On the last Monday of 1913, Henry McNish was sitting in his kitchen, nursing a pint and stroking the nape of his cat. An old-time sailor with the Royal Naval Reserve, he was an outstanding shipwright who had earned a reputation as much for his mood swings and oddities, like sucking loudly on his teeth and performing assorted dental operations with a match, as he had for being a craftsman. A dour, brooding sort of man, the years seeming to be passing him by, his dreams were as yet unfulfilled.
"Well, my feline friend," he said, as he picked up the tabby he called Mrs. Chippy. "Have you seen the news?" Then he placed the cat on the paper, open to page six.
Stretching his paws, the cat arched its back and let the tail go stiff. Then he slid his belly to the table and loosed a yawn. His master took another swig and placed the mug down. With an eye to the print he began to talk.
"Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success. Signed, Sir Ernest Shackleton. That is first-rate. Perchance to live the dream. I think we'll check it out."
Three years later, when Chippy McNish returned from the Antarctic it was without the best friend he ever had. Twenty-six men had survived the ice and the solitude. But the cat had not.