Antarctica and the Fourth Man

Three men, pressed forward bent against a howling gale.  No longer were they concerned for themselves or even the men left behind that were depending on them.  Each step was one taken forward in the hope of their own survival.

A glacier is a cold place to be in an Antarctic storm and these three Frank Worsley, Tom Crean and their leader Earnest Shackleton had been shipwrecked in this Southern Wasteland for almost a year-and-a-half.  It was early May in 1916 and the winter was closing in. They had been on this ice for over 30 hours and for two days braved hurricane and hunger.  On this remote island of South Georgia they could not hear the clang and clatter of the whaling station at nearby Stomness.

It was in this desolation one of the most enduring and mysterious tales are told. Each man experienced a stranger in their midst.  A fourth Man. In the poem “The Waste Land” T.S. Elliot uses some poetic licence with the idea and the fourth man becomes three.

“Who is the third man who walks beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together.
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another walking beside you.
Gliding, wrapped in a brown mantle, hooded.
I do not know whether a man or a woman –
But who is that on the other side of you?

Many have felt it – and in that icy wasteland each man, Crean, Worsley and Shackleton separately wrote about it.  The Fourth Man. Who then is this mysterious man? Some may think it a deity like Jesus; some may think it their own higher self. Who is the Fourth Man?

Just some cold facts –

The Arctic is an ocean surrounded by land.  Antarctica is a continent surrounded by an ocean. Antarctica is 12 times the size of South Africa and is bigger than Europe.

The North Pole is a meter above sea level, the South Pole is over 2800 metres above sea level

In the Arctic Circle people live, there are mammals and there is a tree line. Polar ice covers 98% of Antarctica. The mean average temperature in the Arctic is -18°C and in Antarctica it is -50°C. The icebergs in the Arctic are measured in cubic metres and in cubic kilometres in Antarctica.

It’s a Soul changing place.


About Tom Cottrell

Tom is a struggling author, pilgrim and citizen of Planet Earth.
Gallery | This entry was posted in The Hell of it and other essays and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Antarctica and the Fourth Man

  1. Pingback: Antarctica – Closing off. | Tom Cottrell

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