Forever Ernest

Copyright Georgia Koch

Copyright Georgia Koch

Elephant Island, April 24 1916

Dear Emily,

If you ever read this letter, you probably know that I have perished at sea. You know I always loved you; but only with Endurance I can show my worthiness to you.

Seeing the ship be eaten by ice and spend months of Antarctic night was all well, but to set out in our tiny vessel across the stormy sea has made it harder than ever to encourage my men that we still have any hope.

Tomorrow we will be at the mercy of wind, sea and a carpenter’s adze.

Forever Your Ernest


This week my muse took the route of historical fiction through and imagined letter sent from Ernest Shackleton to his wife Emily right before he set out on a life-boat across the stormy sea to South Georgia (to tie it into the name of the photographer).

Friday Fictioneers is a vivid group of writers who every week set out on adventurous expeditions across the globe. We are follow the beacons from light-house master Rochelle Wissoff-Fields, and the only constraint is a story in 100 words that write to the same picture.

January 21, 2015

110 responses to “Forever Ernest

  1. This sort of writing always makes me cry. Too readily I place myself in the person of the letter writer and wonder if the letter will be received or if I will just vanish from the heart. Too often I place myself in the person of the receiver, holding that last bit of the person close, as if I could embrace them one last time. Lovely work.

  2. this is really cool man….love the set up as a letter….as i think letters allow us to convey personal feeling and intimacy in a way that little else allows….

  3. There’s nothing sadder than a letter written in the possibility that it will only be read when the writer is dead. Nicely done Bjorn.

  4. Great stuff, Bjorn. Invokes the spirit of the age and the personaliy of the man. I don’t know much about this bit of history – your story has sent me into the depths of the internet to discover more.

  5. Well done, Bjorn. Showing a letter he was to have sent to his wife was a great way of telling the problems he was having. Creative use of the prompt. 🙂 — Suzanne

  6. I’ve read a bit about Shackleton and Mawson and just finished a story called The Ice Balloon by Alec Wilkinson: (1897, at the height of the heroic age of Arctic exploration, the visionary Swedish explorer S. A. Andrée made a revolutionary attempt to discover the North Pole by flying over it in a hydrogen balloon. Thirty-three years later, his expedition diaries and papers would be discovered on the ice.) These explorers had more brain than brawn sometimes but with out them??

    Lovely take on the prompt and again – thanks for the edit.

    • I grew up with the tragic story of the André .. my father was a professor of geography and a late successor to Otto Nordensköld…. so stories and speculations where sometimes shared at the dinnertable at home.

  7. Dear Bjorn,

    I had but to read the location and date at the beginning of your story/letter to know what was coming. A most excellent tribute to the Mr. Shackleton. James McIlroy, an ancestor of m one, was one of two surgeons on the Endurance’s crew.

    Outstanding tale, sir.



    • Wow.. we all love those connections.. my connection is that I once met with the widow of Otto Nordensköld.. who had a similar adventure (actually Shackleton was part in setting up the Argentinean rescue operation)

  8. Dear Bjorne … Love the letter format, as I’ve seen many have. It really pulls one into the story and heats up ones curiosity to know more … so it’s a Googling I will go! Ciao, Georgia!

  9. To perish at sea and to lose someone that way, well that’s just about as sad as it gets. You are at the mercy of nature and the mighty sea. Nicely told, Bjorn. I like the tie in to the trip and name. That was most clever of you!

  10. Very touching, and I like that you’ve written this week’s prompt as a letter.
    I liked the line “at the mercy of wind, sea and a carpenter’s adze” – two forces of nature versus the skill of the man who built the boat.

  11. “If you ever read this letter, you probably know that I have perished at sea.” So sad–the beginning and the end of the story in the first sentence.

  12. Great response to the prompt. I don’t know anything about the history behind it but it’s fascinating all the same. Your choice to tell it through the letter was a really good one – it really pulls at the heartstrings. It’s so easy to imagine receiving such a thing. 🙂

  13. Dear Bjorn, Wonderful story and so sad. I don’t know what I’d say to Mike if I was in a predicament so harrowing. I had never heard the word “adze” but I’ve seen one before. Glad they had one with them on their trip, otherwise, they probably wouldn’t have made it! Excellent and entertaining story! Nan 🙂

  14. dear Björn
    I had to google Shakleton, when I stiumbled over “Endurance” – that was tricky, to use the ships name this way. It´s not easy to get a whole story into 100 words, but you maneged it. And the most important thing for all of us writers, suspense. At the end of the letter I wanted to know what happened to him, to Emily…sure I would read the book if this was the first page 🙂
    Liebe Grüße

    • Thank you Carmen,
      The Shackleton story is amazing, I have seen it on film, I have heard it told, and of course this was the crucial point in his life (afterwards) setting out on a hopeless mission only to succeed. I have no idea if he ever wrote a letter, but reading I understand the Emily was very important in his life.

  15. I like this imagined letter and how it shows the importance of love in a life.
    I saw a Shackleton exhibit at a museum a few years ago. Quite an amazing fellow.

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