Shackleton received over 5,000 applications to join his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition in 1914. From these he selected just 27 men. Though they failed to reach the South Pole, their combined strengths and talents saw them through one of the greatest survival stories of all time and inspired generations of adventurers to follow in their footsteps. So what does it take to be a polar explorer?
What does it take to be a polar explorer?
1. Commitment to Ultimate and Short-term goals
A polar journey takes commitment, with a capital ‘C’, underpinned by mental fortitude and the ability to focus on short and long-term goals. Your goal of skiing to the South Pole is a beacon that will inspire you. But along the way you’ll need to maintain a regular and intense training schedule in all kinds of weather; you may need to meet fundraising targets; and some days on the ice, it may be all you can do to focus on the next hour’s ski march in whiteout conditions. When the going gets tough, the ability to focus on the next step, and create a structured plan to get there, will see you through.
2. Optimism Grounded in Reality
A sense of optimism can provide the impetus to overcome obstacles and can lift the mood when things look bleak. To be effective however, it needs to be grounded in reality. Don’t give up when faced with overwhelming difficulties, re-frame the experience and move forward with tenacious creativity toward a solution.
You will need to build physical and mental stamina in the months leading up to the expedition. Once in Antarctica, take care of both yourself and your team. Maintain a steady pace gradually increasing your daily travel time and distance. Leave your home affairs in order, so that you can focus your energy on the task at hand. Beware of ‘summit fever’ and emotional deadlines.
4. Team Focus
Your team members will have all kinds of abilities in different measures, just like the crew of the Endurance. Physical strength, navigational skill, decision-making under pressure, and the ability to help others through a tough day, all contribute to the success of the team. Appreciate others’ strengths and treat them with courtesy and respect, even when the going gets tough.
5. Playful Spirit
Have fun on your expedition. Be playful. Celebrate. It can be challenging to stay motivated through long days of sled hauling across the flat, white polar plateau. Find ways to lighten the mood and celebrate successes, both big and small.