Leading at The Edge

Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition

 Leading at The Edge

Author: Dennis N.T. Perkins
Pub Date: March 2012
Print Edition: $15.00
Print ISBN: 9780814431948
Page Count: 288
Format: Paper or Softback
Edition: Second Edition
e-Book ISBN: 9780814431610

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The Extraordinary Saga of Leading at The Edge

Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition: A Timeline

* December 5, 1914: The British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, a crew of 27 adventure-seeking sailors and explorers led by Sir Ernest Shackleton, sails from the Island of South Georgia in the Southern Ocean on a ship named the Endurance. Its goal: to achieve the first overland crossing of Antarctica.

* January 19, 1915: Disaster strikes. The ice of the Weddell Sea closes around the Endurance like a vise. Forty-five days after its departure and sixty miles from the Antarctic Continent, the expedition is stuck.

* February 24, 1915: Sea watches are cancelled. Crew members resign themselves to wintering on board.

* October 27, 1915: Endurance goes down, its strong timbers ripped to shreds by shards of ice. The team is left stranded on the frozen sea without a ship, 346 miles from the nearest food depot on Paulet Island. Shackleton proposes heading toward open water by undertaking a march across hundreds of miles of solid pack ice. Men in harness begin pulling the lifeboats on sledges. After two days of hauling, the team covers less than two miles.

* October 30, 1915: Acknowledging the futility of trudging on, Shackleton establishes a camp on an ice floe, dubbed “Ocean Camp.”

* December 23, 1915: To combat the rising sense of futility, Shackleton rallies the men to once again attempt to drag the boats across the ice to open water. The second sledge march proves no more successful than the first. When a lone crew member refuses to march, Shackleton is called upon to defuse a one-man mutiny. Exhausted and discouraged, the men again set up camp on an ice floe, dubbed “Patience Camp,” and resign themselves waiting for the ice to open.

* April 9, 1916: The pack ice opens. The men tumble into three lifeboats, put out every available oar, and pull with all their strength for open water. The temperature is so cold that when the waves break over the boat, the water instantly freezes the rowers’ clothes.

* April 16, 1916: After being forced by winds and currents to change their destination four times during a grueling five-and-a-half-day voyage, the men find respite on a rocky, barren speck of land known as Elephant Island. For the first time in 497 days, Shackleton and his crew are on solid ground.

* April 24, 1916: Propelled by the dwindling food supply, Shackleton decides to sail for help. He selects the most seaworthy lifeboat, the James Caird, and five members of the expedition (including the former mutineer, McNeish) to accompany him.

* May 10, 1916: After a harrowing sixteen-day voyage, the exhausted sailors sight South Georgia and safely land on the island they had left 522 earlier. Unfortunately, they arrive on the wrong side of an uncharted island abounding with treacherous glaciers. It takes the men three days and nights—each filled with danger and enormous physical challenges—to reach the whaling station.

* May 23, 1916: Shackleton borrows a ship and sails for Elephant Island to rescue his men. The pack ice prevents passage, and the ship is forced to return. Two subsequent attempts, in June and July, are also thwarted by pack ice.

* August, 30, 1916: Finally, on the fourth attempt, Shackleton succeeds in his rescue mission. The timing is providential. The pack ice opens for only a few hours, just enough time to get a boat ashore on and bring 22 men aboard. 634 days after its launch, the Trans-Antarctic Expedition comes to an end. Although Shackleton fails at meeting the expedition’s original mission, he succeeds at feats of extraordinary leadership and teamwork. All 27 members of the crew are brought back home, mercifully alive and with a unique level of caring and camaraderie.

Adapted from LEADING AT THE EDGE: Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition, Second Edition by Dennis N.T. Perkins with Margaret P. Holtman and Jillian B. Murphy (AMACOM 2012).

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