lessons from the ice

lessons from the ice

howdy there frienderinos,

as you may have heard, it’s been hot in Los Angeles. for some reason we always seem to get our “summer” in September. one way I’ve been combating the heat is to read non-fiction about people in really really cold environments. the most recent of which was The Ice Master: The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk and the Miraculous Rescue of her Survivors. the title seems a bit like calling a sci-fi movie STAR WARS: A FARMBOY RESCUES A PRINCESS THEN DESTROYS A GIANT SPACE STATION…but apparently nobody asked me.

regardless of the obtuse title, the book was very entertaining and provided another insight into the level of extreme conditions in which humans can live. the men of the ship, which were divided into two groups the “crew” and the “scientific team” survived a tremendous ordeal. well, a group of them survived. and honestly, at least according to this book, it seems remarkable that so many did. they fought, they bickered, they stole, and they may have even murdered each other. at the edge of civilization, society broke down… and why did this happen? well, there could definitely be an argument made about the content of their characters. but it seems to me that the break down happened at two key moments.

the first was when the leader of the expedition, Stefansson left the ship to go “hunting.” now why would the leader go on a hunting expedition when there were better hunters on board and their supplies of food in no danger of shortage? that is a question that has been asked for nearly a hundred years. whether or not Stefansson intentionally abandoned his crew is almost incidental – because regardless of his intention the result was that they FELT ABANDONED. and the hit on their moral ultimately worked to break the team unity.

the second was when Bartlett, the ship’s Captain and leader after Stefansson’s departure, left the remaining crew. Bartlett did not leave for a dubious “hunting mission.” he left to undertake a dangerous 700 mile journey across the ice to reach Siberia. and ultimately he was responsible for the rescue of the crew. but once he was gone the moral of remaining crew began to break down and the discord grew. these men needed a leader. it’s just that simple.

another problem aside from the void of leadership was one of pride. by my count, 8 members of the expedition died as a result of their pride (and the the -50 weather naturally). it’s kind of crazy to think about, but in the toughest place to survive on Earth there were men who were too proud to ask for help, too proud to admit they were wrong, and too proud to work together as a team…and you know what THEY FROZE TO DEATH because of it.

but in the midst of all of this tragedy and strife they managed to keep their pet kitten alive.

if only there were a place to apply these lessons in today’s life…


p.s. more about the voyage of the Karluk here.

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