For the past month or so I’ve been following along with the progress of the Scott Expedition in Antarctica, an attempt to trace (and complete) in similar style the route of the ill-fated 1911-12 Scott Expedition. They are currently on Day 76 of the journey back to their starting point after having reached the South Pole pulling sleds loaded with supplies, an amazing, audacious feat of endurance with more than 700 miles of walking remaining before they finish. Never mind the physical strength needed to pull off such a journey, imagine the mental strength required to keep going day after day!
Equally amazing here in the information age is to read the blog entries real-time from their journey. I found this entry from the day they made the decision (due to running out of food) to call for a resupply to be remarkable in its frankness, as remarkable to me as reading the entries in Robert Scott’s diary of his final days spent starving to death in a tent. Here’s an excerpt:
“I think of status and records and achievement and impermanence. Every gold medal one day ends up in a collectors’ cabinet, an auction lot or a drawer in an antique shop. Trophies oxidise, the ribbons of rosettes curl and fade. I don’t know where my proudly-won Scout badges are now. I hope our journey has not been diminished in your eyes now it is “imperfect”. Yet of course for us humans, perfection can never really be reached, contentment is either here today, with the striving and the mess we all inhabit, all open loops and half-finished lists and could-do-better-next-times, or we will never find it. And the biggest lessons -to me at least- of this very long, very hard walk, are perhaps that compassion is more important than glory. Friendship and kindness and taking care of each other – like Tarka secretly removing weight from my sledge – matter more than achievement or status. The joy of being outdoors and alive in the wild, pushing ourselves harder than anyone will ever understand, will I think in time prove more wholesome and satisfying than the pride of any public recognition on our homecoming.”
Inspiring words written at a time when giving up must have been an attractive option. Makes me cherish even more the hours I’m able to spend on my own pedantic “adventures” as I completely identify with that joy of being alive in the outdoors pushing myself. There’s no greater feeling in the world.