Thursday, October 11, 2012

Part Three: Surviving on the Ice

                Progress was a huge motivating force that, coupled with unhealthy optimism, seemed to feed into the men’s sense of survival prospects.  It is at this point that they finally progress, leave Ocean Camp, and are stopped short.  The men’s ability to fend off reality faltered.   “Mark Time Camp” was the name bestowed upon this new camp that seemed to symbolize the ideal that their stay would not be a long one.  The name could not have been more ironic; although, within weeks, they had to move to a new floe, which was more appropriately named “Patience Camp”.  I think that the names of these two camps acted as statements about their journey.  The reader must remember that many, if not all of the small things that kept them content and mentally strong were starting to become lost to the Antarctic at a quick rate.  Perhaps the men called it “Patience Camp” so that on some subconscious level they understood that they could be at camp for some time.  “Mark Time Camp” most probably drove them extra nuts because of the expectations involved with the camp’s name.

                They had to move to “Patience Camp” when the floe of “Mark Time Camp” was no longer sustainable.  During this long period of monotony and harsh living, the livelihood of the team starts to crack much like the floes that aided in the devastation of the Endurance.  The banjo that was once a form of entertainment and cheer was now, at least according to McNeish, an irritant.  Some men complained about the snoring of their tent mates.  Specifically, Macklin complains of Clark’s sniffles and the arguments between Lees and Worsley.  The men, who had generally thought well of Shackleton’s decisions and rationalized his actions, finally broke.  At this point in their expedition, Shackleton had already been through some failures – none was a pure fault of his own, the marches were doomed and he could not have fully known this until they hit a blockade.  This did not stop Shackleton from expecting the others to exhibit levels of optimism fit for a mad-man (like himself).  I would not say that Shackleton had lost his mind, but it was as if the same decision-making styles used since the beginning were now received in a new light.  What seemed insane was Shackleton’s decisive lack of changing with his environment.  As an example, he orders the men to leave the seals they had killed.  From this point forward, the fun and games were to an absolute minimum (partially because they had lost their novelty). 

                Between having to kill the dogs, the food shortage, uncertainty about where this floe would bring them, and the new potential threat of sea leopards made life particularly harsh.  In one moment, the men could go from zoned out boredom to hurriedly getting to work to keep the camp together.  On some occasions, the men had to react as quickly as lightening to get their things all on the right side of the floe when the crack broke it apart.  In fact, by the last crack they had shove off into the seas. 

All up until they had to make that drastic and final decision to take to the water, it was a harsh guessing game as to whether they would make it to land at all.  Let alone their destination, Paulet Island.  When they were in sight of other possible reprieves from ice-dwelling fear, there was no guaranteed route to get to the land.  They were constantly faced with glimmers of hope that most men tried desperately to ignore so as not to be let down.  Open sea was a potential ending point for them.  One that they knew would be detrimental to survival.  They hoped upon all hopes that the winds would not take them there and luckily, they were not drawn into sea.  The men took the last chance they had by dropping those boats into the waters.

There were a few different topics from class that I think apply to some of the events and progressions of the story within Part Three.  First, I thought about how the encounter with the sea leopard would have turned out differently if the men had gone into tonic immobility  Luckily for them, they reacted and took action instead of freezing up in fear.  In addition, in regards to food, the men mention at one point actually missing the blubber; their diet had become too much meat.  Earlier in the book, the men were not too keen on the blubber, but in Part Three they wanted to eat it.  Originally, I think palatability was a big problem with blubber, but desperation coupled with the concept of sensory-specific satiety (to the meat) may be why the men now wanted the blubber.  Just mixing up the food they ate was a welcome idea.

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