It was interesting to see the article in the Irish Times on Saturday 7th February with the heading “Shackleton: one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known”. This was a book review by Tim Jarvis of Michael Smith’s new book “Shackleton: By Endurance We Conquer”. Interesting in the sense that here are two exceptional leaders in their own right talking about Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Michael Smith, back in 1999, was a journalist who when researching Antarctica came across the Endurance story and thought that Tom Crean was an incredible man but when he went looking couldn’t find anything written about him. So he wrote the book himself: “An Unsung Hero Tom Crean – Antarctic Survivor” a fascinating book published in 2000 and he has lead the way since with a further 12 books on Tom Crean, Irish explorers, Captain Oates, Francis Crozier and other Antarctic stories. Michael Smith is a man who has told more stories about Antarctica than any other.
Tim Jarvis, is an environment scientist living in Adelaide Australia who in addition to working as a scientist finding solutions to environmental issues has himself re-enacted two of the most extraordinary rescue missions in Antarctic history. The first was in 2007 when he retraced the foot steps of Sir Douglas Mawson after the tragic loss of his colleagues Ninnis and Mertz. The second was in 2013 when he lead the first team ever to successfully complete the open boat journey and mountain climb that was Shackleton’s famous rescue of his 22 men stranded on Elephant Island following the sinking of the ship the Endurance in November 1915.
One of Shackleton’s leadership qualities was his determination not to give up. This was best shown during the period it took to rescue the 22 men from Elephant Island. After 17 days crossing the Southern Ocean he had to endure three unsuccessful attempts in three separate boats to reach the men on the icy island before he finally rescued them using a Chilean boat from Punta Arenas. He had left Elephant Island on 24th April 1916 and rescued the men on 30th August, 129 days later! That same leadership quality is demonstrated by Michael Smith in his continuing telling of Antarctic stories and in Tim Jarvis’ continuing re-enacting of those great stories. They are both equally as determined as Shackleton was. The great leader’s legacy lives on.