The Long, Long Night

Updated: May 8


Shackleton was a man of discipline, hope, and humor. He had an amazingly buoyant spirit and took the practice of staying lighthearted seriously. It was the inner light of Shackleton that kept up morale among the crew during the darkness of the long polar night.

“In all the world there is no desolation more complete than the polar night.”

-Alfred Lansing, Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage

Polar winters are devoid of sunlight for months. These kinds of conditions have been known to drive some men mad. However, Shackleton had the remarkable gift keeping up morale among the men in dark times. That winter aboard the SS Endurance, the men stayed hopeful by giving lectures, telling stories, putting on plays and skits, playing cards, playing pranks, and playing music.

While the Endurance was trapped in the pack ice, the ship’s captain, Frank Worsley, said of the man everyone called ‘The Boss’:

“Shackleton’s spirits were wonderfully irrepressible considering the heartbreaking reverses he has had to put up with and the frustration of all his hopes for this year at least. One would think he had never a care on his mind & he is the life & soul of half the skylarking and fooling in the ship.”