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Leading through a catastrophe...

“To-night the temperature has dropped to –16 (degrees) Fahr., and most of the men are cold and uncomfortable. After the tents had been pitched I mustered all hands and explained the position to them briefly and, I hope, clearly. I have told them the distance to the barrier and the distance to Paulet Island, and have stated that I propose to try to march with equipment across the ice in the direction of Paulet Island. I thanked the men for the steadiness and good moral they have show in these trying circumstances, and told them I had no doubt that provided they continued to work their utmost and to trust me, we will all reach safety in the end. Then we had supper….” For myself, I could not sleep. The destruction and abandonment of the ship was no sudden shock. The disaster had been looming ahead for many months, and I had studied my plans for all contingencies a hundred times.  But the thoughts that came to me as I walked up and down in the darkness were not particularly cheerful. The task now was to secure the safety of the party, and to that I must bend my energies and mental power and apply every bit of knowledge that experience of the Antarctic had given me. The task was likely to be long and strenuous, and an ordered mind and a clear programme were essential if we were to come through without loss of life. A man must shape himself to a new mark directly the old one goes to ground."


NOTE: In this vignette, we see a vivid image of Shackleton's magnificent leadership qualities. He calls the whole team together so everyone will hear the same message directly from him. He acknowledges the difficulties but states that he is confident in a positive outcome. He models the attitude that he wants his team to assume. Typically, he takes the first watch.


As he notes in this passage, he had meticulously planned for every contingency.



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