The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition / Edition 1

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Overview

In August 1914, days before the outbreak of the First World War, the renowned explorer Ernest Shackleton and a crew of twenty-seven set sail for the South Atlantic in pursuit of the last unclaimed prize in the history of exploration: the first crossing on foot of the Antarctic continent. Weaving a treacherous path through the freezing Weddell Sea, they had come within eighty-five miles of their destination when their ship, Endurance, was trapped fast in the ice pack. Soon the ship was crushed like matchwood, leaving the crew stranded on the floes. Their ordeal would last for twenty months, and they would make two near-fatal attempts to escape by open boat before their final rescue.

Drawing upon previously unavailable sources, Caroline Alexander gives us a riveting account of Shackleton's expedition--one of history's greatest epics of survival. And she presents the astonishing work of Frank Hurley, the Australian photographer whose visual record of the adventure has never before been published comprehensively. Together, text and image re-create the terrible beauty of Antarctica, the awful destruction of the ship, and the crew's heroic daily struggle to stay alive, a miracle achieved largely through Shackleton's inspiring leadership.

The survival of Hurley's remarkable images is scarcely less miraculous: The original glass plate negatives, from which most of the book's illustrations are superbly reproduced, were stored in hermetically sealed cannisters that survived months on the ice floes, a week in an open boat on the polar seas, and several more months buried in the snows of a rocky outcrop called Elephant Island. Finally Hurley was forced to abandon his professional equipment; he captured some of the most unforgettable images of the struggle with a pocket camera and three rolls of Kodak film.

Published in conjunction with the American Museum of Natural History's landmark exhibition on Shackleton's journey, The Endurance thrillingly recounts one of the last great adventures in the Heroic Age of exploration--perhaps the greatest of them all.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
Thrilling...! One of the greatest adventure stories of our times.
John Skow
An astonishing book.
Time Magazine
New Yorker
Elegantly told.
Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
Evokes the beauty and the terror of the Antarctic, the eerie landscape of ice blocks piling up like sugar cubes, the sound of emperor penguins crying soulfully as if lamenting the breakup of the Endurance.
The New York Times
Patrick Reardon
T.A story of will, courage and grit. What makes it even more stirring are the starkly elegant images.
Chicago Tribune
Atlantic Monthly
...Ms. Alexander has sensibly, and ably, concentrated on the characters and interactions of the men....Frank Hurley['s]...pictures are dazzling...
Tony Gibbs
Alexander's book brings to enthralling, inspiring life one of the great adventures of all time.
Islands Magazine
Library Journal
During Shackleton's 1914 expedition to Antarctica, he and his crew were trapped on ice floes for 20 months. Alexander is curating a forthcoming exhibition on their plight.
The Atlantic Monthly
...Ms. Alexander has sensibly, and ably, concentrated on the characters and interactions of the men....Frank Hurley['s]...pictures are dazzling...
The New Yorker
Elegantly told.
New York Magazine
Thrillingly told.
Patrick T. Reardon
A story of will, courage and grit. What makes it even more stirring are the starkly elegant images.
Chicago Tribune
John Skow
An astonishing book.
Time Magazine
Carolyn N. Warmbold
One wants to stand up and cheer the heroic human spirit.
Atlanta Journal
Tony Gibbs
Alexander's book brings to enthralling, inspiring life one of the great adventures of all time.
Islands Magazine
Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
Evokes the beauty and the terror of the Antarctic, the eerie landscape of ice blocks piling up like sugar cubes, the sound of emperor penguins crying soulfully as if lamenting the breakup of the Endurance.
The New York Times
Hilary Liftin
Survival of the Fittest

In 1915 several men were rescued on the frozen and barren Elephant Isle in the middle of the rough seas that surround Antarctica. Led by Sir Ernest Shackleton, they had set out toward Antarctica 20 months earlier on what was meant to be the first expedition to cross the continent. Since then they had been through several different hells, all of them cold and wet. Beginning with the sinking of their ship, the Endurance which left them floating on huge blocks of ice 300 miles from land, the men had lived on the ice and managed to sail three open boats to the inhospitable island. Still in grave circumstances, with little but seal meat to eat, 22 men waited while their leader and five men set off on an impossible mission to bring them all home safely to England. Which he, against all odds, did.

In the throes of World War I, England paid them little mind. Most men their age, after all, were out dying for their country. Now, however, times are different. As Adventure Library publisher Edward Burlingame points out in a Wall Street Journal article on "Shackleton-mania," "The public is hungry, not so much for the political values that separate people, but for the core values that unite people: leadership, perserverance [sic], moral or physical courage." The heroism and gentlemanly comport that Shackleton and his crew displayed certainly put those poor actually, rich Everest folks to shame.

Caroline Alexander, curator of the American Museum of Natural History's forthcoming Shackleton exhibition, has put together a companion volume. Endurance tells the dramatic adventure of the survivors and publishes, for the first time, the photographs that the expedition's somewhat glamorous photographer, Frank Hurley, so carefully preserved 80 years ago in the hope of just this kind of fame. Among the many ways in which this story has and will be told, Alexander's stands out. This is familiar terrain for Alexander, whose last book, Mrs. Chippy's Last Expedition, told the story of the Endurance from the perspective of the ship's cat. She has made excellent use of the crew members' diaries, which relate in amazing detail even the most traumatic moments. On the wreck of the ship, photographer Hurley notes:

The floes are in a state of agitation throughout the day, and in consequence, I had the cinema trained on the ship the whole time. I secured the unique film of the mast collapsing. Toward evening, as though conscious of having achieved its purpose, the floes were quiescent again.
Unlike Alfred Lansing's long-selling, breathless telling, also titled Endurance, Alexander's relies on the intrinsic drama of her subject, both in the text and in the accompanying photographs. These previously unseen photos are all like the cliffs of ice they sometimes portray, at once beautiful and ominous.

Adventure and media trends aside, there is much value to be found in the story of this fight for survival, and Alexander finds a remarkably even keel along which she balances the dire circumstances, the comic relief, the human truths, and the ultimate, timeless significance of this story.

— Hilary Liftin, barnesandnoble.com

Kirkus Reviews
The saga of the Endurance and her crew—Shackleton's Antarctic fiasco turned heroic melodrama—is discovered anew through the expedition's previously unpublished photos and Alexander's (The Way to Xanadu) well-turned storytelling.

The Heroic Age was coming to a close when Sir Ernest Shackleton took off in pursuit of one of exploration's last prizes: the crossing on foot of the Antarctic continent. But his boat never made its intended southernmost harbor. Instead, it got stuck in ice in the Weddell Sea, abode of 200-mile-per-hour winds and 100-degree-below-zero temperatures. Thus began two years of chilly misfortune, met by the crew's perseverance, and conveyed by Alexander in an elegant, subdued manner: The eerie portents of the ice close ever tighter around the Endurance, the helpless, hopeless, endless days follow one another on the ice pack, and finally Shackleton makes an outrageous bid to reach South Georgia Island, 900 miles distant, in one of the abandoned mother ship's small boats—through a hurricane, no less. Accompanying the expedition, luckily, was photographer James Hurley, who was to chronicle the exploit visually both for scientific purposes and entertainment value. His images, which miraculously survived the ordeal, give the story an added palpability in time and space. Many of the photographs are not only quite beautiful, particularly of the Endurance as it sits icebound yet under desperate full sail, but also moving, with crew members putting on their best faces as death sat waiting just outside the picture frame.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375404030
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/28/1998
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 219,015
  • Lexile: 1180L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.25 (w) x 9.45 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


CAROLINE ALEXANDER has written for The New Yorker, Granta, Conde Nast Traveler, Smithsonian, Outside, and National Geographic, and is the author of four other books. She is the curator of "Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Expedition", an exhibition that opened at the American Museum of National History. She lives in New Hampshire.

MARTIN RUBEN has lived and worked as an actor in Minneapolis for almost 30 years, performing at most Twin Cities theatres. He can also be heard on numerous radio and television commercials.

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Read an Excerpt

The captain of the ship, Frank Worsley, would remember the day vividly ever afterward. It was July, midwinter in Antarctica, and the darkness of the long polar night had been upon them for many weeks. The temperature was -30° Fahrenheit, and around the ship, extending to the horizon in all directions, was a sea of ice, white and mysterious under the clear, hard stars. From time to time, the shriek of the wind outside broke all conversation. Away in the distance, the ice would groan, and Worsley and his two companions would listen to its ominous voice as it travelled to them across the frozen miles. Sometimes, the little ship would quiver and groan in response, her wooden timbers straining as the pressure from millions of tons of ice, set in motion by some faraway disturbance, at last reached her resting place and nipped at her resilient sides. One of the three men spoke.

"She's pretty near her end. . . . The ship can't live in this, Skipper. You had better make up your mind that it is only a matter of time. It may be a few months, and it may be only a question of weeks, or even days . . . but what the ice gets, the ice keeps."

The year was 1915. The speaker was Sir Ernest Shackleton, one of the most renowned polar explorers of his day, and the third man was Frank Wild, his second-in-command. Their ship, Endurance, was trapped at latitude 74° south, deep in the frozen waters of Antarctica's Weddell Sea. Shackleton had been intent on an ambitious mission: He and his men had travelled to the south to claim one of the last remaining prizes in exploration, the crossing on foot of the Antarctic continent.

Since December 1914, the Endurance had battled unusually heavy ice conditions, travelling more than 1,000 miles from the remote whaling stations on the island of South Georgia, at the gateway to the Antarctic Circle. One hundred miles short of her intended harbor, new ice conditions brought the Endurance to a halt. A northeast gale blowing on and off for six straight days compressed the pack against the Antarctic ice shelf, trapping the ship fast within it. Days later, the temperature plummeted to 9°, as good as cementing the loose pack for the winter. Meanwhile, the leisurely, unrelenting northerly drift of the Weddell Sea carried the Endurance within the pack farther and farther from the land it had come so close to reaching.

When Shackleton embarked upon his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, he was already a national hero with two polar expeditions behind him, including one that had taken him to within 100 miles of the South Pole, the farthest south anyone had travelled at that time. Yet for all the heroism of these earlier efforts, neither had accomplished what it had set out to do. By the time Shackleton headed south again in 1914, the prize of the South Pole, which he had twice sought, had been claimed by others. Undaunted, he had turned his sights upon a last great venture--the crossing of the Antarctic continent from the Weddell to the Ross Sea. The preparations for the Endurance expedition had been all-consuming; not the least of Shackleton's tasks had been raising the funds to make it possible. He was forty years of age, and he had summoned all his experience as explorer and organizer to bear on this ambitious undertaking. Shackleton could not yet know it, but the trans-Antarctic expedition would amount to another unsuccessful venture. Yet ultimately it would be for this, the failed Endurance expedition, that he would be most remembered.

Antarctic exploration of the early twentieth century was unlike exploration of anywhere else on earth. No dangerous beasts or savage natives barred the pioneering explorer's way. Here, with wind speeds up to nearly 200 miles an hour and temperatures as extreme as -100° Fahrenheit, the essential competitions were pure and uncomplicated, being between man and the unfettered force of raw Nature, and man and the limits of his own endurance. Antarctica was also unique in being a place that was genuinely discovered by its explorers. No indigenous peoples had been living there all along, and the men who set foot on the continent during this age could authentically claim to have been where no member of humankind had ever cast a shadow.

Beginning in 1914 and ending in 1917, straddling the First World War, the Endurance expedition is often said to have been the last in the Heroic Age of polar exploration. The significance and ambition of Shackleton's proposed trans-Antarctic crossing is best appreciated within a context of the ordeals of heroism--and egotism--that had played out before. Indeed, Shackleton's greatness as a leader on the Endurance owes much to the sometimes insane suffering of his earlier Antarctic experiences.

The Heroic Age began when the ship Discovery, under the command of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, set out for Antarctica's McMurdo Sound in August 1901. Despite public talk of scientific advancement, the real objective of this first inland expedition, as of subsequent ones, was to reach the as yet unclaimed South Pole and win it for Britain. Scott chose two men to accompany him on this first bid for the pole--Dr. Edward Wilson, a physician, zoologist, and close friend; and Lieutenant Ernest Shackleton, a twenty-eight-year-old merchant service officer, whose commissions had taken him to Africa and the East. On November 2, the three men set out with nineteen sledging dogs and five loaded sledges. They faced an unspeakably daunting challenge, a round-trip journey of more than 1,600 miles, hard sledging all the way, through an entirely unknown and uncharted environment.

By day, the three man-hauled their loads with or without the aid of the dogs, ferrying their supplies in time-consuming relays. By night they meticulously divided their meager food into three equal portions and read Darwin to one another before retiring to their frozen sleeping bags. They starved, they suffered from scurvy. The dogs sickened and dropped, and were butchered to feed the survivors. Scott pushed his band on to 82°17’ south, 745 miles north of the pole, before acknowledging their desperate situation and reluctantly giving the order to turn back. By this time, Shackleton was spitting blood, undone by scurvy, and sometimes had to be carried on the sledge. On February 3, 1903, three months after setting out, they arrived back at their ship. The last leg of this terrible journey had been a race for their very lives.

This first Antarctic trek established the pattern of heroic suffering that would characterize subsequent British expeditions. Yet even a casual perusal of the explorers' diaries suggests this suffering was unnecessary. Less than three weeks into their journey Wilson notes: "Dogs getting very tired and very slow (19 November). . . . The dogs made terribly heavy weather of it today, and the dog driving has become the most exasperating work (21 November). . . . Dogs very weary indeed and terribly slack and the driving of them has become a perfectly beastly business (24 November)." Day after day, one follows the downward spiral of these wretched, exhausted animals. It is unpleasant reading.

Scott's own diary sounds more alarms: "On the whole our ski so far have been of little value. . . . [T]he dogs, which have now become only a hindrance, were hitched on behind the sledges," Scott wrote on January 6, 1903. The following day he notes that they "dropped all the dogs out of the traces and pulled steadily ourselves for seven hours, covering ten good miles by sledge-meter. . . . [T]he animals walked pretty steadily alongside the sledges." It is a stunningly improbable image: Three men walking across Antarctica at about a mile an hour with their skis securely strapped to the sledges, accompanied by a pack of dogs. Scott and his companions had not taken the time to become proficient on skis, nor did they have any knowledge of driving dogs. Their prodigious difficulties, therefore, were the result of almost inconceivable incompetence, not necessity. And the men were starving--not because unforeseen disaster had taken their supplies, but because they had not rationed sufficient food. Shackleton, the biggest of the men, suffered the most because he required more fuel than did the others.

And they had quarrelled. Scott and Shackleton could not have been temperamentally more dissimilar and had virtually no rapport. As a product of the navy, Scott established a rigid order predicated upon rank and rules; on the Discovery, in the middle of the Antarctic, he put a man in irons for disobedience. Shackleton, an Anglo-Irishman from the ranks of the merchant marine, was charismatic, mixing easily with both crew and officers. He had been chosen to accompany Scott on account of his physical strength. The long days of white silence, the unrelenting tedium and hardship, the unrelieved close quarters--all these factors must have shredded the men's nerves. Wilson appears to have been forced to act as peacemaker on more than one occasion. Years later, Scott's second-in-command told the story that after breakfast one day Scott had called to the other men, "Come here, you bloody fools." Wilson asked if he was speaking to him, and Scott replied no. "Then it must have been me," said Shackleton. "Right, you're the worst bloody fool of the lot, and every time you dare to speak to me like that, you'll get it back." It is a surreal encounter, a piece of absurd theater--three men alone at the ends of the earth in a virtual whiteout, hissing at one another.

On their return to the Discovery, Scott invalided Shackleton home. Though mortified by his early return to England, Shackleton arrived home as a hero who had gone farther south than anyone before. And as the lone available authority on the expedition, he received more attention than would otherwise have been the case. This recognition, he must have known, would prove valuable should he one day wish to stage his own expedition. In any case, he would never again submit to the leadership of another man.

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First Chapter

Chapter One

The Heroic Age


The captain of the ship, Frank Worsley, would remember the day vividly ever afterward. It was July, midwinter in Antarctica, and the darkness of the long polar night had been upon them for many weeks. The temperature was -30 [degrees] Fahrenheit, and around the ship, extending to the horizon in all directions, was a sea of ice, white and mysterious under the clear, hard stars. From time to time, the shriek of the wind outside broke all conversation. Away in the distance, the ice would groan, and Worsley and his two companions would listen to its ominous voice as it travelled to them across the frozen miles. Sometimes, the little ship would quiver and groan in response, her wooden timbers straining as the pressure from millions of tons of ice, set in motion by some faraway disturbance, at last reached her resting place and nipped at her resilient sides. One of the three men spoke.

    "She's pretty near her end.... The ship can't live in this, Skipper. You had better make up your mind that it is only a matter of time. It may be a few months, and it may be only a question of weeks, or even days ... but what the ice gets, the ice keeps."


The year was 1915. The speaker was Sir Ernest Shackleton, one of the most renowned polar explorers of his day, and the third man was Frank Wild, his second-in-command. Their ship, Endurance, was trapped at latitude 74 [degrees] south, deep in the frozen waters of Antarctica's Weddell Sea. Shackleton had been intent on an ambitious mission: He and his men had travelled to the south to claim one of the last remaining prizes in exploration, the crossing on foot of the Antarctic continent.

    Since December 1914, the Endurance had battled unusually heavy ice conditions, travelling more than 1,000 miles from the remote whaling stations on the island of South Georgia, at the gateway to the Antarctic Circle. One hundred miles short of her intended harbor, new ice conditions brought the Endurance to a halt. A northeast gale blowing on and off for six straight days compressed the pack against the Antarctic ice shelf, trapping the ship fast within it. Days later, the temperature plummeted to 9 [degrees], as good as cementing the loose pack for the winter. Meanwhile, the leisurely, unrelenting northerly drift of the Weddell Sea carried the Endurance within the pack farther and farther from the land it had come so close to reaching.

    When Shackleton embarked upon his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, he was already a national hero with two polar expeditions behind him, including one that had taken him to within 100 miles of the South Pole, the farthest south anyone had travelled at that time. Yet for all the heroism of these earlier efforts, neither had accomplished what it had set out to do. By the time Shackleton headed south again in 1914, the prize of the South Pole, which he had twice sought, had been claimed by others. Undaunted, he had turned his sights upon a last great venture — the crossing of the Antarctic continent from the Weddell to the Ross Sea. The preparations for the Endurance expedition had been all-consuming; not the least of Shackleton's tasks had been raising the funds to make it possible. He was forty years of age, and he had summoned all his experience as explorer and organizer to bear on this ambitious undertaking. Shackleton could not yet know it, but the trans-Antarctic expedition would amount to another unsuccessful venture. Yet ultimately it would be for this, the failed Endurance expedition, that he would be most remembered.


Antarctic exploration of the early twentieth century was unlike exploration of anywhere else on earth. No dangerous beasts or savage natives barred the pioneering explorer's way. Here, with wind speeds up to nearly 200 miles an hour and temperatures as extreme as -100 [degrees] Fahrenheit, the essential competitions were pure and uncomplicated, being between man and the unfettered force of raw Nature, and man and the limits of his own endurance. Antarctica was also unique in being a place that was genuinely discovered by its explorers. No indigenous peoples had been living there all along, and the men who set foot on the continent during this age could authentically claim to have been where no member of humankind had ever cast a shadow.

    Beginning in 1914 and ending in 1917, straddling the First World War, the Endurance expedition is often said to have been the last in the Heroic Age of polar exploration. The significance and ambition of Shackleton's proposed trans-Antarctic crossing is best appreciated within a context of the ordeals of heroism — and egotism — that had played out before. Indeed, Shackleton's greatness as a leader on the Endurance owes much to the sometimes insane suffering of his earlier Antarctic experiences.

    The Heroic Age began when the ship Discovery, under the command of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, set out for Antarctica's McMurdo Sound in August 1901. Despite public talk of scientific advancement, the real objective of this first inland expedition, as of subsequent ones, was to reach the as yet unclaimed South Pole and win it for Britain. Scott chose two men to accompany him on this first bid for the pole — Dr. Edward Wilson, a physician, zoologist, and close friend; and Lieutenant Ernest Shackleton, a twenty-eight-year-old merchant service officer, whose commissions had taken him to Africa and the East. On November 2, the three men set out with nineteen sledging dogs and five loaded sledges. They faced an unspeakably daunting challenge, a round-trip journey of more than 1,600 miles, hard sledging all the way, through an entirely unknown and uncharted environment.

    By day, the three man-hauled their loads with or without the aid of the dogs, ferrying their supplies in time-consuming relays. By night they meticulously divided their meager food into three equal portions and read Darwin to one another before retiring to their frozen sleeping bags. They starved, they suffered from scurvy. The dogs sickened and dropped, and were butchered to feed the survivors. Scott pushed his band on to 82 [degrees] 17' south, 745 miles north of the pole, before acknowledging their desperate situation and reluctantly giving the order to turn back. By this time, Shackleton was spitting blood, undone by scurvy, and sometimes had to be carried on the sledge. On February 3, 1903, three months after setting out, they arrived back at their ship. The last leg of this terrible journey had been a race for their very lives.

    This first Antarctic trek established the pattern of heroic suffering that would characterize subsequent British expeditions. Yet even a casual perusal of the explorers' diaries suggests this suffering was unnecessary. Less than three weeks into their journey Wilson notes: "Dogs getting very tired and very slow (19 November).... The dogs made terribly heavy weather of it today, and the dog driving has become the most exasperating work (21 November).... Dogs very weary indeed and terribly slack and the driving of them has become a perfectly beastly business (24 November)." Day after day, one follows the downward spiral of these wretched, exhausted animals. It is unpleasant reading.

    Scott's own diary sounds more alarms: "On the whole our ski so far have been of little value.... [T]he dogs, which have now become only a hindrance, were hitched on behind the sledges," Scott wrote on January 6, 1903. The following day he notes that they "dropped all the dogs out of the traces and pulled steadily ourselves for seven hours, covering ten good miles by sledge-meter.... [T]he animals walked pretty steadily alongside the sledges." It is a stunningly improbable image: Three men walking across Antarctica at about a mile an hour with their skis securely strapped to the sledges, accompanied by a pack of dogs. Scott and his companions had not taken the time to become proficient on skis, nor did they have any knowledge of driving dogs. Their prodigious difficulties, therefore, were the result of almost inconceivable incompetence, not necessity. And the men were starving — not because unforeseen disaster had taken their supplies, but because they had not rationed sufficient food. Shackleton, the biggest of the men, suffered the most because he required more fuel than did the others.

    And they had quarrelled. Scott and Shackleton could not have been temperamentally more dissimilar and had virtually no rapport. As a product of the navy, Scott established a rigid order predicated upon rank and rules; on the Discovery, in the middle of the Antarctic, he put a man in irons for disobedience. Shackleton, an Anglo-Irishman from the ranks of the merchant marine, was charismatic, mixing easily with both crew and officers. He had been chosen to accompany Scott on account of his physical strength. The long days of white silence, the unrelenting tedium and hardship, the unrelieved close quarters — all these factors must have shredded the men's nerves. Wilson appears to have been forced to act as peacemaker on more than one occasion. Years later, Scott's second-in-command told the story that after breakfast one day Scott had called to the other men, "Come here, you bloody fools." Wilson asked if he was speaking to him, and Scott replied no. "Then it must have been me," said Shackleton. "Right, you're the worst bloody fool of the lot, and every time you dare to speak to me like that, you'll get it back." It is a surreal encounter, a piece of absurd theater — three men alone at the ends of the earth in a virtual whiteout, hissing at one another.

    On their return to the Discovery, Scott invalided Shackleton home. Though mortified by his early return to England, Shackleton arrived home as a hero who had gone farther south than anyone before. And as the lone available authority on the expedition, he received more attention than would otherwise have been the case. This recognition, he must have known, would prove valuable should he one day wish to stage his own expedition. In any case, he would never again submit to the leadership of another man.

    The son of a physician, Shackleton was comfortably middle-class. Born in County Kildare, Ireland, he had lived briefly in Dublin as a child, before his parents moved their family permanently to England. He was the eldest of two sons and had eight doting sisters. Shackleton had been educated at Dulwich College, a middle-class public school of high reputation, before joining the British Merchant Navy at age sixteen. Prior to volunteering for the National Antarctic Expedition, under Captain Scott, he had been a third officer with a prestigious merchant service line. Charming and handsome, with dark, brooding looks, Shackleton was a man of romantic ambitions, and in later life would fall under the spell of many a fruitless fortune-making scheme. Polar exploration appealed to both his poetical nature and his urgent aspiration to secure a position in the class-riven world of his time. The Discovery expedition had opened the door onto a more glamorous and congenial life; it was a way out of the middle class.

    In 1904, Shackleton married his patient sweetheart, Emily Dorman, who, as the daughter of a well-to-do lawyer, was of modestly independent means. Now more than ever, he wanted to establish a name for himself. When ventures into journalism, business, and even politics failed, Shackleton moved towards his ultimate destiny. In early 1907, he obtained seed money for a new expedition to the South Pole. In August of the same year, after less than seven months of frantic organization, his ship Nimrod set sail for the south.

    Shackleton had learned much on the Discovery expedition, but he had not learned all he should; the Nimrod departed with ten Manchurian ponies and only nine dogs — even though expeditions to the Arctic had by this time proved that dog teams were the only practical mode of polar transportation. Shackleton had also made little progress in learning how to ski, and much of his mountaineering equipment would prove inadequate.

    These shortcomings notwithstanding, on October 29, 1908, Shackleton departed from his base at Cape Royds over the Great Ice Barrier on his second journey south with three companions and a team of four ponies. Once again, the pattern of man-hauling and suffering began. The ponies slipped and floundered, at times sinking up to their bellies in the snow. Eventually, most would be shot and eaten. By early December, Shackleton and his three companions — Frank Wild, Dr. Eric Marshall, and Lieutenant Jameson Adams — had reached the tongue of a massive, hitherto unknown glacier that flowed from the range of mountains abutting the Great Ice Barrier. Christened by Shackleton the Beardmore Glacier after one of the expedition's patrons, it was to be his party's gateway from the ice shelf on which they had been travelling to the continental plateau behind the mountains. It provided a fearful, glittering passage. Without crampons the men, accompanied by Socks, the lone remaining and unshod pony, fought their way up the dangerous tongue of ice. On the third day, the pony fell down a crevasse to his death. Suffering from snow-blindness, hunger, and frostbite, the men struggled beyond the Beardmore on to 88 [degrees] 23' south — approximately 100 miles short of the pole. Here, Shackleton took realistic stock of their meager provisions and failing strength, and made the bitter decision to turn back while survival was still possible. Near journey's end, with Adams critically ailing, Shackleton and Frank Wild dumped all the gear they could spare so as to make a desperate dash for the relief of their companion. They travelled thirty-six hours with little rest, only to find that the base camp they had so long dreamed of was deserted. They were discovered shortly afterward when the Nimrod returned with a search party preparing to winter over and look for their bodies.

    Shackleton's effort surpassed Scott's southern record by some 360 miles. Although he and his companions had suffered greatly, they survived and, thanks in great part to the fresh pony meat, had kept scurvy at bay. Back in England, Shackleton became a national hero and was knighted. Although he publicly made tentative plans for another southern expedition, this one to explore the land west of Cape Adare in the Ross Sea, his time was consumed by efforts to pay off the Nimrod's debts. For the next couple of years, Shackleton hit the lecture trail, dictated a best-selling book called The Heart of the Antarctic, and even turned the Nimrod into a museum, to which he charged admission. Meanwhile Scott, with the prayers and good wishes of the nation, headed back for another assault on the South Pole. Shackleton, mired in financial obligations, could only read the headlines and wait.

    Scott's last journey is, of course, an epic of its own. In October 1910, the news broke that the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen had secretly turned back from a projected trip to the Arctic and was headed south, intent on beating the British to the pole. The race was on. Both expeditions set out in October 1911, Scott from Cape Evans, near his old base, Amundsen from the Bay of Whales, some distance to the east. Scott's party, bogged down by a bewildering array of modes of transportation — ponies, such as Shackleton had already proved to be useless, motor sledges that didn't work, and dogs that no one knew how to drive — slogged their way south, adhering closely to Shackleton's route and playing out the now traditional drama of starvation and hardship. Amundsen and his four companions, travelling by ski with a team of fifty-two superbly conditioned and trained dogs, averaged a comfortable fifteen to twenty miles a day in comparison with Scott's ragged ten- to thirteen-mile daily pace. On their homeward run, the Norwegians covered up to thirty miles a day.

    "Cannot understand what the English mean when they say that dogs cannot be used here," Amundsen puzzled in his diary. On January 16, 1912, Scott and his debilitated team staggered to 89 [degrees] south to find the snow crisscrossed with the tracks of Amundsen's party.

    "The worst has happened," Scott allowed in his diary "All the day dreams must go." The following day, the dispirited party continued to the pole, planted their flag, took their notes and photographs, and prepared to turn back.

    "Great God! this is an awful place," wrote Scott. "Now for the run home and a desperate struggle. I wonder if we can do it."

    They could not. Each of the five men in Scott's company died on the ice. The end came in a raging blizzard that trapped the party, down to three survivors, in their single tent, a mere eleven miles south of a vital supply depot. Now Scott unfurled his real greatness — not for expeditionary leadership, but for language.

    "We shall die like gentlemen," he wrote to the expedition's treasurer in England. "I think this will show that the Spirit of pluck and power to endure has not passed out of our race." His Message to the Public is a litany of excuses stirringly presented — failed pony transport, weather, snow, "frightfully rough ice," "a shortage of fuel in our depots for which I cannot account," the illness of his brave companion Titus Oates. Yet, it is a cynical reader indeed who remains unmoved by this tide of final words penned in the gallant little tent and poured forth into the white night that raged around it.

    "Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions, which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale."

    "It seems a pity," he wrote as his diary's last entry, on March 29, "but I do not think I can write more."

    It took nearly a year for Scott's last words to reach the outside world. When they did, in February 1913, they plunged the entire empire into deep mourning. "With the sole exception of the death of Nelson in the hour of victory, there has been nothing so dramatic," a journalist noted. Scott's tragedy was commemorated in the press and in the pulpit. In the public telling, his party's fatal, perverse blunders were not merely forgotten but evaporated out of existence. A myth was born, and propagated by the eventual publication of Scott's diaries, subtly edited by Sir James Barrie, the author of Peter Pan and a master of sentimental prose.

    This, then, was the background against which Shackleton pulled together his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Setting out the year after the news of Scott's death, the Endurance expedition was ambivalently perceived as both a gripping national event and an anticlimax. In the public imagination, Antarctica was very much the place for heroic adventure; yet it seemed unthinkable that any future success could surpass Scott's glorious failure.

    Shackleton's aims, as stated in his expedition's prospectus, were compelling:


From the sentimental point of view, it is the last great Polar journey that can be made. It will be a greater journey than the journey to the Pole and back, and I feel it is up to the British nation to accomplish this, for we have been beaten at the conquest of the North Pole and beaten at the conquest of the South Pole. There now remains the largest and most striking of all journeys — the crossing of the Continent.


    Shackleton eventually cobbled together funds for his grand venture. His principal backers were the British government and Sir James Key Caird, a wealthy Scottish jute manufacturer who contributed a princely gift of 24,000 [pounds sterling]. Other benefactors of note were Miss Janet Stancomb-Wills, daughter of a tobacco tycoon, and Dudley Docker, of the Birmingham Small Arms Company. Lesser outright gifts came from the Royal Geographical Society, other individuals, and public schools throughout England, who underwrote the dog-sledging teams.

    Another source of money was the advance sale of all "news and pictorial rights" to the expedition. Antarctica was the first continent to be discovered by camera. Beginning with Scott's first expedition in 1902, photography had captured the slow inroads made on its white, inviolate vastness. These photographic records had proved to be not only of historic and geographic interest, but also highly popular. Herbert Ponting's 90 [degrees] South, a cinematographic tribute to Scott's last expedition, was still a favorite when Shackleton's party set out. Mindful of this, Shackleton formed the Imperial Trans Antarctic Film Syndicate specifically to exploit all film rights to the expedition, exclusive story rights having been sold to the Daily Chronicle.

    Shackleton purchased a ship from Norway's famous Framnaes shipyard, long a supplier of polar vessels. A 300-ton wooden barquentine, she was named Polaris and had never sailed. She was 144 feet long, built of planks of oak and Norwegian fir up to two and one-half feet thick, and sheathed in greenheart, a wood so tough it cannot be worked by conventional means. Every detail of her construction had been scrupulously, even lovingly, planned by a master shipwright to ensure her maximum strength. She was, it seemed, ideally equipped to withstand the ice. Shackleton renamed her Endurance after his family motto: Fortitudine Vincimus — "by endurance we conquer."

    In fact two vessels were required. While Shackleton intended to commence his overland trek from the Weddell Sea, his plans called for a relief ship to sail to his old base at Cape Royds in the Ross Sea. From there, a six-man depot-laying party would advance inland, depositing caches of supplies for the use of Shackleton's transcontinental party when it slogged its way overland from the other side. For this task, Shackleton purchased the Aurora, an old-time sealer built in 1876 that had served a former colleague, the great Australian explorer Douglas Mawson.

    By August, all seemed ready. Although the British press had shown keen interest in Shackleton's latest polar adventure, the departure of the Endurance from its London dock on August 1, 1914, was eclipsed by more important news: Germany had declared war on Russia, and a European war was now imminent. Having sailed from London to Plymouth, the ship was still in British waters when the order for general mobilization was given on Monday, August 4. After consulting with his crew, Shackleton placed the Endurance and her company at the disposal of the government, believing "there were enough trained and experienced men among us to man a destroyer." Privately, he must have held his breath: After so much work and planning, to be thwarted at the start! But the one-word telegraphed reply from the Admiralty dissolved his fears: "Proceed." A longer cable from Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, followed, saying that the authorities desired the expedition to take place, and on August 8, the Endurance set sail from Plymouth.

    With the example of Amundsen's triumph of efficiency vividly before him, Shackleton had taken what were by British standards enormous pains with his preparations. He had succeeded in having seconded to the expedition a young officer from the Royal Marines who, although officially the motor expert, was also proficient enough on skis to act as an instructor for the company. The Illustrated London News ran a photograph of Shackleton testing his new domed tents in Norway. He had consulted with professional nutritionists regarding sledging rations and, heeding the adamant advice of the Norwegians, arranged to have sixty-nine Canadian sledge dogs delivered to Buenos Aires, where the Endurance would pick them up on her way south. These were, according to his second-in-command, "a mixture of wolf & about any kind of big dog, Collie, Mastiff, Great Dane, Bloodhound, Newfoundland, Retriever, Airedale, Boarhound etc."

    Despite these efforts his party was not as shipshape as Shackleton may have thought. He had his dogs, but his sole experienced dog trainer and driver, a Canadian, dropped out at the last minute when Shackleton was unwilling to pay a hefty insurance deposit; also left behind were worm pills, which, as matters turned out, the dogs would desperately need. Shackleton's plans for the continental crossing called for an average of fifteen miles' sledging a day, very close to Amundsen's outward-going average of sixteen — and yet only one of Shackleton's men left England actually knowing how to ski.

    But the expedition had intangible assets deriving from Shackleton's previous endeavors. In 1909, having trudged to 88 [degrees] south, 100 miles short of the pole, he had turned his back on certain glory and led his men on the long journey home. After so many hard miles, it was excruciating to leave the unclaimed prize for another man — let alone a rival. Yet Shackleton resisted persuading himself that he could safely cover those forgone miles, or that they counted for more than life itself. Had he been less self-possessed, or more desperate for glory, undoubtedly Ernest Shackleton would have been the first man to stand at the South Pole — and he and his trusting men would have died somewhere close to where Scott and his party perished in their little tent. Shackleton's decision to turn back was more than a singular act of courage; it bespoke the dogged optimism that was the cornerstone of his character. Life would always offer more chances.

    "One has the feeling that if it had been Shackleton who lost to Amundsen at the pole, he would have met up with the Norwegians on the way back, and they would have all held a big celebratory party," a distinguished polar historian once told me. The despondency that clearly crushed Scott on his loss to Amundsen was unknown to Shackleton. He seems to have been possessed of a ferocious but handily adaptable single-mindedness: Once intent on achieving the pole, he strained every nerve to get there; but when survival became the challenge, he was not distracted by such demons as regret or the fear of being perceived a failure.

    Early in his career, Shackleton became known as a leader who put his men first. This inspired unshakable confidence in his decisions, as well as tenacious loyalty. During the march back from 88 [degrees] south, one of Shackleton's three companions, Frank Wild, who had not begun the expedition as a great admirer of Shackleton, recorded in his diary an incident that changed his mind forever. Following an inadequate meal of pemmican and pony meat on the night of January 31, 1909, Shackleton had privately forced upon Wild one of his own biscuits from the four that he, like the others, was rationed daily.

    "I do not suppose that anyone else in the world can thoroughly realize how much generosity and sympathy was shown by this," Wild wrote, underlining his words. "I DO by GOD I shall never forget it. Thousands of pounds would not have bought that one biscuit."

    When Shackleton headed south on the Endurance in August 1914, it was with Frank Wild as his second-in-command. Wild never forgot the private act of kindness, and his adamantine loyalty to Shackleton would prove to be one of the expedition's major assets. However deficient the preparations for the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition may have been, on one point it was secure: Its men had a leader who had shown signs of greatness. To be sure, Shackleton would fail once more to achieve his expedition's goal; in fact, he was destined never to set foot on the Antarctic continent again. Nevertheless, he would see his men through one of the greatest epics of survival in the annals of exploration.

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Interviews & Essays

On Wednesday, February 10th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Caroline Alexander to discuss THE ENDURANCE.


Moderator: Welcome, Caroline Alexander! Congratulations on the success of your New York Times bestseller THE ENDURANCE. Is this your first online chat?

Caroline Alexander: Yes, it is!


Greg from North Dakota: When did you first hear about Shackleton and the Endurance? Did you know immediately that it would make a fascinating book topic?

Caroline Alexander: I am American-English and had heard his name from my British parents. Then someone gave me a book about him, and I fell into it and starting reading obsessively every book that I could get my hands on. But then, no, I didn't think of doing a book at this point. I wrote a whimsical book on the ship's cat, called MRS. CHIPPY'S LAST EXPEDITION. But in researching Mrs. Chippy, I discovered an extraordinary collection of photos and realized they'd never been comprehensively exhibited. I worked on an exhibition for the Natural History Museum, and once that was in place, they asked for a book to accompany the exhibit, and that is how the book came to be. Now it seems very obvious, but it didn't at the time.


Andrew from Allentown, PA: Despite its heroic outcome, doesn't the absurdity of Shackleton's venture strike you? What drove these men to attempt the impossible?

Caroline Alexander: I am not so sure it was impossible. Remember, Shackleton had already gotten within 100 miles of the South Pole in 1909 and turned back again. What he was now attempting on the Endurance attempt was not much longer. And in this expedition he was to be helped by the fact that a relief party would lay depots on the opposite side of the continent. He would have been able to pick up fresh supplies on the other side. The depot party succeeded, so he would have been in good shape if he had gotten that far. I think all pioneering ventures of this type are both absurd and heroic. One could say that about flying to the moon or swimming the channel.


Lee from Toluene, California: Were you able to visit the Ross Sea in Antarctica or South Georgia Island during research for your book?

Caroline Alexander: The Ross Sea won't apply much to this story, but that is where the depot-laying party would have been. I actually would have returned from South Georgia yesterday, in an ideal world; there was a three-week cruise I had been invited to join, but I couldn't because of this exhibit. I have taken a pretty solemn vow that I will go this season.


Marcia from Austin, TX: How did surviving such a harrowing, near-death experience change Shackleton and his men? Often you hear survivors become more religious, change values, et cetera. Do their diaries reflect this?

Caroline Alexander: That is a good question. A handful of the diaries -- one man in particular, Ord-Lees -- definitely had a religious transformation. He converted to Catholicism on his return to civilization. The others in their unorthodox way were spiritual men in their way already. They had little patience for organized religion, but if you will, their private faith helped them. But they didn't rush home and join a congregation. The most remarkable thing to me is that when I interviewed the sons and daughters of these men, across the board they said, "My father didn't like to talk about this," much like war veterans. And they seemed to put the experience behind them and get on with their lives for the most part. There were some men who never quite recovered.


V. C. Lyod from Grand Rapids: What were the commercial factors in Shackleton's proposition to cross Antarctica? In your estimation, did the competitive factors outweigh these?

Caroline Alexander: Commercial factors were most represented by the presence of Frank Hurley onboard the Endurance. He was the official and a professional photographer, and Shackleton took him along because he had sold moving film and photograph rights for the expedition. It was an exclusive deal. However, I don't think Shackleton expected to make a bundle from this. The rights that were sold financed the expedition itself. The money went back into the project. I think that Shackleton was fueled by a very outdated, romantic idea of exploration. I think he had an almost poetic vision of himself questing to the ends of the earth.


Bryne from Aurora, CO: What was the most startling thing you discovered while writing THE ENDURANCE?

Caroline Alexander: A small detail to some people, but devastating to me: the discovery that the carpenter, Chippy McNish, had died destitute and broken on the docks in New Zealand. This was the man whose work had made the journey of the James Caird, their boat, possible. Shackleton denied McNish the polar medal when they returned to civilization. I think it is perhaps the only vindictive act Shackleton committed, and I can't forgive him for it.


Dennis Ginnard from Clinton Township, MI: Please compare the magnitude of the expedition and the hardships with those endured by those ascending Mount Everest and who die at a rate of 1 in 4.

Caroline Alexander: That is a loaded question! I think when you boil down the Everest tragedy, it comes down to one bad night on the mountain and the majority of the party fell apart. Shackleton's men endured at least nine months on the ice after their ship was crushed. But more to the point, with all respect to the sometimes quite valiant leaders on Everest, I think "Shackletonian" leadership would have saved all lives. We know from his own history that he had the courage to turn back from his goal, when he turned back 100 miles from the South Pole in 1909. I think if he had been leading the people up Everest, at the appointed turnaround hour, they would have turned back, period.


Suellen Miller from Chicago: Will Shackleton's Bible be one of the artifacts at the American Museum of Natural History show?

Caroline Alexander: Yes, and you can even see where the pages were torn from the book of Job.


Mannie from Pittsford, New York: Do you know if Shackleton and his crew hold the record for longest group survival with no deaths?

Caroline Alexander: Good question! I know of nothing comparable. That is to say, I know of remarkable survival stories, but they usually involve someone's loss of life along the way. So far, in the time I have been talking to and meeting people about this expedition, no one has brought to my attention anything that surpassed this.


David Bock from New York City, NY: Since the expedition had to ditch much of their equipment to make the boat journey, I imagine not all the film and photographic plates could be saved. How much of this material was lost?

Caroline Alexander: Hurley saved about a hundred glass-plate negatives. Over 400 were destroyed and left. But to my knowledge, the moving film he took survived intact. This film can be seen in two venues: Within the Museum of Natural History exhibition itself, we show excerpts on a screen to illustrate parts of the drama; and also the museum plans to show in its theater many public screenings of Hurley's film, which is now called "South."


Suellen Miller from Chicago: Why do you think there's such interest in Antarctic exploration? There's your book, all the reprints of Shackleton books, the Alfred Lansing book ENDURANCE, and the new study of Scott's Terra Nova trip?

Caroline Alexander: I think that there are two reasons: One, shrewd marketing -- when one book of the era does well, others are brought out to help make an event, if you will. But as to why the heroic age now, I think in great part it is a nostalgia for what we perceive as better generations. I think it has a lot to do with why Tom Brokaw's book THE GREATEST GENERATION or Peter Jennings's THE CENTURY [are so popular]. I think as we are on the eve of leaving the century we have all grown up in that there is a real wistful nostalgia for the age we are leaving behind, and Shackleton's story exemplifies many of these old-fashioned virtues that we know we have lost.


Mark from University of Pittsburgh: What other good books are there on Shackleton and the high-sea adventure? Which did you rely on the most? Can't wait to look at your book, Caroline. It sounds fascinating.

Caroline Alexander: Thank you, first of all! I would recommend Shackleton's own memoir, SOUTH, and Frank Worsley's ENDURANCE: AN EPIC OF POLAR ADVENTURE Worsley was captain of the Endurance. And I highly recommend Roland Huntford's THE LAST PLACE ON EARTH. It was published in the 1970s. It is actually about Scott and Amundsen, but Shackleton figures in it largely. For my own research, I drew on unpublished sources, mostly, namely the diaries of the expedition members themselves. Alas, these aren't published.


Cordellia from Nicollsville, Kentucky: What is it about man-versus-nature stories that so appeal to human interest?

Caroline Alexander: I guess when the chips are down, it is the elemental struggle that somehow is the most inescapable or most daunting. I also think they are in some sense "pure" stories in a way that is not true in man's struggle against man. If we read stories of how concentration-camp survivors survived their ordeal, we are uplifted by their heroism, but the story is still a dirty one. These ethics of man against nature allow us to look at the best in man -- or worst, as the case may be -- with no degrading aspect to the heroism that ensues.


Brady from Fairfax, VA: It amazes me that all the crew survived! With such extreme cold, how did they not get hypothermia? What was the average temperature?

Caroline Alexander: I don't have an average temperature for the whole ordeal, but I do have month-by-month averages that are pretty interesting. The average temperature for their winter was minus 8.6 degrees in June, with the lowest temperature being minus 30 degrees. The highest average temperature for any one month was in the height of the southern summer, December, where the average temperature was 26 degrees Fahrenheit. Hypothermia? The more one knows about the story, the more you can't figure this out. Moreover, people with a lot more experience than I have in extreme environments are baffled and amazed and cannot explain it. Remember, too, that on at least two occasions the men were not just exposed to low temperatures but also to freezing water, which is much worse. In the two boat journeys they undertook, there was no waterproof clothing.


Tom from California: Do you find it somewhat ironic that big business is using Shackleton as a role model in the corporate world?

Caroline Alexander: Highly ironic! I keep hearing of this phenomenon, but I haven't yet witnessed it. Which is to say that people tell me he is being used as a role model in business, but I have yet to meet anyone who shows me how this is being done! I think a good case can be made for Shackleton's methods of human management being studied. His psychological gift of best handling his men was one of the strengths of his leadership.


Ronald from Newton, MA: Have you read the Andrea Barrett novel THE VOYAGE OF THE NARWHAL? I'm curious to get your thoughts on her novel.

Caroline Alexander: I haven't read a single novel in the past 14 months, but hers is high on my list. When the exhibition is over and I am free to read what I like again, I will be undoubtedly reading her book.


R. Lyons from Connecticut: Do you have a favorite photo of Hurley's in your book?

Caroline Alexander: Yes, and a quirky one. It is the photo that appears on the dedication page to Mrs. Chippy. It is a strangely haunting photograph to me. When I look at it, I know it is an old photo, and without knowing its context, I would have known it was taken onboard a ship. It is the photograph that first put me on the Shackleton trail, leading me to research the heroic life of Mrs. Chippy. Mrs. Chippy was the ship's cat. Alas, she did not survive, but she did survive onboard the ten months they were trapped on the ice!


Marissa from Seattle: Does Elephant Island -- where the crew launched -- still exist and go by the same name?

Caroline Alexander: Absolutely! I am working with Nova Productions on a documentary film about the Endurance expedition, and my partner just returned from Elephant Island. The documentary will be a two-hour feature documentary using location shooting on places like Elephant Island and South Georgia, as well as the very rich collection of contemporary photographs. It will be released in January of 2000. For people who really want to see Shackleton's environment up close, the same team is making an IMAX film to be released in autumn of 2000.


Paul from Morris Plains, NJ: Dear Caroline, I absolutely loved the pictures in this book. Can you tell me a little bit how you got all the pictures and what type of research you had to do for this book?

Caroline Alexander: The research for the photographs was very straightforward. All the images were in the possession of three institutions. They were not found in someone's attic or someone's bed; they had been there all the time, and for whatever reason no one had thought or bothered to showcase them. The research for the text was a different story and was conducted over two and a half years. Some firsthand source materials were in archives, some in record offices, and some in the possession of the families of the expedition members. Tracking these down often took a lot of sleuth work, but it was riveting work and, from my point of view, the best part of making this book.


Janene from Chicago: Are you available at any time during the exhibit?

Caroline Alexander: I will be giving a lecture on April 9th at the Museum of Natural History. This is the day before the exhibit opens to the general public.


Moderator: Thank you, Caroline Alexander! Best of luck with THE ENDURANCE. Do you have any closing comments for the online audience?

Caroline Alexander: I think that this is, I can say in all humility, a great story, and I hope you read it in my book, but if you read it in any book, you will be the better for it.


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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2005

    Absolutely a Must Have

    Absolutely loved this book. Read Alfred Lansing's book Endurance, this made a delightful and wonderful companion to that book. One of the most interesting, brave, exciting true life adventures ever undertaken. This should be a must read for all high school age kids.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 18, 2013

    The Endurance, a "Chill" read.

    The Endurance, written by Caroline Alexander thoroughly details one of the most impressive feats a human has ever done. Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew of twenty seven members set out from South Georgia Island in December of 1914 hoping to trek on foot across Antarctica, not knowing they wouldn’t set foot on land for nearly five hundred days. On January 19th, 1915 Shackleton got stuck in the ice pack and drifted eight hundred miles north. While trying to avoid committing mutiny, the crew of twenty eight attempted to carry the three life boats to sailable water. After setting up camp and waiting until April 9th, of 1915, the ice broke-up and they sailed seven days to land safely on Elephant Island. (Their first time setting foot on land in nearly sixteen months.) Shackleton waged five crew members to go with him in search of South Georgia Island in order to save the remaining crew members. After miraculously landing on the island, Shackleton climbed glaciers and mountains to find the nearest whaling station spending three days climbing on no sleep. He then attempted numerous times at saving his crew and eventually, three months later found them all alive. It’s truly one of the most awe striking stories in history and Alexander does a wonderful job of sharing it.
    When talking about prevalent themes in a novel, Caroline Alexander displays the themes of perseverance and dedication in impressive fashion. She describes the journeys and tasks the crew members encountered in a way that envelopes the reader; causing them to have an appreciation for the hardship these men actually encountered and fought through.
    Though I am generally a picky reader when it comes non-fiction work, I thoroughly enjoyed this read. The way Alexander describes the situations and emotions of the crew members is some of the best I have encountered. It felt as if I was actually there. Another part of the author’s piece that attributed to my liking for the book was the overall story. The fact that these men endured all of the incredible strife and hardship they did, and to still all come out alive is a written miracle.
    I struggled while sitting back trying to find things I disliked about the book, until I discovered one thing. I thought Alexander could have done a much better job exploiting and analyzing the crew member’s emotions. Instead of describing how the men felt, she described the situation more, making the reader infer their feelings more.
    This tale is one of the most impressive stories in history and should be shared around the world. I would recommend this to all people as it can teach them that they don’t have it so bad and they just need to persevere like Shackleton’s crew. Alexander is not proclaimed as a top of the line writer, but I would give this work of hers a 9 out of 10. I would also recommend reading her novel, The War That Killed Achillies.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 2, 2012

    A must read

    I read this book about 10 years ago and have since gifted it to several friends and family. I must say it was one of the best books I have ever read. I didn't want to put it down! Amazing what these men went through and survived!! The pictures that are in the book really bring you into what is going on. If ever your looking for a book for yourself or as a gift - this is the one I would recommend.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 29, 2010

    True leadership

    This book took me to a place where I truely felt like I lived it. I love true stories and this one took the cake. Besides Shackleton's talent for picking his team (which eventually saved their lives) but had the foresight to bring a very talented photographer along for the trip. This book showcases photos which were carefully selected for survival and the writings from the journals ,which each man was required to keep, in such a way that I felt like I was there everyday, part of the conversations and events, every step of the way. Not even SOUTH, Shackleton's own book which I also read, did that for me. Caroline Alexander put an experience together by letting the words and actions of each man tell this amazing and true tale. I have to buy another copy for me. Every one I loaned out was NEVER returned...

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2010

    The Endurance

    This is an excellant read- read it in one sitting.Great pictures!
    I shared the content with my 4th and 5th grade students and they were eager to learn more

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2003

    Well Done!

    This book was well written, and interesting, but very informative

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2001

    Shackleton does the impossible!

    Fabulous reading. Had me on the edge of my seat. Very sad tale to be told. But with a positive ending. The pictures are the best I have ever seen for black and white for their time. The story is amazing and that this journey has never been duplicated. He beat the odds on this trip. Enjoy the read!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2001

    Good Story

    This is the first non-fiction book on tape that I have listened to. It is similar in style to a program on the history channel. I've enjoyed the story and would recommend this to anyone interested in history.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2001

    You must read this book

    Incredible account of how much man can endure under terribly adverse conditions. Extremely well written with stunning photographs. One of those 'can't put it down' books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2000

    A thrilling account of perseverance and determination

    The story of Shackleton is one for the ages. Alexander eloquently described the arduous expedition the 27 men endured, while the photojournalistic pages of serene beauty masked the brutally harsh environment they endured for months on end. A fantastic read!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2000

    A Must Read!!!

    I read this book and absolutely loved it. it is excing, thrilling, and you can't put it down. My dad read it and loved it and so did I.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2000

    Beautiful pictures, compelling story

    Excellent, Excellent, Excellent!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2000

    An Inspiration.

    I first learned this story from reading 'Endurance' by Alfred Lansing. The book was a real thrill for me because I did not know how the story would end until I finished the book. Caroline Alexander's book was just as enjoyable for me even though I knew how it would end. She adds a terrific human touch to Lansing's journalistic account. The photographs add a strong sense of realism. Caroline gives special insights into the personalities of the men, and gives us all some insight on the quiet professionalism and undaunted optimism that it took for these guys to accomplish the impossible. I live in California but it would almost be worth the trip to Washington to Natural History Museum to see the exhibit.

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    Posted March 5, 2012

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    Posted August 16, 2011

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    Posted January 16, 2011

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    Posted July 14, 2012

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    Posted July 6, 2011

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    Posted December 5, 2010

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    Posted March 22, 2012

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