The story of this man is amazing! check out the original Quora answer here: http://qr.ae/4C7GZ
Ernest Shackleton did not achieve what he set out to achieve.
He, along with 27 other men, did not reach their goal of traversing the Antarctic continent when they set sail for it in September of 1914.
The expedition started out of a Norwegian whaling village named Grytvikan. The first coordinates were set for Vahsel Bay, the first destination point of the expedition. Before getting to Vahsel Bay, the ship was frozen in ice.
Without an ounce of momentum, Shackleton’s strategy became that of waiting until spring with the men and the ship until the ice melted. After months of waiting, the pressure from the ice cracked the ship and filled it with water.
He ordered the men to abandon it, pull the boats, and what supplies they could carry across the ice floes. Paulet Island was 350 miles away to the Northeast. If the men could eventually find open water treading through the floes, they could set sail for the Island.
They went only two miles in two days in search of open water.
The plan for Paulet Island is abandoned and in its place: camping on a barren sheet of ice. A crack at anytime seemed inevitable. Nearby killer whales surfacing anywhere near them would tip the sheet of ice.
Camping on this sheet of ice went on for two months.
The men set out for another march in good spirits only to be devastated that the progress was just as slow. Staying put for another four months on a drifting piece of ice makes the most sense to Shackleton.
After the six months, enough of the ice melts to set out for Elephant Island, which is only 30 miles away. Finding enough energy to sail for one day, Shackleton checks the coordinates to find that the current carried the boats now 60 miles from Elephant Island.
In the seven days of tirelessly paddling boats towards Elephant Island, the water supply ran out, the men were covered in ice showers, they endured darkness for 17 hours each day, did not sleep, and could see the island for two days but could do nothing to get closer to it.
When they finally land, the men are ecstatic. It’s the first time they’ve been on land in 497 days despite it being inhospitable and lacking any vegetation. Weathering their excitement was the realization that the location they landed was too susceptible to the unforgiving elements and they must move another 7 miles around the island to shield themselves.
Shackleton then realizes that there will not be enough food to last until spring when they have their best chance at being rescued. He explains this to the men, makes plans to reach the whaling stations on the Island of South Georgia 800 miles away and then selects only five men to join him. Every man volunteered to go with him.
The boat that will carry these men needs to be as nimble and weightless as possible and thusly Shackleton gives the order that each man was limited to only two pounds of gear for their personal items before setting out for this tiny speck on a map. Before any of the five men can think of their own sacrifices, Shackleton throws away his personal gear in front of the men, grabs a book and says, “
“This is the ship’s Bible that was given to us by the Queen before this voyage. I am keeping only three pages.”
He places the Bible down on the ice and holds up the three pages he tore out and reads one line from them:
“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.”
Sixteen days of wind, gales, freezing ocean water, a leaking boat that needs bailed by hand and no water, the men land on the Coast of South Georgia.
On the wrong side of the island.
Shackleton plans to the cross the glaciers, mountain peaks and cliffs. Something no one had ever accomplished before before. But the men have to wait 10 days before they commence on the trek because of the unrelenting weather.
Ten days later and thirty-six hours of hiking, the men find civilization at the whaling stations. This is the first time they’ve seen civilization in 18 months.
Desperate to get back to the men on Elephant Island, three attempts with three different ships were all turned back because of impassable ice.
On the 4th attempt, four months later, Shackleton makes it back to Elephant Island where he triple counts in disbelief all 22 of his men waiving at him as he approaches.
What makes him the greatest leader of all time:
One might evaluate Shackleton and say that he cannot be considered as the greatest leader because he did not accomplish what he set out to do and what he planned to do. But the safety of his men became more important than the goal of Antartica. He did not think twice about making this the new focus which meant accepting the failure at his original mission.
The components of a good leader are revealed when will is most challenged. He put the safety of 28 men in knowingly impossible circumstances squarely on his shoulders. Hope was consistently dangled in front of him and the men only to be snatched away each time gazing out at what made for the most desolate place on the Planet.
No one could have kept the kind of optimism through all of this that Shackleton did. He often started singing contests and made soccer games on ice flores to keep morale high while stranded in the frozen ocean.
He screened for the best people.
He knew the type of people he wanted and knew the vision that would appeal to those type of people. Those looking for the fame of being apart of this voyage would have died and brought the rest of the crew down with them.
His process for selection of the team was called eccentric by many. He believed character and temperament were as important as technical ability. He often asked questions meant to be unconventional and uncomfortable. He asked the physicist for the ship how he was at singing.
Shackleton sacrificed himself before any of his men and not one member of his team thought he’d ever do otherwise. In one instance, the photographer, Frank Hurley had lost his gloves. Shackleton removed his and insisted Hurley take them. When Hurley refused, Shackleton threatened to throw him overboard if he didn’t take them. Inevitably and knowingly, Shackleton developed permanent frostbite in his fingers after this.
Ernest Shackleton died on a ship on his last voyage from a heart attack. A post mortem was conducted by the expedition’s physician concluded that the cause of death was atheroma of the coronary arteries exacerbated by “overstrain during a period of debility”.
The ship that Shackleton selected which didn’t make it past the first obstacle had been built in Norway and it was designed to withstand polar ice.
He changed the name of the ship from “Poseidon” to “Endurance,” to honor his family’s motto:
“By Endurance We Conquer.”