The Endurance - Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition


By: Caroline Alexander
Published by: Knopf
Hardback, 160 pages
Buy it.

Publication date: November 1998
Price: $20.97
ISBN: 0375404031

Shackleton. The name is spoken in hushed reverence by wild-eyed believers. The mention of the name once caused a tough Norwegian whaler to turn and weep. The name is synonymous with adventure and triumph, all in the face of failure of every one of his expeditions.

When I first read about Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, I thought "How hard could it really have been." Caroline Alexander's new book, The Endurance‚Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition, sheds eye opening detail on the story of one of history¼s greatest tests of survival.

The most notable detail in the book are the high quality reproductions of the previously unpublished photos of Frank Hurley, the expedition photographer. Haunting images of the Endurance trapped in the ice, pictures of the men toiling under the weight of life boats being dragged across the ice, men staring listlessly into the flames of a stove, and the joy of realizing rescue boats are on the horizon.

The last of her breed, the Endurance was the pride of the Norwegian whaling ships. Built to survive the harsh arctic travel. Yet it succumbed so quickly to the overpowering Antarctic ice, stranding the men on the ice floes of the Weddell Sea. As the floes drifted northward, the expedition had to keep continual watch for breaking up of the ice, which was their key to survival and the biggest fear that it would commit them to them to the sea.

How hard was it really? Take 25 men to the Antarctic in 1914, loose your ship in the ice floes, survive 2 Antarctic winters, sail across an 800 mile stretch of the most treacherous, storm ridden part of the ocean in a 23 foot boot at the beginning of winter, cross a heavily glaciated 40 mile section of mountains that rise 9000 feet from sea level, all without the aid of modern technical equipment and clothing, and not loose one man. In an age when 1 out of 5 climbers on Everest die, the survival of the men of the Endurance is nothing short of miraculous. All due in large part to the heroic leadership of Sir Earnest Shackleton.

If you are one of the wild eyed-believers, this book is a must read. If you don't know about Shackleton and the men of the Endurance, this is a great introduction.

Reviewed by John Walter

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