An ice-covered fist, five rocky peaks, stood between Sir Ernest Shackleton and rescue. Warmth, food and hope awaited him and his two men on the other side of the mountains. They decided to try the first pass which appeared “deceptively easy”, said F.A. Worsley. However, when they reached the summit and peered over, they stepped back. The pass fell away in cliffs and crevasse-littered glaciers. The second and third passes proved just as deadly.
They put all their hope onto the fourth and final pass, but it too disappointed. Below them lay more shadowed crevasses waiting to swallow them whole. The men sat on its razor-backed ridge and dangled their legs into the darkening canyon.
Commander Shackleton withdrew for a moment to think. His 1916 South Pole expedition had failed. He had lost his ship ‘Endurance’ to ice. He and his crew of 28 had survived on ice-floes for six months until they took refuge on Elephant Island. The rest of his men waited there in an overturned lifeboat while Shackleton and his small crew crossed the stormiest sea in the world in another small life-boat. They reached Georgia Island which had never been crossed. If they had endured all of this, they could not turn back now. If they died, he reasoned, they would die trying to save their crew.
He faced his men and said, “We’ll slide.”
Worsley thought, “Slide down what was practically a precipice, in the darkness, to meet what? A rock in our path would mean certain disaster. Still it was the only way; to go back was useless, a death warrant; to stay on the ridge longer meant certain death by freezing.”
They sat down and locked together as one man. “Then Shackleton kicked off. We seemed to shoot into space. For a moment my hair stood on end. Then quite suddenly I felt a glow and knew that I was grinning. I was actually enjoying it,” said Worsely. In less than three minutes they safely reached the bottom of a three-thousand foot cliff.
Looking back, these men recognized that the slide was not a good choice. It was the only way down. It was trust.
That night Worsely recorded this in his journal: “There was no doubt that Providence had been with us. There was indeed one curious thing about our crossing of South Georgia...which I have never been able to explain...I had the sub-conscious feeling that there were four of us instead of three...” His ship-mates recorded the same mystery.
These experienced explorers realized that without stepping down into the darkness and trusting, they never would have made it safely home.
Jesus said, “I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through Me,” (John 14:6).
Have you climbed long and hard only to find disappointment at the summit? There is a Pathway Home. His name is Jesus. He is the bridge across every crevasse.
Take that first step of faith into the dark canyon, lean into Jesus, and you will find rescue.
All quotes other than scripture are taken from the following source:
F.A. Worsley, ENDURANCE, W.W. Norton and Co. 1931, pp 150, 155, and 156