Then every man in that room stood up

“That evening a sort of crude reception was held in what Worsley described as a ‘large room, full of captains and mates and sailors, and hazy with tobacco smoke.’ Four white-haired, veteran Norwegian skippers came forward. Their spokesman, speaking in Norse with Sørlle translating, said that they had sailed the Antarctic seas for forty years, and that they wanted to shake the hands of the men who could bring an open 22-foot boat from Elephant Island through the Drake Passage to South Georgia.

“Then every man in that room stood up, and the four old skippers took Shackleton and Worsley and Crean by the hand and congratulated them on what they had done.

“Many of the whalemen were bearded and dressed in heavy sweaters and sea boots. There was no formality, no speeches. They had no medals or decorations to bestow—only their heartfelt admiration for an accomplishment which perhaps only they would ever fully appreciate. And their sincerity lent to the scene a simple but profoundly moving solemnity. Of the honors that followed—and there were many—possibly none ever exceeded that night of May 22, 1916, when, in a dingy warehouse shack on South Georgia, with the smell of rotting whale carcasses in the air, the whalemen of the southern ocean stepped forward one by one and silently shook hands with Shackleton, Worsley, and Crean.”

— Alfred Lansing, Endurance

About Ernest Shackleton

Polar Explorer. Leader of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914-1917.
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