Beyond Endurance

I was worried that Allen might get bored down here. After all, I can always tune into Alene to watch and hear what’s going on around her in Seattle. But Allen has to amuse himself – and without TV, radio, internet or newspaper. He knew to expect that, of course, and made sure to come with a full supply of e-books, audiobooks, podcasts, movies and games on various devices. But he still enjoys being entertained by me! If there’s an amusing conversation going on within earshot of Alene, he happily puts down his book to hear me relay the contents – embellishing the account as I see fit!

At bedtime last night, Alene listened to a recent episode of the BBC Radio 4 podcast, Drama Of The Week. It was a radio drama titled Beyond Endurance, about Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expedition to Antarctica in 1914 – the one in which the Endurance got marooned in pack ice and was later crushed and sank. The party spent months camping on out the ice before managing to get ashore Elephant Island on a couple of lifeboats. Shackleton and a few others then sailed for South Georgia, eight hundred miles away, in a twenty-foot boat, the James Caird. The rest of the party hunkered down in a cramped and hellish shelter to wait to be rescued. Against all odds, in a twenty-foot boat facing fifty-foot waves, Shackleton made it to South Georgia – and the party waiting it out on Elephant Island was rescued – with not a single man lost!


Our quarters here are modern and comfortable. We are bunked in a prefabricated hut which is watertight, well insulated and firmly attached to the ground. Our stove and water heater are propane powered, but we also have electricity generated by two wind turbines. We sleep in comfortable sleeping bags made from high-performance man-made materials that would keep us warm even if we were sleeping outside (Shackleton’s men slept in bags made of reindeer skin that shed hairs when they got warm.) And we have a spacious storage facility filled with food and other supplies. If a few hundred penguins drop by for a visit (as they might!) we will be able to enjoy watching, photographing and videoing them – instead of slaughtering them to make sure we have food and fuel for the next few weeks!

If we should find ourselves in an emergency situation, we do have a way to call for help. But basically, our main challenge while we are here is to not get bored – or drive each other crazy.

Anyway, it just happens that one of the titles Allen has on his e-reader is Ernest Shackleton’s book, South. So today, while Alene was on the WiFi at a coffee shop, I had her look for an audio version at iTunes. Allen will read. Alene and I will listen. And Allen and I can talk about it when Alene is indisposed.


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