Happy and Glorious? or One Foot in the Grave?

Beck’s Sea Change
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Namespaces Page Discussion. In February, , the group set up a base camp on the frozen rim of Antarctica. The continent has two seasons: summer, which lasts from November to February, and winter. For much of the summer, because of the tilt of the Earth, sunlight lingers through the night. In winter, the darkness is enveloping and the conditions are even more anathema to human life; the temperature one July was recorded at minus a hundred and twenty-eight degrees. As the three men walked, they were blinded by the polar glare, and their flesh was eaten away by hunger, frostbite, and scurvy.

On December 31, , more than four hundred and eighty miles from the Pole, Scott gave the order to retreat. Four years later, Shackleton, assuming his first command, mounted the Nimrod expedition. This time, he and three companions went closer to the South Pole than anyone had previously gone: ninety-seven nautical miles away. A nautical mile, which is used in polar navigation, is fifteen per cent longer than a regular mile. Meanwhile, others made history. Peary, claimed to have been the first to reach the North Pole.

Whether he made it precisely to the Pole was subsequently disputed. Using teams of dogs instead of men to pull sleds, and often skiing, he beat a party led by Scott by thirty-three days. This is an awful place. With the poles conquered, Shackleton, who was approaching forty, turned his restless attention to what he considered the sole remaining prize—a trans-Antarctica crossing.

Polar expeditions, marked by deprivation and claustrophobia, serve as a laboratory for testing human dynamics. History is studded with accounts of members of parties bickering, backstabbing, slandering, and even, in some cases, mutinying and murdering. On December 5th, the party sailed toward the Weddell Sea, the southernmost arm of the Atlantic Ocean, and headed for Antarctica. Then, after waiting out the winter, he would trek with six men across the continent, completing the journey at the Ross Sea, a bay that flows into the Pacific Ocean, south of New Zealand.

While they floated through the darkness, Shackleton strove to keep his party united. His methods were considered unorthodox and even radical, at least in the eyes of those accustomed to the mores of the British Navy. He ignored the stifling hierarchies of class and rank, and required that each man receive the same rations and perform the same chores. And though Shackleton sometimes erupted in anger and left no doubt who was in charge—everyone called him the Boss—he participated in menial tasks and mingled easily with his men.

To ease the boredom and the dread, Shackleton tried to give the wayward ship a playful atmosphere. The men held regular poker games, and on Sundays a phonograph wafted music through the berths. Once a month, the men gathered, by lantern, in the dining room—the Ritz, as they called it—to watch Frank Hurley, a photographer who was documenting the expedition, present slides of places around the world that he had visited.

Water burst through the seams, flooding the berths. While the men tried to drain the bilge, the stern of the ship thrust toward the sky, as if in prayer. Everyone quickly lowered the three lifeboats and the provisions onto the surrounding ice, and abandoned the Endurance. They were marooned on an ice floe more than a thousand miles southwest of South Georgia Island, with no means of signalling for help. The waterways were too clogged with pack ice to launch the lifeboats, and so the men trekked on foot, dragging not only the sleds with their supplies but also the lifeboats, which they would need when the ice gave way.

Each vessel—the largest was twenty-two and a half feet long and six feet wide—weighed at least a ton, and Shackleton told the men that they must discard any nonessential items. The other men began to winnow their possessions.

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Still, the boats were nearly impossible to haul, and two days later Shackleton suspended the march. For months, they remained trapped in tents on the island of ice, which they dubbed Patience Camp.

Resolution and Independence

To prevent unrest, Shackleton kept three of the most troublesome characters in his own tent. Shackleton summoned the other members of the party, who professed their loyalty to him, and, after the carpenter was left to contemplate the prospect of his survival alone, the mutiny ended.

Shackleton realized that many of the men could not survive a longer boat journey—one had to have five frostbitten toes amputated—and announced that he would leave most of the group on Elephant Island while he pressed on with five men, including Worsley, in one of the lifeboats. Amid a hurricane and towering waves glittering with ice, they navigated across the open ocean. The men were soaked and freezing, and Shackleton doled out bits of food from their dwindling rations to keep them conscious.

On May 10th, nearly a year and a half after departing from South Georgia Island, they stumbled upon its shores again.

36 thoughts on “Beck’s Sea Change”

Then Worsley took out his G. One Foot in the Grave Worsley made sure to distribute the weight evenly on his sled, and he covered his cargo with a tarp. And you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the power of God, and coming with the clouds of heaven" Mark When they awoke the next day, the storm was even angrier.

They looked like the survivors of an apocalypse. When they staggered into the whaling station, thirty-six hours later, Shackleton immediately turned his attention to rescuing the twenty-two men stranded on Elephant Island.

But it took him until August 20th to obtain, from the Chilean government, a steamship big enough to break through the sea ice. As he approached the island with Worsley, he peered through binoculars to see if anyone was alive.

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Every one of them! But Shackleton had failed in his mission to become the first person to cross the continent, and in he died of a heart attack, at the age of forty-seven. By the end of the twentieth century, though, the era of polar exploration was increasingly viewed through the lens of strategy, and Scott was criticized for his imperious, mercurial nature and his inflexible methods. In an age preoccupied with human mastery—over companies, battlefields, bureaucracies, and, most of all, oneself—Shackleton was revered for the way he had recruited and managed his men, coolly guiding them to safety.

His conduct was studied by entrepreneurs, executives, astronauts, scientists, political strategists, and military commanders. W hen Henry Worsley began commanding men in battle, he tried to emulate Shackleton. Forgoing the privileges of Army rank, Worsley befriended the members of his unit and shared in their tasks. People would like to be him. Though Worsley generally displayed a modest temperament, he had moments of flamboyance.

He kept ferrets as pets and he drove a Harley-Davidson, a cigar often clamped between his teeth.

Meditations on the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary

When he was stationed abroad—his initial posting, in , was in Cyprus—he painted the novel landscapes, and when he first faced the threat of violence, in Northern Ireland, he took up sewing to calm his nerves. He could often be seen in his quarters with his needlepoint, at work on a rug or a cushion, before seizing his weapon and heading into the streets. When back in London, he volunteered at a prison to teach tatting—a form of lace-making—to inmates. In , Worsley, by then promoted to captain, was drawn to the Special Air Service, whose forces, clad in black, had a mystique of unsurpassed fitness and derring-do.

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In , two men on a prolonged trek fatally collapsed from heat exhaustion; a third was rushed to the hospital, and later died of organ failure. He trekked for days in full combat gear, consuming little more than water and carrying a heavy rucksack. He could see other applicants collapsing and quitting; their minds often gave out before their bodies. The marches culminated in what was known as the Endurance—a forty-mile hike, over a three-thousand-foot-high peak, that he had to finish in less than twenty-two hours while carrying a fifty-five-pound rucksack.

After completing this part of the course, he was flown to Brunei, where he was helicoptered into a jungle filled with orangutans and cloud leopards and poisonous snakes. He had to survive for a week while eluding a band of soldiers tasked with hunting him down. The administrators of the course had eyes on the ground to observe him—to see what kind of clay he was made of. Later, he was subjected to an interrogation intended to break him. Worsley was among them. O ne evening at a party in London in , Worsley met Joanna Stainton.

Whereas he often stood back warily in social settings, Joanna, a tall, graceful woman with auburn hair, moved with ease. Though she liked to travel, she hated camping and the wintry cold, and she especially hated ferrets. Still, she and Worsley began dating. She loved his eccentric hobbies, and how he recited poetry to her and held her with arms that seemed unbreakable. He loved her brashness and her ability to talk to anyone, whether at an art benefit or at a homeless shelter, where she often volunteered.

They married in Max was born the following year, and Alicia in In , he was serving in Bosnia when a riot broke out in the streets. A civilian was beaten to death, and crowds began to chase Worsley. Many officers and soldiers admired him the way he admired Shackleton. His fascination with Shackleton, meanwhile, seemed to deepen. He spent hours at antique shops and auction houses, in search of what he called Shackletonia: autographed books and photographs and diaries and correspondence and other memorabilia.

Weeks later, on his tenth wedding anniversary, Joanna gave him a present: the inscribed book. Each had been unaware that the other was the rival bidder. In November of , he made a pilgrimage to a place that he had dreamed of visiting since he was a boy: South Georgia Island. Not only had Shackleton and Frank Worsley found refuge there after the sinking of the Endurance; the two men also had returned to the island in , preparing for a new Antarctic expedition. The day after their arrival, Shackleton had suffered his heart attack and died.

After Frank Worsley and other members of the expedition buried Shackleton, at a cemetery on the island, they found stones and built a cairn to mark the grave. More than eighty years later, Henry Worsley, carrying a rucksack and a sleeping bag, pried open the cemetery gate and went inside. Afterward, he found a sonnet, by an explorer from New Zealand named Hugh de Lautour, which echoed his feelings so intensely that he annotated it and often recited it aloud:.

Rest, Sir Ernest, rest. How was it your endurance overcame The daily struggle just to keep alive Long past the point where death would bring no shame? Half starved and frozen, how did you survive, And how was no man lost while in your care? God knows. God knows it well. For He was there. Afterward, Worsley periodically ran into her at lectures on polar exploration, and he had shared with her his desire to make an Antarctic expedition. Alexandra told Worsley that she wanted him to meet another Shackleton descendant—a great-nephew—named Will Gow.

At a pub in South London, Worsley met with Gow, a thirty-three-year-old banker with a pudgy face and squinty blue eyes that widened in moments of excitement. Worsley was steeped in the details of the failed journey. On October 29, , Shackleton had departed for the South Pole with three other men, including a meteorologist named Jameson Boyd Adams, who was his second-in-command. Gow envisaged that the new expedition would be composed of descendants of men who had explored alongside Shackleton. Worsley listened in amazement. Here was the chance of a lifetime.

He was confident that the Army would grant him a leave for the expedition. And so, like two conspirators, Worsley and Gow began plotting their journey. They needed to find another recruit and to raise four hundred thousand dollars to cover the costs of equipment and travel. And they needed to train: though they had polar exploration in their genes, they had no actual experience. They began a ruthless exercise regimen. Each tied tractor tires to a harness around his waist, and then dragged them back and forth across an open field.

In , they signed up for the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra, a race through the icy wilderness of northwest Canada, which is billed as the toughest endurance competition in the world. Temperatures can fall to minus fifty degrees, and participants have had toes and fingers amputated because of frostbite. There were different categories for the race, and Worsley and Gow entered one that required them to trek on foot for three hundred miles—a third of the distance of their planned South Pole journey—while hauling all their supplies on sleds.

They had eight days to complete the race. I would have to seriously consider my place in the expedition team. They had been told that if they got wet they had only about five minutes to prevent hypothermia, and Gow quickly lit a fire, dried his foot, and changed his clothing. Onward the men went. Above them, the northern lights cast a haunting green glow. After several days of trekking, Worsley and Gow suffered from sleeplessness and sensory deprivation, and they grew dizzy from hunger. Soon, they began to hallucinate. He and Gow slumped across the finish line, beating the time limit by several hours.

For months, he travelled across Helmand, conferring with tribal elders and mullahs. His words were prophetic. Yet he was no longer disappointed. By the time Worsley returned from Afghanistan, Gow had found a third recruit: Henry Adams, a thirty-two-year-old shipping lawyer. Adams seemed a bit pale and spindly for an explorer, but he had a genial personality, and he was deeply committed. That April, Worsley and his two companions headed to Baffin Island, a Canadian territory nine hundred miles west of Greenland.

For several weeks, they trained with Matty McNair, a fifty-four-year-old American explorer, who, in , had led the first all-female expedition to the North Pole. They forgot to turn off a portable stove, and nearly engulfed their tent in flames. They skied too slowly and never seemed to navigate along a straight line. One day, after Worsley declined to wear tinted goggles, he suffered from snow blindness. Gow was ostensibly in charge, but the expedition was plagued by disorganization, causing tension among the men; moreover, only a fraction of the necessary funds had been raised. After some consideration, Gow asked Worsley to take charge.

We were quite happy to have some wise old owl leading us away. In the two years before their departure, Worsley was consumed with the mission. Late at night, after completing his Army duties, he wrote letters seeking meetings with potential donors. It gripped people. Like a general developing a plan of attack, Worsley spent hours poring over maps, laying out a precise route for the expedition.

The more he studied Antarctica, the more forbidding it seemed. The continent is nearly five and a half million square miles—larger than Europe—and it doubles in size in winter, when its coastal waters freeze over. Approximately ninety-eight per cent of Antarctica is covered in an ice sheet, which rises and drops and bends over the varied topography. The sheet—which, in places, is fifteen thousand feet thick—contains about seventy per cent of the freshwater, and ninety per cent of the ice, on Earth.

Yet Antarctica is classified as a desert, because there is so little precipitation. It is the driest and highest continent, with an average elevation of seventy-five hundred feet. It is also the windiest, with gusts reaching up to two hundred miles per hour, and the coldest, with temperatures in the interior falling below minus seventy-five degrees. Scientists have used the Antarctic to test spacesuits for Mars, where the average surface temperature is minus sixty-seven. The island is bound by the Ross Ice Shelf, which extends over the Ross Sea and is the largest body of floating ice in the world—more than a hundred and eighty thousand square miles and, on average, more than a thousand feet thick.

Because the Ross Ice Shelf is easier to reach by sea during the summer than other parts of the continent, and because it is relatively smooth and stretches nearly six hundred miles toward the heart of Antarctica, it was the starting point for expeditions to the South Pole during the golden age of Antarctic exploration. Shackleton and Scott and Amundsen all began their expeditions on the shelf. Like these explorers, Worsley and his team would head south across the ice shelf, a journey of nearly four hundred nautical miles, until they reached the Transantarctic Mountains, which divide the continent and extend to the Weddell Sea.

To get to the Polar Plateau—an elevated, almost featureless part of the continental ice shelf, where the South Pole is situated—the party would have to cross these mountains, which rise nearly fifteen thousand feet. On the Nimrod expedition, Shackleton discovered one of the few passable routes: a glacier-covered valley, twenty-five miles wide and a hundred and twenty-five miles long, that runs between the mountains like a frozen causeway. Still, the glacier—which Shackleton named Beardmore, after William Beardmore, a Scottish industrialist and a patron of his expedition—is treacherous.

Its elevation is eight thousand feet, and its surface is riddled with crevasses. When Scott crossed the glacier during his later expedition, one of his men suffered a fatal head injury after falling into a crevasse. Only a dozen people—the same number that have walked on the moon—had trekked the length of the glacier.

What's the meaning of the phrase 'One foot in the grave'?

By October of , he and his colleagues were ready to embark on what had been officially named the Matrix Shackleton Centenary Expedition. Before leaving, Worsley and his family gathered for an early Christmas celebration. Even though Henry had been telling Joanna for years about the glories of Antarctica, it still seemed to her like the most dreadful place in the world.

In the case of her husband, it was the Antarctic itself. And so she gave her blessing to the adventure, even though it threatened to take from her the man she loved. Alicia, who was twelve, saw his sled primarily as an object to play on. When the family exchanged Christmas gifts, Max, who was fourteen, seemed agitated. This was different from when his father was deployed by the military—he had not had a choice then about leaving them behind.

This was a response to some mysterious inner calling. Even in the most barren place in the world there is a risk of falling down a glacier or crevasse. Joanna drove her husband to the airport, where she began to cry. During the summer, between thirty thousand and forty-five thousand tourists visit the continent, nearly all of them travelling on small cruise ships.

At the warehouse, Worsley and his companions collected freeze-dried meals for the expedition. They faced the same predicament that had bedevilled polar explorers for generations: they could haul only so many supplies on their sleds, a situation that left them vulnerable to starvation. Then indeed we could penetrate the secrets of this great lonely continent.

Worsley estimated that the journey would take nine weeks. Each of the men would be limited to about three hundred and ten pounds of provisions, including a sled, and so they whittled down their kit to the essentials. Worsley packed his portion of the food, which was sealed in ten bags—one for each week of the journey, plus an extra in case of emergency. His clothing included two pairs of pants, a fleece shirt, a down jacket with a hood, gloves, a neck gaiter, a face mask, two pairs of long johns, and three pairs of socks.

He brought cross-country skis and poles; for climbing, he carried crampons and ropes. As the only member of the team with first-aid training, he transported the medical bag, which contained antibiotics, syringes, splints, and morphine. If the team failed to communicate for two consecutive days, A. The men permitted themselves the luxury of iPods, as well as a deck of cards and a few mementos. Worsley carried an envelope filled with notes from family and friends, which Joanna had given him to open when he needed encouragement.

In his front pocket, he had tucked away one more precious object: the brass compass that Shackleton used on his expedition. Alexandra Shackleton had asked Worsley to bring it with him, hoping that, this time, it would reach the South Pole. For Worsley, getting closer to Shackleton was a way of getting closer to himself.

II. Hell Is a Cold Place

Commanding the expedition was far trickier than commanding soldiers in the military. In Antarctica, his authority was not official but merely granted, and he had no more experience as a polar explorer than his peers did. Yet he felt the immeasurable weight of being responsible for their lives. On November 10th, the A. T he plane—an enormous Soviet-designed freighter, which was so loud that Worsley and the others could barely hear their own voices—took them to an A. On arrival, they skidded onto a runway of ice.

After waiting for the weather to clear, they boarded a smaller, twin-propeller aircraft with landing skis. As they flew across the continent, they peered out the window at deep gashes in the ice sheet below. None of us said a word. For years, he had been constructing Antarctica in his mind, and after climbing down from the plane he joyously stamped his boots on three-foot-thick ice.

The temperature was about minus fourteen degrees, and his nostrils burned. It was late in the afternoon, but because it was summer the sun remained bright, and he could see two of the volcanoes on Ross Island that had been beacons for polar explorers: Mt. Terror, which is more than ten thousand feet high, and dormant, and Mt. Erebus, an active volcano, which is more than twelve thousand feet high.

Black smoke drifted from its icy cone. Not far from the men, penguins slid on their bellies across the ice—the world not yet deadened. And on the southern tip of the island, about twenty-two miles away, was McMurdo Station, which was opened by the U.

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In the summer, around a thousand people live at the base, the largest population in Antarctica. We know that Christ's sacrifice on the Cross accomplished our salvation, not because we know that He died, but because we know that He lives. And in living, He brings new life to all who have faith in Him. The virtue most commonly associated with the mystery of the Ascension is the theological virtue of hope. This Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, as you have seen him going into heaven" Acts Just as the angels announced Christ's Resurrection by reminding the faithful women of His words, so now they remind the Apostles, standing on Mount Olivet, looking up into the clouds into which Jesus had ascended, that He had promised to come again.

And Christ had answered, "I am. And you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the power of God, and coming with the clouds of heaven" Mark His answer had enraged the high priest and the Sanhedrin, and gave them a reason to put Him to death. For those who believe in Christ, though, the answer brings not rage, nor fear, but hope. In ascending to Heaven, Christ has left us for a little while, though He has not left us alone, but in the loving embrace of His Church. Christ has gone before us to prepare the way, and when He returns, if we have been faithful to Him, our reward will be great in Heaven.

The fruit most commonly associated with the mystery of the Descent of the Holy Spirit is the gifts of the Holy Spirit. After the Ascension, the Apostles had gathered with the Mother of God in the upper room. For nine days they had prayed, and now their prayers are being answered.

The Holy Spirit, like a mighty wind, like tongues of fire, has come upon them, and just as at the Annunciation , when the Spirit of the Most High overshadowed Mary, our world is forever changed. Christ had promised not to leave them—us—alone. He would send His Spirit, "the Spirit of truth," to "teach you all truth" John Here in this upper room, the Church is born, baptized in the Spirit and endowed with the truth.