On Dec. 5, 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton led an expedition of 28 on the first overland crossing of Antarctica. They set sail on the ship aptly named the Endurance. The ship and crew endured almost unbearable situations every single day of their 634-day trip. While they traveled, they had no communication of any kind with the outside world. No one knew whether they were still alive or whether they had perished.
On day 327, the Endurance got wedged between two large pieces of ice and, with the shift of the glacial pads, the ship was crushed into splinters. The crew worked hard to salvage whatever they could. Frank Worsley, the captain of the ship, noted in his diary that, We had lost our home in the universe of ice. We had been cast out into a whole wilderness that might indeed prove to be our tomb.
The crew not only faced the harsh environment and near starvation, they also had to face their own fear, weariness, paranoia and boredom. According to Captain Worsley, the difference in the matter was the state of mind of their leader. Ernest Shackleton displayed a calm, confident and reassuring poise. And this sureness had an infectious effect on the rest of the group. As Captain Worsley wrote, the leader’s state of mind is naturally reflected on the whole group.
In turn, Shackleton wrote in his diary, I confess I felt the burden of responsibility sit heavily on my shoulders, but on the other hand I was stimulated and cheered by the attitude of the crew. This mutual support and encouragement would ground them in hope.
One hundred and six years after the vessel sank off Antarctica, the wooden ship Endurance was located about 10,000 feet underwater in the Weddell Sea, just this week. The images from below are clear and captivating – a reminder of a heroic journey taken long ago.
Two years ago today, March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak to be a global pandemic. And from that moment until now – 730 days – we have endured lockdown, sickness, loss of employment, loss of life, social distancing, working from home, going to school from home, separation, weariness, depression and so much more. And yet, along the way we have learned how to adapt, get creative, reach out, support and deepen our resolve as a people of faith and hope. We have come so far along the way.
Yesterday, we launched our Tending the Soul program online. The program gives us an opportunity to listen, learn and share our stories of enduring this time of pandemic as the Church. Deeper still, we reflect on what we have learned about leadership, encouragement and the leading of the Holy Spirit. We ponder how God is forming and re-forming us to be the Church of tomorrow. And as one of our speakers, the Rev. Jaqueline Daley, noted yesterday, we live into the words we say Sunday by Sunday, Glory to God, whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine… We hope that you will join us every Thursday at noon for the next several weeks. The program is live streamed to the diocesan Facebook page and YouTube channel and will be available afterwards in both places.
In this season of Lent and as we prepare for Holy Week, we recall the sufferings of Jesus. His own endurance in the face of an unjust trial, cruel torture and terrible crucifixion was possible because of his complete conviction of God’s inexpressible love for humanity, and the Divine plan of salvation unfolding through his sacrifice. His example of humble obedience borne of faith continues to be a model for us to follow as we endure our own trials and challenges.
Ernest Shackleton and the crew would escape by camping on the sea ice until it disintegrated, then by launching the lifeboats to reach Elephant Island and ultimately South Georgia Island, a stormy ocean voyage of 720 nautical miles. All would survive.
Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto