculously little boat, whose responsibility now was to prove that all the laws of chance were wrong – and return with help. It was staggering trust.
Unlike the land, where courage and the simple will to endure can often see a man through, the struggle against the sea is an act of physical combat, and there is no escape. It is a battle against a tireless enemy in which man never actually wins; the most that he can hope for is to not be defeated.
But sufficiently provoked, there is hardly a creature on God’s earth that ultimately won’t turn and attempt to fight, regardless of the odds. In an unspoken sense, that was much the way they felt now. They were possessed by an angry determination to see the journey through – no matter what. They felt that they had earned it. For thirteen days they had absorbed everything that the Drake Passage could throw at them – and now, by God, they deserved to make it.
They felt that special kind of pride of a person who in a foolish moment accepts an impossible dare – then pulls it off to perfection.
“Who the hell are you?”
“My name is Shackleton.”
Again there was silence. Some said that Sorlle turned away and wept.