Do any of you know the "significance" of that date? In history class I studied various expeditions to the south pole. As an activity, I wrote a fictional journal entry of a crew member on the mission to be the first to cross Antarctica. As I wrote it, I thought that you might enjoy reading it. Remember, it is a FICTIONAL crew member, but the event is real as are all statistics. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Enjoy!
November 21, 1915—Antarctica
Today is a day that I will never forget. I have experienced such emotions as have filled me with turmoil. I wish that I could have written more in the past months but, alas, my days have been too busy. Perhaps I should explain. About a year ago, Sir Ernest Shackleton sent out an invitation to a dangerous mission—being the first to cross Antarctica. Being my usual adventurous self, I responded with much enthusiasm. Maybe too much. Shackleton must have liked what I wrote for he recruited me to be among twenty-six other crewmen. At this point, of course, I was thrilled and bid my wife, son, and two young daughters good-bye. This has been much more adventure than I ever bargained for. I know that my dear wife and children must be worrying, and for good reason. She begged me not to go, but I persuaded her with the promise of my safe return. That was a promise I wish I had never made. I have never yet broken a promise, and I will do all in my power to not break this one, but I now realize it is not a guarantee.
I set sail with twenty-six other crewmen and Captain Shackleton on his ship, the Endurance. We set out with high hopes, spirits, and eagerness. At first all was well. I enjoyed seeing the new sights and experiencing life aboard the Endurance. However, the closer we drew to Antarctica, the more our spirits were dampened and our hearts grew heavy as we processed how dangerous this mission would be. A sense of foreboding doom seemed to hang around the ship as the temperatures dropped. Before long, men standing at their posts grew cold and every effort was made to bring warmth to the ship. Despite the cold, we continued to sail toward Antarctica. Then it came about that as we traveled slowly onward the ice became encased around the Endurance. She was stuck fast. In a sort of trance, we gathered our things and disembarked with hopes that the ice would soon give up her icy hold upon our ship. Very suddenly we all realized that this journey would not be as easy as first anticipated. That was in January. Now we all know just how difficult and dangerous this trek is. For ten months we lived off of our supplies and camped on the nearby ice flows facing firsthand the harsh elements.
Then today it happened. Our worst fears were realized. After hoping and praying for ten months that the Endurance would be freed from the ice, she was. However, it was not in the least what we had hoped for. She was released . . . into the icy depths of the sea. We all watched as it happened. One minute she was there like she had been for the past ten months, then she wasn't. With enormous creaks, cracks, and groans, she finally yielded to the intense pressure of the shifting ice. Within ten minutes of these horrible noises having first begun, her four-foot-thick shell exploded into a thousand pieces. We all watched in horror as she sank below the ice, never to be seen again. I looked over the shoulder of a fellow crew member who also wrote about the event from his eyes. One line he wrote in particular caught my attention. He said that the ship “carried us so far and so well and then put forth the bravest fight that ever a ship had fought before yielding to the remorseless pack.” This touched my heart so that I nearly gave in to tears of hopelessness and fear, but did not. Frozen teardrops on a mustache are most uncomfortable. They often freeze even before they meet my mustache.
So here we are. We have plenty of supplies to survive for now, but who knows how long it may take for us to be rid of this frozen kingdom? If we ever do. We have only three life boats, a few dogsleds, and provisions. As I mentioned before, I have experienced a multitude of varied emotions today, and rightly so. At times I am hopeless, knowing the chances of all twenty-eight of us escaping here alive. But then my hope is restored by a small margin when I remember that we are under the good leadership of Captain Shackleton. Yet there is always the gnawing horror of seeing how easily the Endurance sank and how we are at complete mercy of the weather. I am afraid. I fear that I will never see my wife and children again. That my mates will never be reunited with their loved ones. Furthermore, I fear how I will die. If I die in this desolate place, I know that it will be slow and painful. I also am afraid of how my death will affect my wife and children. They will have to face the world without a husband and father to love, care for, and provide for them. The world can be a very harsh place for those who are left vulnerable. I feel like a wretch for ever leaving my family only for the experience and adventure of being among the first to cross the continent. I wish with all my heart that I was back at home in front of our fireplace in our lovely cottage with my children tugging at my mustache, my wife smiling from the entry-way, and the smells of a wonderful home-cooked supper wafting through the house. But here I am. Stuck in perhaps the coldest place on the planet at the mercy of the Weddell Sea. My only real hope is in Christ Jesus. To Him I plead for mercy. Him I will honor till the end.
I know that in the coming days I will have little, if any, time to record the happenings of this trek. My life will be a battle to survive. Finding food is my primary concern, but disease and the cold are also high dangers. If I should die before leaving this continent, and this entry found encased in frozen ice, I pray that it will make its way to my wife, that she may know how I longed to apologize for leaving her. My dear wife, though I pray that you will never have to read this without me by your side, if you should, please understand that I love you dearly.