South: The story of Shackleton's 1914-1917 Expedition – Review

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South (Illustrated): The Story of Shackleton’s Last Expedition by Ernest Shackleton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Recently my preference in books has settled on memoir and biography. In that genre, South a memoir of Shackleton’s 1914-1917 Antarctic expedition (first published in 1919) was a real find in my stash of unread Kindle books.

Sir Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922) was an Antarctic explorer who had gone on several expeditions before the one described in this book. He was a third mate in Robert F. Scott’s 1901-1903 Discovery Expedition and led another, the Nimrod Expedition, in 1907-1909. On that trip, he and his mates broke the then-record for getting nearest to the South Pole and climbed Mount Erebus, Antarctica’s most active volcano. On returning to England, he was knighted by King George VII, becoming Sir Ernest Shackleton.

His third expedition, the 1914-1917 one which South details, was ambitious. It involved two ships with a selected crew of 26 men on each. The ship Endurance carried Shackleton and his crew. They hoped to reach Antarctica via the Weddell Sea (approaching Antarctica from the east), and trek overland. Meanwhile the ship Aurora, approaching Antarctica from the South via the Ross Sea, was tasked with carrying and depositing supplies along the route that Shackleton and his men hoped to take.

The expedition’s trouble began when the Endurance became trapped by ice before reaching land. Active ice floes moved, ground, and pressed against the ship. Shackleton and his men, fearing the worst, prepared for the possibility of abandoning their floating home. One fateful day the Endurance was indeed crushed and badly damaged. Shackleton and the crew’s many weeks drifting on the ice was only the beginning of their misadventures.

Shackleton’s telling is rich with journal entries of his own and others. The story of the Aurora and its crew, almost as discouraging, follows the tale of the Endurance crew.

In this day of air travel and sophisticated communication, the isolated, helpless state of Shackleton and his men is almost unimaginable. Their character, stoicism, and resourcefulness, along with Sir Ernest’s inspirational leadership are things I found remarkable in this story.

On this expedition, Shackleton and his men encountered the beauty and brutality of nature. They were often near death and I wondered, did they ever get to a point where they were beyond themselves? Did they ever acknowledge God? Pray?

Several times in the book Shackleton does mention Providence (yes, capitalized). And this bit from the last leg of his journey on South Georgia Island to get help is very interesting:

“When I look back at those days I have no doubt that Providence guided us, not only across those snowfields, but across the storm-white sea that separated Elephant Island from our landing-place on South Georgia. I know that during that long and racking march of thirty-six hours over the unnamed mountains and glaciers of South Georgia it seemed to me often that we were four, not three. I said nothing to my companions on the point, but afterwards Worsley said to me, “Boss, I had a curious feeling on the march that there was another person with us.” Crean confessed to the same idea. One feels “the dearth of human words, the roughness of mortal speech” in trying to describe things intangible, but a record of our journeys would be incomplete without a reference to a subject very near to our hearts.”

— South: The Story of Shackleton’s 1914-1917 Expedition by Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton (Kindle Location 3220)

South is a riveting tale that will keep you reading long into the night. Highly recommended.

Note:
My Kindle edition of the book had a list of illustrations (mostly photographs) that weren’t included in the book. Should you happen to read such an edition, the illustrations are available and linked here: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/5199/5199-h/5199-h.htm .

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Mindfulness at Christmas

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One of the Christmas bells in my mother’s collection (Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly)

Thank you to Irene Latham for rallying us to revive our Spiritual Journey Thursday meme, at least this once. We’re invited to reflect on our One Little Word choices for 2017.

My 2017 word was / is MINDFULNESS.

I am aware that there are psychological and, in some faiths, religious overlays to the word which may bring baggage to it that I hadn’t intended. In my February post where I talked about what mindfulness meant to me, I gave it this definition:

Mindfulness, simply defined, is “being present in the moment.” It also has a psychology definition:

“Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience” – Definition from Psychology Today.

Personally I like that second definition except for the bit about not judging. I reserve the right to judge and filter out thoughts that are critical, negative, pessimistic, hateful, etc.

Now, in the middle of December, I am relating mindfulness to Advent, the candles that are lit each week in church, and the qualities each represents. So far we have focused on HOPE, PEACE, and JOY. I suspect next Sunday when we light the fourth candle, we will hear about LOVE.

I want to possess these qualities in abundance and in their purest forms, especially at Christmas. However, the circumstances of my life change and with those changes my emotions fluctuate resulting in the needle of my Hope-, Peace-, and Joy-meters becoming virtual pendulums,

Each Sunday’s sermon has helped me focus on the lasting and unchanging aspects of Hope, Peace, and Joy that play out for us in the events of that first Christmas. Hope doesn’t dim because God took the initiative to reconnect with us, and promises us eternal life beyond this life. Peace is possible because we’ve entrusted Jesus with our lives; Joy is irrepressible because we are invited into relationship with our Creator. I’m sure next Sunday’s talk on Love will deliver something just as enduring.

My challenge to myself, then, is when circumstances change—when I get the flu, or the shortbreads don’t turn out, or the weather switches off all the power and my plans go sideways, or whatever—I remain mindful of the lasting, unchanging verities of the season’s meaning, instead of losing hope, peace, joy, and love at the whim of what’s happening in my daily life.

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”—a poem that became the carol—illustrates how this worked for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who, according to this article, wrote it in the middle of the American Civil War. The carol version leaves out the two stanzas that refer specifically to the war. Here is his poem in its original form.

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Image: Pixabay

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

I’m going to take ringing bells as my cue to be mindful of the truths that Advent represents that are bigger than my fluctuating day-to-day hope, peace, joy, and love.

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This post is linked to “Spiritual Journey Thursday,” hosted today by Irene Latham. At the link-up you’ll be directed to other bloggers and their Spiritual Journey Thursday posts.

Delight

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child-818438_640Ben_Kerckx

Image: Kerckx /pixabay.com

A week ago, waiting in the doctor’s office, I spent some of the time people-watching. A mother and her 18-month-old caught my eye. The little guy, still in his foot PJs, was full of sauce (he was obviously not the sick one). He kept wriggling from Mom’s lap and wandering off into the nursing station and down the corridor that the nurse used to fetch the patients. The busy nurse gave Mom more than one sharp look as she jumped up to recapture toddler at least a dozen times. But never did that mother lose patience.

At one point the little gaffer toddled across the waiting room (in the opposite direction from the corridor) and I had a full view of Mom’s face. The look on it as she followed the movements of her little man was pure delight. Us onlookers may have felt other emotions as we watched her youngster, so determined to explore his world. But in her eyes he was all cuteness, precociousness, and wonder.

I love Irene Latham‘s word “delight” as a one-little-word choice. It speaks to me of looking for and finding the kind of joy, pleasure, and enchantment in the things around me that that mom saw in her little boy. She could have reacted to his continuous wanderings with annoyance. But instead she reacted with delight. I imagine she saw in her little boy’s actions not an inconvenience to herself but signs of growth, a healthy curiosity, and developing self-confidence. And of course he was hers and she loved him.

There is so much to see that is delightful around us in people, in nature, and in circumstances if we would but open our eyes and choose to view things that way.

Spiritually, I believe God looks down at us, His creatures, with a lot more delight than we realize. A verse I love in this regard is Zephaniah 3:17. It even has motherly overtones:

The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love
he will rejoice over you with singing.” (NIV)

Let’s revel in His delight today.

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Join us each week at Spiritual Journey Thursday

This post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday, hosted by Holly Mueller at her blog Reading, Teaching, Learning.

 

The Elf and the Dormouse

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It’s mushroom season—it must be, because they are growing everywhere. I snapped some fine specimens on my walk the other day. They always remind me of the fun little poem we learned in school—”The Elf and the Dormouse”

Mushrooms
Umbrellas galore! (Photo © 2015 by V. Nesdoly)

The Elf and the Dormouse

Under a toadstool crept a wee Elf,
Out of the rain to shelter himself.

Under the toadstool, sound asleep,
Sat a big Dormouse all in a heap.

Trembled the wee Elf, frightened and yet
Fearing to fly away lest he get wet.

To the next shelter—maybe a mile!
Sudden the wee Elf smiled a wee smile.

Tugged till the toadstool toppled in two
Holding it over him, gaily he flew.

Soon he was safe home, dry as could be.
Soon woke the Dormouse—”Good gracious me!

“Where is my toadstool?” loud he lamented
—And that’s how umbrellas first were invented.

by Oliver Herford (1863-1935)

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By the way, do you know what a Dormouse is? As I was typing this out, and noticing Spellcheck’s disapproval of “doormouse” I realized a “dormouse” may be more than a poet’s fanciful playing around with words.

According to Wikipedia and other sources that claim to know,  a dormouse is a rodent in the Glirdae family, mostly found in Europe, and known for an ability to sleep i.e. hibernate!  So Mr. Herford got even that detail right!

Poetry Friday LogoThis post is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted today by Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

St. Patrick’s Prayer

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Butchart Garden, Victoria, B.C.

Butchart Garden, Victoria, B.C. (Photo © 2015 by V. Nesdoly)

The Prayer of St. Patrick

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me
Afar and near,
Alone or in a multitude.

Christ shield me today
Against wounding
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation.

~ Author Anonymous

(This prayer, found on Belief Net,  is in the public domain)

The Gate of the Year

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Church door

Side door of St. John The Evangelist Anglican Church in Elora ON (Photo © 2014 by V. Nesdoly)

Seventy-five years ago, in December of 1939, Britain was at war. It’s easy to forget, knowing what we do today, that at the time no one knew how that war would end.

That year in his Christmas message King George VI ended his 9-minute broadcast with the lines of an obscure poem by a little-known poet.

“I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness,
and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light
and safer than a known way.'”

He concluded his speech with “May that Almighty Hand guide and uphold us all.”

I say, “Amen” to that!

(Read the article “At the Gate of the Year” which quotes the rest of the poem — originally titled “God Knows” but now usually called “At the Gate of the Year” — and tells us more about its author Minnie Haskins [1875-1957]).

And now, I wish all who read here a

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Bells Across the Snow

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Snowy park bench

Scene from our morning walk, December 2013. (Photo © 2014 by V. Nesdoly)

Bells Across the Snow

O Christmas, merry Christmas,
Is it really come again,
With its memories and greetings,
With its joy and with its pain!
There’s a minor in the carol
And a shadow in the light,
And a spray of cypress twining
With the holly wreath tonight.
And the hush is never broken
By laughter light and low,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow.”

O Christmas, merry Christmas,
‘Tis not so very long
Since other voices blended
With the carol and the song!
If we could but hear them singing,
As they are singing now,
If we could but see the radiance
Of the crown on each dear brow,
There would be no sigh to smother,
No hidden tear to flow,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow.”

O Christmas, merry Christmas,
This never more can be;
We cannot bring again the days
Of our unshadowed glee,
But Christmas, happy Christmas,
Sweet herald of good will,
With holy songs of glory.
Brings holy gladness still.
For peace and hope may brighten,
And patient love may glow,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow.”

– Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879)

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This lovely poem is part of the reading for December 24th in the classic devotional, Streams in the Desert. As I read it this morning, I thought of my friend whose husband died a week ago yesterday.

I wish her, and all who hear that “minor in the carol,” those “holy songs of glory” because of the hope that Jesus’ coming to earth brought.