What does it take to start an adventure?

“Shackleton’s Incredible Journey” is among exploration and adventure literature classics. It provides an incomparable narrative and leads us to reflections about the adventure fundaments. The following text highlight at least two aspects of these fundamentals. But first, let us know more about the journey.

Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 27 men set out in 1914 for the first attempt to cross the Antarctic continent. They did not complete their initial objective. Although they survived to outstanding tribulation these remote regions. After wrecking in the Weddel Sea the crew had to lay on each other hands to face the most difficulties and pursue solutions to the challenge faced.

Incredibly they had shown patience and even good humor in this adverse situation. They succeed in self-rescue after two Antarctic winters crossing ice floes on foot, preparing an improvised vessel, and facing more than 1300 kilometers of the roughest sea in the world between the Antarctic Peninsula and the extreme south of South America.

It may sound like an impossible fantasy. However, if you were in England at the beginning of the 20th century reading the newspaper you will probably see the famous advertisement that Ernest Shackleton ran to recruit men for his expedition:

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in event of success”

What may seem insane at first also is an invitation to a grand trial of unprecedented revelation which evokes universal elements of the adventure calls. The challenge of conquering the impossible abet itself. There is something that resonates in us in the face of the unknown. Historian Joseph Campbell in his book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” realizes that this call to adventure is common throughout history. In addition, the psychologist Viktor Frankl sustains that our human nature seeks tension and to try ourselves to ultimate tests.

This reflection is reinforced when on the eve of expedition departure the First World War breaks out and Great Britain declares war on Germany. In this scenario, the Lord of the British Admiralty Winston Churchill sends a telegram to the crew stating that it is the government’s wish that the expedition continues beside the situation. And there is our first fundamental:

Launch yourself into an adventure so considerable that even a World War won’t make it lose its meaning.

And not only that. This famous newspaper advertisement attracted a diverse expeditionary team. This variety became a key strategy for the journey’s success. Shackleton has composed its crew from experienced extreme exploration veterans to novices. From renowned scholars to simple fishermen. What proved to be common to all were character traits such as perseverance and good humor in the face of adversity.

After months of constant relation, the team formed a complete set of experiences that surplus by far the differences that existed between them. They learned to know each other, and, almost always, to admire each other. That add our second fundamental:

Don’t start the adventure alone! Form a diversified team that enjoys being together.

On the journey, the connections will be strengthened by adversities and the variety of experiences will complement each other in face of challenges.

In summary, our reflection based on the Shackleton expedition highlighted two fundamentals to start an adventure: Make it so universal that not even a World War be able to stop. And consider the crucial point of diversity to form your adventure capable team. Let start?


CAMPBELL, Joseph. The hero with a thousand faces. New World Library, 2008.

FRANKL, Viktor E. O homem em busca de um sentido. Leya, 2012.

LANSING, Alfred. A incrível viagem de Shackleton. Sextante, 2009.

LARSON, Edward J. An empire of ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the heroic age of Antarctic science. Yale University Press, 2011.

WATKINS, Julian. The 100 Greatest Advertisements 1852-1958: Who Wrote Them and what They Did. Courier Corporation, 2012.

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