Being Ernest

Elephant Island, April 24 1916

Dearest Emily,

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

Seeing the ship being eaten by ice and spend months of Antarctic night I have accepted, but to set out in our tiny vessel across the stormy sea is just folly, but it is the only way to convince my men that any hope is left.

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

Forever Yours,


This is one of my favorite pictures ever so I have done some tweaking to the letter which is an imaginary letter sent from Ernest Shackleton before he set out on his desperate mission for South Georgia to be saved from being ice-locked.

Indirectly I have a connection to the story. My father was a professor in geography and one of his predecessors on the same possession was Otto Nordenskjöld who made a similar expedition and met a similar destiny. Actually Shackleton could benefit from that expedition because they could use the house that the Swedish expedition had used to survive the first winter. The difference was that Nordenskjöld was saved by a rescue expedition from Argentina. When I was a kid I once met the widow of Nordenskjöld and I still remember some of the stories she told.

Friday Fictioeers is currently on Reruns while Rochelle finalize the last book in her trilogy.

August 14, 2016

67 responses to “Being Ernest

  1. It’s always dangerous to fictionalise real people and events, but I think this works, because of the contrast between the very simple personal universal emotions and the immensity of the journey

  2. Either folly or courage were needed to make those journeys. The freezing cold is one of the most unpleasant unrelenting enemies someone can go against, and they weren’t that well equipped considering.
    I like the letter it has an authentic ring to it, and the backstory enriches everything.

  3. I’m somewhat familiar with Shackleton’s expedition. The letter is quite touching. Are we ever worthy?
    Great story, Bjorn. I especially enjoyed the afterward notes.

  4. I totally thought this was going to be about Ernest Hemingway when I read the title. 🙂

    The double meaning in your title is clever. Likewise, “Elephant Island” grabs my attention … one, because I have an enduring love for elephants, but two, because of the “elephant in the room” expression.

    I’m torn between thinking this is an exquisite poetic-letter and being pissed at him, from Emily’s point of view. Of course, it’s in a man’s nature to want to explore and conquer everything, but it’s in a woman’s nature to want her man to sit beside her and just cuddle (where it’s safe).

    Your gentle rhymes are so good: sea/unworthy, ice/night, sea/folly.

    This is my favorite part: “Seeing the ship being eaten by ice”

    I also think the use of “adze” at the end works very well.

  5. I had to look up adze 🙂 I love the construction as a letter. It seems to me to be a good format for a 100 worder.

  6. “…but only with Endurance I could ever show my worthiness to you.” it could be a translation thing, but i feel this should be “could i ever” instead of “i could ever.” a manifestation of hopelessness. well done.

  7. Wow! What an experience it must have been to speak to the widow. A moment in time, forever etched in memory. 🙂 Love this little letter.

  8. Terrific work this week, Bjorn! Informative and entertaining. I like that your dad was a professor of geography. I have always enjoyed in Jules Verne stories the various places in the world mentioned in the plot lines since Verne was a geography expert. It always makes things sound authoritative for some reason.

    Super job!

  9. What a lovely letter, Bjorn. Such a strong voice with it too. The story of Ernest Shackleton and his team is extraordinary – why it’s not better known than Scott’s is beyond me. Shackleton was indomitable – every man on that expedition back alive too.
    Lovely tone and feels like it could be him talking . Great stuff

  10. I’d say you were destined to write this story, Bjorn. Wow, what a connection! I like your approach with a letter. You got the tone and language just right it seems to me.

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