The plan was a daring one—be the first to cross the icy continent of Antarctica and live to tell about it. When Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 27 men, 69 dogs, 1 cat, and 1 stowaway set sail for the edge of Antarctica on December 5, 1914, no one knew just how harrowing their journey would be.¹
Aboard their aptly named ship, the H.M.S. Endurance, progress was slow as they hit early ice in the arctic Weddell Sea. Conditions worsened, and on January 19, 1915, the ship was stuck fast in the ice, “frozen like an almond in the middle of a chocolate bar,” wrote crew member Thomas Orde-Lees.²
For eight months the crew huddled aboard the trapped Endurance, hoping that when the ice thawed, the ship would be freed. Unfortunately, when the ice began thawing the following September, pressure became so great that eventually the vessel was crushed, and it sank beneath the arctic water. The party was forced to set up camp on the ice, but as the ice continued melting, the group had to transfer their provisions and equipment to a larger ice floe, which eventually broke in two.
At that point, there was no choice but to take what they could in three lifeboats and head for the nearest land. After six horrific days on the freezing arctic sea, with no fresh water to drink and half of the crew suffering from seasickness and dysentery, the exhausted group finally landed on Elephant Island, 556 kilometers (346 miles) from where the Endurance sank. For the first time in more than a year they stood on solid ground.
Originally landing on the tip of the island, the group moved westward to a more suitable spot, set up camp using two of the lifeboats to construct makeshift huts, and named the site “Point Wild.”³
Realizing the chances of being found on this small, uninhabited arctic island were slim, Shackleton determined that he, along with five other trusted men, would take a lifeboat and seek help from a whaling station on South Georgia island, more than 800 miles away.
Assuring the remaining crew he would return, Shackleton put his second-in-command, Frank Wild, in charge of the group, and set off on another horrendous open-sea journey, battling monstrous waves, howling winds, and blowing ice for 16 long days.
When at last the little group arrived on South Georgia Island, they learned the wind had blown them to the other side of the island, and to reach the whaling station they would either have to once again brave the sea, at the risk of being dashed against the rocks, or climb over icy mountains and slide down glaciers. Shackleton chose the latter, and “after 36 hours of desperate hiking they staggered into the [whaling] station.”⁴ It would be more than four months before a rescue ship would finally reach the stranded group back on Elephant Island.
“THE BOSS MAY COME TODAY”
At Point Wild, while some were watching for their captain’s return, others were losing heart. Living in the perpetual darkness of an arctic winter, they “made lamps out of sardine tins, used surgical bandages for wicks, and burned seal blubber oil.”⁵
“Eagerly on the lookout for the relief ship,” recorded one person. “Some of the party have quite given up hope of her [the relief ship] coming,” wrote another. “There is no good in deceiving ourselves any longer.”⁶
Nevertheless, every morning Frank Wild, whom Shackleton had left in charge, issued the command for everyone to “lash up and stow” their belongings, because “the Boss may come today!”⁷
At last, on August 30, 1916, just as the men were sitting down to eat a lunch of boiled seal’s backbone, a small ship was spotted on the horizon. It was Shackleton, coming to take them home. Every member of the Endurance crew was saved.
WAIT WITH PERSEVERANCE
Friends, have you grown weary in waiting for the Lord’s return? Have the storms of life beaten you down? Are you tempted to give up hope because the waiting seems so long? You are not alone! The Bible tells us in Romans 8: “The whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. . . . Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance” (verses 22-25).
Furthermore, we are not asked to wait in darkness! “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty,” writes the apostle Peter in 2 Peter 1:16. But even more than this, he continues, is that “we have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (verse 19, KJV).
Friends, today, as the world gets darker the light of prophecy is shining even brighter than before! Signs are taking place; prophecy is fulfilling rapidly. Jesus is coming very soon!
“DO NOT CAST AWAY YOUR CONFIDENCE”
Imagine what it was like on that dark, frigid island as the men watched and waited for their captain’s return. Each day must have seemed like an eternity, and yet, hope was kept alive as every morning they were told to pack up because “the Boss may come today!” And on one of those “todays” he did!
Jesus invites us to prepare each day for His coming. We are told, “By the exercise of living faith today, we are to conquer the enemy. We must today seek God, and be determined that we will not rest satisfied without His presence. We should watch and work and pray as though this were the last day that would be granted us.”⁸ “If you are right with God today, you are ready if Christ should come today.”⁹
Friends, I believe that one of these days very soon will be the day. Watch and pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to keep the fire burning within your own heart and to share that light with others!
“Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: ‘For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry’” (Heb. 10:35-37).
President of the Worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church •
Ted N. C. Wilson is president of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church. Additional articles and commentaries are available from the president’s office on Twitter: @pastortedwilson and on Facebook: @Pastor Ted Wilson.