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This week I would like to introduce you to the third house at PCS, Team Endurance. The mighty Sharks didn’t prevail in their natural habitat at the Swimming Carnival, but they have managed to steadily chomp their way back to be the current leaders of the overall points tally for Term 1. What a perfect demonstration of ‘Excellence through Determination!’
The story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his ship ‘Endurance’, is considered by many (including me) as one of the greatest survival stories ever told. It is the harrowing tale of tragedy off the coast of Antarctica in the Weddell Sea, the painstaking mission to keep an entire crew alive during an Antarctic winter, and eventually rescued against all odds. Those who attended our House launch earlier this year would have heard me tell a condensed version of that story, which is no easy task! How do you condense one of the greatest feats of determination of all time and still do justice to the message it gives us today? As I write this article I feel a similar sense of frustration in needing to sum up a two year adventure in a couple of paragraphs, yet still leave you with a sense of hope and inspiration at what can be accomplished when a group of individuals set their mind to a task and resolve to never give up.
When Shackleton and his crew of 28 men left England in 1914 aboard the Endurance, they were attempting to be the first to cross Antarctica by land, via the South Pole. Some 300 km off the coast of Antarctica, Shackleton experienced sea ice far thicker than expected, and despite weeks of attempting to get Endurance through the ice flows with picks, axes and ropes, eventually tragedy struck when she became trapped in ice. It was only February, which meant Shackleton and crew, would now have to live on the ice until the following Spring when they hoped to free the ship. Things went from bad to worse in October when eventually the pressure of the ice became so great that the ships hull cracked and the Endurance sank to a watery grave, carrying the crew’s hopes with her.
For most of us, the prospect of living unprotected against the elements for months on end would be a step too far. For Shackleton, it was a brutal reality and as such he constructed a camp and devised a careful set of routines to keep the men active and in high spirits. For six months they lived on the ice, eventually escaping the breaking ice flows in lifeboats and making it safely to the nearby uninhabited, Elephant Island. Once a new camp was established, Shackleton made the incredible decision to launch a rescue mission to reach the Whaling Station on the Island of South Georgia via lifeboat. This epic voyage would go down in history as an unrivalled feat of navigation and determination on the open ocean, seemingly against all odds. The voyage was over 2000 km of cyclone ravaged, freezing and totally inhospitable southern ocean, all in a six metre wooden lifeboat (the James Caird), using only the Sun, Moon and stars for navigation. In fact, it is documented that during the same storm, a 500 ton supply steamer sank only 50 km from their location.
After 15 horrific days at sea, Shackleton and his crew remarkably made landfall on South Georgia. With four of his crew unable to go on, Shackleton and one other then made the 51 km trek across icy, mountainous terrain in an astonishing 36 hours. There they raised the alarm and over the next four months, and with support from Chile, Shackleton personally rescued all of his 28 crew.
We simply can’t appreciate what Shackleton and the crew would have experienced over the two year period of the failed mission and subsequent rescue. All we can surmise is that the will to live and desire to look after one’s friends was enough to endure the impossible. It may be 100 years on in a totally different context, but our students face challenges every day where they have to decide to stick at the task, or give up. As a school community, let’s do everything we can so our students know they are capable of great things. Let’s encourage, inspire, motivate and give them a foundation for success. The world says this generation is pretty quick to give up. Not at PCS; we are raising a generation of Sharks who are ready to stay the course and succeed, no matter what.
Go the Sharks!
Have a great week everyone.