Captain Scott, the Antarctic and tips for modern life

In Changing life, Life goals, Positivity, Productivity on March 10, 2012 at 12:14 pm

2012 marks the centenary of Capt. Scott’s ill-fated Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole. The brave journey ended in some failure, as the expedition reached the South Pole, only to find that their Norwegian rivals had got there over three weeks before. Added to that, Scott and his entire company of explorers died on the return journey back. Whilst there might be controversy over some of Scott’s decisions, no-one can take away the spirit of adventure and courage that marked his and the expedition’s attempt to chart this wild and frozen continent for geographical and scientific discovery.

A few years earlier, Scott also led an ship of forty-nine men to the Antarctic, on the ship RSS Discovery, again for scientific and geographical purposes. Back in 1901, compared to other continents, Antarctica was still a relatively undiscovered part of the globe. Nor did the expedition have the benefits of modern technology that would perhaps have made their journey easier, quicker or more comfortable. Last week, I had the pleasure of being in Dundee and took the chance to visit RSS Discovery, now moored in the city where  it was constructed (as was the ship Terra Nova). Learning about the mechanics of this old three-mast whaling ship was fascinating, including the amount of preparation that was needed for the expedition to get through the bitter cold and thick packed ice in the Antarctic region. Also, the scientific discoveries that the expedition found on the continent provided invaluable knowledge back home. Finally, the brave decisions taken by Scott and others, the challenges of the voyage and attempts to get back home, and the guts to take the opportunity to be part of an amazing, but daunting challenge.

On the way back to London it made me think how very easy it is to achieve and do certain things these days, compared to an hundred years ago. There is something to be learnt from the old explorers from previous years about handling things we might find hard in life today. I’ve always been more fascinated by exploration of the oceans, rather than space, but even when I see those TV clips of the moon landings in 1969, it still gives me goosebumps. The spirit of exploration often fascinates us, not least because of the heroism involved, the odds that seem stacked against success, the technological challenges, the discoveries made of uncharted places, and often the humanity and courage required to embark on such an adventure in the first place.

I think there are at least 3 things to take away from the Discovery journey that Captain Scott made that might be helpful for the goals and voyage of life we’re all on. I’d be very interested to know what other things you think we can learn from explorers about tackling life:

Courage: sure, there is a difference between courage and taking foolhardy risks in life, that put you or others in peril. But, to take up the daunting task of any significant change in any area of life, first requires a decision to be courageous. At some point, after all the thinking, all the rationalising, all the trips on the rollercoaster of mental fear, all the procrastination…you’ve got to dig deep and act on courage.

It doesn’t always requires 100% of courage at the start of a life change, but it does require some, an ounce or two at least, otherwise nothing will ever happen. The Discovery expedition were probably terrified about the thought of journeying to the freezing Antarctic region, and the possibility of not coming back. That was a very real possibility. But, all forty-nine of that crew had to commit. I’d hazard a guess and say that when most of them returned three years later, they were not the same people they were when they left and would have learnt something invaluable about themselves and life.

Tenacity: there are times in the day or part of your life journey, when to be frank, you just have to hunker down and deal with the crap until things change. A lot of us (myself included) at these times are prone to start moaning, groaning and display as much strength and grit as a leaf of wilted spinach. Things get delayed, we look for something or someone else to blame, or find a suitably poor excuse for the predicament we now find ourselves in!  The Discovery crew were exposed to mortal and psychological danger in Antarctia. At one stage the ship got stuck in thick ice for two years (yes, two years) which wasn’t in the crew’s plans! Some of the men suffered from frostbite and the scourge of scurvy. And at one stage the crew had to trudge through the bitterest cold imaginable in this winter desert – overall trudging some 950 miles in 93 days and having travelled further South than anyone before. Pretty amazing really.

So, when things are not going your way, maybe it might be useful to draw on your own tenacity and cultivate it, until you can get through whatever is going on, or until ‘help’ arrives.

Curiosity: there are lots of things people put off in life or don’t do, because  they manage to talk themselves out of it, or worse still, refuse to be open-minded about trying something different or new. The Discovery crew had to have a spirit of curiosity and adventure to take the trip they did. If they listened to some of the negative views that would have persuaded them not to take a chance, they would have stayed at home, Capt Scott wouldn’t have got his chance to be a young Commander, and another crew probably would have taken the chance for adventure, discovery and glory.

Be curious about life around you and why things happen. Most of all, if you’re stuck in a rut, start being more curious about yourself – what motivates you or puts you off; why you might have got in that situation, and be open-minded about trying a different approach, something different and something new. It might not be something you stick with, but it might provide enough of a ‘explosion’ and energy and positivity, to get one’s butt off the sofa, so to speak 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: