Home South pole ice Two stories of survival: a century and a world apart | Opinion

Two stories of survival: a century and a world apart | Opinion


It seems fitting that the remains of the Endurance, a ship symbolic of humans’ ability to persevere in the harshest environments, have just been found where it sank 106 years ago off Antarctica. . The 28 men who had taken him to London wandered the frozen wasteland for nearly two years. Miraculously, all survived.

It is perhaps indecent to draw too many parallels between this story of bravery and the story of Ukrainians fighting week after week against a vicious Russian attack. Endurance’s crew was made up of explorers and scientists who volunteered for an exciting mission to explore the ice cap at the South Pole. The people of Ukraine have never asked to suffer the sufferings of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s cruel and senseless campaign. But as Ukrainians die by the thousands, they show no signs of ending their resistance.

What the two stories have in common—besides the blessing of personal courage and determination to carry on—is extraordinary leadership. There are books of Captain Ernest Shackleton’s skill in guiding Endurance passengers through many exposed months in the coldest and windiest region on earth. They were forced to eat mostly penguins, along with their beloved sled dogs.

For several months after the Endurance became stuck in the ice, the crew was able to return to the ship for supplies and shelter. But then the ship sank, practically forcing the men onto a drifting ice floe. They eventually took lifeboats to Elephant Island, a desolate rocky outcrop. A handful then sailed for help on a small open wooden boat. With the most primitive equipment, they sailed 800 nautical miles through waters known to be dangerous to an outpost in South Georgia, a remote island in the South Atlantic.

Books are surely written about the leadership skills of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. He pushed his people to fight the invaders to the end, while putting himself in grave personal danger. His most famous quote was the one addressed to the US government after it offered him a safe escape from the capital, kyiv. “The fight is here,” he said. “I need ammunition, not a round.”

This show of unwavering determination by Zelensky and his compatriots drew other countries into the mission to save Ukraine. And this near-global support may have changed the course of the war.

Very early on, some marveled that a former comedian could turn into a Churchillian war president. Perhaps this is part of Zelensky’s strength. Shackleton was also a performer – a shrewd fundraiser who sold the rights to his story before the ship sailed.

Of course, there was a huge difference in the ability of the two leaders to communicate with the outside world. Every minute horror scenes in Ukraine can reach most television screens around the world. Antarctica was totally cut off from civilization. Although twice the size of Australia, no human would have set eyes on the continent until 1820.

Moreover, the explosion triggered by World War I extinguished most interest in the fate of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.

I send Alfred Lansing’s book, “Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage,” to friends experiencing medical trauma. It offers an inspiring reminder that people can overcome terrible odds.

As the Endurance descended, “there was no sign of fear or even apprehension” among its former passengers, Lansing wrote. Interviews with the valiant Ukrainians fighting the Russian onslaught also include information about the disappearance of their fear. Perhaps the lessening of terror reflects glimmers of hope amid the nobility of enduring such hardships.

This month, another team of explorers located Shackleton’s three-master at the bottom of the Weddell Sea. His name in copper letters, “Endurance,” shone in the light of their searchlights.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be contacted at [email protected] To learn more about Froma Harrop and read articles by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.