Thursday, September 20, 2012

Motivation and the First Leg of the Journey Across the Antarctic (Part One)

If you were to walk up to someone today and ask them about some of their aspirations you might be hard pressed to find someone who would respond with “Exploring and discovering the Antarctic!”.   However, I could be wrong, you might get this kind of response if you were, say, in a room full of scientists of some kind.  What is so amazing about Captain Shackleton is his insatiable lust for pushing across the Antarctic.  This is a truly motivated man, but what was his incentive?  What was it that drove him to raise the enormous amount of money needed and set out to do what no other man of his time could claim to have accomplished? 

Given the disposition of Shackleton we might be able to assume that he was a man who loved exploration and fulfilling a purpose.  His incentive could have simply have been to do what was not yet done on his prior expeditions to the Antarctic region.  We might be able to conclude that Shackleton’s motive was to fulfill a need deep within him, a psychological need; whereas, his incentive might accurately be described as the fame and prestige that would accompany a successful journey.  Shackleton called this voyage the “last great Polar journey that can be made.”  No one had yet crossed the expanse of out southernmost continent and so he planned to claim the last prize left.

Interestingly, the selection of his crew tells a lot about himself and the kind of group dynamic he envisioned.  In the first few chapters, Albert Lansing gives the reader a detailed profile about many of the men who joined Shackleton on his quest.  Many traits were similar among his crew.  For one, most of them jumped on board the expedition for the pure purpose of pursuing adventure.   The men, while experienced, also possessed a light-hearted streak and an overall good sense of humor.  Perhaps Shackleton wanted a team that was as motivated by challenge and adventure as he was.  As for their sense of humor and good-tempered dispositions, men who could see humor easily and take a task and job in a level-headed way was probably a good investment.  As the journey progresses, this amazing crew was able to entertain themselves and have a good laugh but at the flip of the switch fall in line to combat the worst of unexpected threats.  Given the desolation of the Antarctic and the constant potential for disaster, I do not think that Shackleton could have chosen two better personality traits.  Or maybe he sought a light-hearted that might be resistant to pessimism and worry - as evidenced by Shackleton's fears that their on-deck artist's moody and worrisome attitude might spread to the others.  What is even more interesting is that Shackleton rarely needed to interview a man for more than a few minutes, he just knew by talking to a fellow whether they would be a good addition to the crew.  He must have possessed some instinctual sense for bringing together men who would peacefully get along over the next year and change.  Despite diverse backgrounds and life experiences, these men became close and appreciated what they had in common.

I look forward to see how the men develop further as the situation becomes more and more severe.  By starting out with a general idea of what the men were like and how they behaved might provide some insight into what drove them to keep forging on in the face of imminent death.  

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