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Shackleton Prioritized Scripture in the Antarctic

Ernest Shackleton is famous for leading the voyage of the Endurance and her crew to the Antarctic, and despite cataclysmic failure, leading his men out alive. Their boat was crushed, they lived on ice floats, sailed lifeboats hundreds of miles in terrible sea conditions, climbed mountain peaks, and yet not one man was lost.

Shortly after their vessel, the Endurance, was crushed, Ernest urged his men to lighten their loads and take only two pounds of personal items. To illustrate this point, he tore two pages out of his Bible, and dropped it in the snow. Here is the full story from the South Georgia Museum:

On July 16, 1914, as the Endurance Expedition was getting underway, Queen Alexandra (widow of King Edward VII) visited the ship. The Queen presented Shackleton with a Union flag, a replica of her own standard, and two inscribed copies of the Bible.

Later, trapped in the ice of the Weddell Sea, Shackleton and his men had to quit their stricken ship and begin desperate measures to save themselves by hauling boats and stores across the ice. Each man was allowed to keep just 2 pounds of personal gear. Setting a good example, Shackleton discarded what at other times might be judged his most valuable and precious belongings – gold coins and other valuables and the Bible. He tore some pages from the Bible before he left it, the flyleaf with the Queen’s inscription, the 23rd Psalm and a verse from the Book of Job.

The Queen’s inscription from Psalm 107:24 reads, “May the Lord guide you through all dangers by land and sea. May you see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.” The verse from the book of Job 38:29-30 reads, “Out of whose womb came the ice? And the hoary frost of Heaven, who hath gendered it? The waters are hid as with a stone, And the face of the deep is frozen.”

Another crew member retrieved the Bible Shackleton had discarded and carried it home. It is now in the collection of the Royal Geographical Society.

Possible Preaching Angle:

When all is lost, where do you find your hope? Scripture, even a page or two, can provide comfort in the midst of deep uncertainty and trial.

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