“Shackleton’s Decision” by Faith Shearin

Read by (an emotional) Christy. If the above doesn’t play for you, try clicking this link.


At a certain point he decided they could not afford
the dogs. It was someone’s job to take them one by one
behind a pile of ice and shoot them. I try to imagine
the arctic night which descended and would not lift,

a darkness that clung to their clothes. Some men objected
because the dogs were warmth and love, reminders
of their previous life where they slept in soft beds,
their bellies warm with supper. Dog tails were made

of joy, their bodies were wrapped in a fur of hope.
I had to put the book down when I read about the dogs
walking willingly into death, following orders,
one clutching an old toy between his teeth. They trusted

the men who led them into this white danger,
this barren cold. My God, they pulled the sleds
full of provisions and barked away the Sea Leopards.
Someone was told to kill the dogs because supplies

were running low and the dogs, gathered around
the fire, their tongues wet with kindness, knew
nothing of betrayal; they knew how to sit and come,
how to please, how to bow their heads, how to stay.

“Shackleton’s Decision” by Faith Shearin, from Moving the Piano. © Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2011.

Related reading: Ernest Shackleton’s biography and Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing.

7 thoughts on ““Shackleton’s Decision” by Faith Shearin

  1. Robert Durkiin

    It was decided by a drawing of lots. The man who shot the first dog is quoted in “Endurance : Shackleton Legedary Antarctic Expedition” by Caroline Alexander, as having said “I’d rather have shot the man beside me”. I remember this from my 1st reading, upon the books first having been published, twenty years ago this month.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Can you even imagine, Robert? I’m not sure I could do it, and I pray I’m never in a situation to find out … I also remember that not a single man died—against hellish odds—even when they had to traverse the ice packed waters in a lifeboat.
      I need to read the book again. Twenty years….. wow. (There was also an amazing movie narrated by Liam Neeson.)

      Appreciate your note!

      Like

  2. This gave me chills – I don’t know how you managed to even get through reading this.
    The dog with the toy in its mouth – oomph.
    Ironic that I just finished reading an essay on the Donner Party – how cold, snowy and heartbreaking…and how many cattle and oxen they lost.
    Thank you for sharing – you know how I love hearing your voice ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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