I feel terrible for keeping you waiting this long for part three. However, I finally got it done. Enjoy!
August 1916—South Georgia Island
I am writing with a smile on my face for the first time in a long time. Finally, I am safe. Finally, we are safe! Yes, despite all odds against us, we have survived more struggles than the average person would in three lifetimes. I also am writing with a smile because I know that very soon I will stand in my own home holding my wife and watching my children play. I am so very eager to see how they have grown the last two years in my extended absence. I do pray that they have fared well.
Now, I know that I have not written in a very long time. Part of this was due to the busyness of daily survival but the other reason was due to a nasty case of frostbite in my fingertips that needed to heal before I could properly use my fingers again. Although I would prefer not to relive this experience, I shall record it for future generations to learn of all that we endured on this fateful trip to the south.
My last entry left us stranded on Elephant Island with Captain Shackleton having just devised a plan of escape. As you can see by comparing the two dates of these entries, escape was a long time in coming. We landed on Elephant Island in April and I write now in August.
When we gathered around the Captain to hear his plan, I was shocked at what he said. Then again, I suppose that I knew it would have to be a drastic action. I just did not fully comprehend what that would mean. He revealed to us that the only way for survival is for him and five other men to climb aboard a twenty-two foot vessel and cross the treacherous Drake Passage—a distance of 870 iceberg and hurricane wind-filled miles! Now, can you imagine my surprise when he called my name among the five who would make this journey with him? I was shocked, and a bit afraid. But I knew that I must go if the Captain felt I would be of service to him. Despite my fear, I was indeed honored.
Just days later, we bid very emotional good-byes to those remaining on the island and set off. It was as though a cloud of fear hung over us. No one spoke. The fate of all remaining had been placed in our hands. We all knew the odds were against us surviving this two-week long journey, especially considering that the vessel we traveled in was hardly fit for this travel. The treacherous Drake Passage is infamous for its hurricane-like winds and cluttered with icebergs. Yes, the chances of survival were slim, but it was everyone's only chance.
The six of us took turns steering, rowing, bailing out the icy water, and scraping ice from our boat. On top of it all, we attempted to get at least some sleep. This was certainly the worst ride of my life. We all were soaked by the first hour on the sea with no chance of drying before more water drenched us. Conditions were horrible. Even by night we had to continue onward. Sometimes the moon shone; sometimes it did not.
Finally, we rested our eyes upon the rocky shores of South Georgia Island. Before we could go ashore, however, we had to find a beach not filled with dangerous rocks. When we did land, we had no time to rest or recover from the ocean's fury though we were dehydrated and exhausted. Even Captain Shackleton barely had enough energy to say more than “We've done it.” But our task was yet to be completed. We had yet to find help for those left on Elephant Island. The Captain chose me and one other to travel with him on the last leg of our journey, leaving three behind with the weather-beaten vessel. The three of us went on without taking time even to relish in the feel of standing on real land in search of the whaling station on the far side of the island.
We traveled up many a glacier in attempts to cross, but more often than not had to retrace our steps to find another way. Up and down, up and down, up and down. This was far more than a marathon, this was a race to survive with our screaming muscles and delirious state. Finally, when we were out of food and nearly frozen, the Captain gave us a plan that seemed even more impossible than what we had faced thus far. To avoid freezing to death during the night, we tied ourselves together with rope and slid down a glacier. The risk of hitting a boulder or flying off a ridge was great. When we reached the bottom we couldn't believe that we were alive and relatively unharmed. Shortly thereafter, we heard the sound of a whaling station's wake-up call. Relieved but exhausted, we stumbled toward it. For the three of us, the journey was over. We were little more than alive—but we were alive. We were safe at last!
But there were still the three men that we left with the boat and the twenty-two men who remained on Elephant Island that needed to be rescued. The Captain tried three times to send a rescue boat to those men, but storms and impassable waters sent them back. On the fourth try just days ago, the rescue crew got through and found all twenty-two men . . . all alive! They have returned only a day ago and have told their tale. It is a miracle that they survived on the island for 128 days huddled under the two lifeboats that we left there. It is only by God's grace. Praise be to Him!
Though we did not come close to meeting our original goal of crossing the continent of Antarctica, our priorities quickly changed near the start of our mission. Our goal became to survive. This goal we achieved. Every single original member of this crew survived the journey of a lifetime and are starting on our way home. Yet, it was only by a miracle!
Each of us crew members have agreed that Captain Shackleton was that miracle. He is the greatest leader that ever came on God's earth, bar none. Mostly, I am grateful that God gave me the strength to remain faithful to the Captain to the end of this journey. I will always praise him!
And now you can understand my overwhelming joy and gratitude. I am safe, healthy, and soon on my way to seeing my family again. I am indebted forever to the wonderful Captain who is the only one who could have gotten us all our alive. Also, I believe that through this entire ordeal, my faith in God has been strengthened mightily. If He can bring twenty-eight men through the worst conditions imagined, He can do anything and I will always be full of gratitude to him. Praise be always given unto Him!
And that's the conclusion! What did you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts! I hope that you really enjoyed reading it—I had a lot of fun writing it. Would you like to read more short stories that I write? More journal entries from different events similar to this? Thanks for giving me your feedback and thanks for reading!