I came across these photos from the great Frank Hurley when he was part of the fabled Shackleton Expedition (Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914-1917) that tried to cross Antarctica but was trapped en route in a huge moving ice floe that ultimately crushed and sank their ship, the Endurance. They drifted for months and months on ice floes and were in lifeboats in the frigid sea for several days until finally making landfall, nearly 500 days since their voyage began. This photo shows the Endurance as it is held in the clutches of the Antarctic ice at night. It’s ghostly image really caught my eye and made me wonder how the members of the expedition might have felt, trapped in a most inhospitable place so far from anyone without any form of communication as you watch your only means of escape slowly be crushed.
What makes man push to those extremes?
Part of me admires them mightily and makes me wonder if I have ever possessed anything near that drive. It certainly doesn’t feel like it as I live my relatively safe and comfortable life. In fact, most of us spend our lives striving to avoid ever being put in harm’s way. But what drives these others?
I certainly don’t know. As I said, their exploits fascinate me. Their actions, which on the surface seem foolhardy for even being considered, take on heroic perspective over time and I suppose that explains my admiration. I think we all like an epic, almost mythic, journey. But I still find myself wishing that I could really get a sense of what they truly felt as they stood in cold silence of the Antarctic night and looked at the frozen bones of their ship.
Perhaps that is just part of the soul of a man. Here’s a great version of the old Blind Willie Johnson song, Soul of a Man, from David Lindley and Harry Manx. Great playing on this cut.