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Lost Men: The Harrowing Saga of Shackleton's Ross Sea Party

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The untold story of the last odyssey of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration

Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 Antarctic endeavor is legend, but for sheer heroism and tragic nobility, nothing compares to the saga of the Ross Sea party. This crew of explorers landed on the opposite side of Antarctica from the Endurance with a mission to build supply depots for Shackleton’s planned crossing of the continent. But their ship disappeared in a gale, leaving ten inexperienced, ...

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The Lost Men: The Harrowing Saga of Shackleton's Ross Sea Party

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The untold story of the last odyssey of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration

Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 Antarctic endeavor is legend, but for sheer heroism and tragic nobility, nothing compares to the saga of the Ross Sea party. This crew of explorers landed on the opposite side of Antarctica from the Endurance with a mission to build supply depots for Shackleton’s planned crossing of the continent. But their ship disappeared in a gale, leaving ten inexperienced, ill-equipped men to trek 1,356 miles in the harshest environment on earth. Drawing on the men’s own journals and photographs, The Lost Men is a masterpiece of historical adventure, a book destined to be a classic in the vein of Into Thin Air.

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Editorial Reviews

Sara Wheeler
Tyler-Lewis flags the tension between the pair from the outset, and while she rightly lauds Mackintosh's loyalty, bravery and determination, she shows that many of his leadership decisions were flawed. Throughout her book she uses quotations judiciously, wherever possible allowing the men to speak for themselves. Her prose is a model of clarity, flawed only by the occasional linguistic anachronism like "unfazed" or "angst."
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
While the story of Ernest Shackleton's crew of the Endurance is well known, the fate of Shackleton's Ross Sea support party has largely been forgotten-until now. Charged with laying supply depots for Shackleton's aborted 1914-1916 trans-Antarctic trek, the Ross Sea party became stranded when its ship tore free of her moorings and disappeared in a gale. Cambridge historian Tyler-Lewis's account of the 10-man party's plight relies heavily on the men's journals, which are amazingly detailed, considering the physical (snow blindness, scurvy, frostbite) and mental (depression, paranoia) problems they faced. The men's decision to lay the depots despite the obstacles demonstrates their courage, but Tyler-Lewis's narrative doesn't focus solely on heroics. Instead, the heart of the book lies in Tyler-Lewis's dissection of the men's relationships with one another. As friends are made, alliances formed and resentment festers, humanity is never lost, even amid inhumane conditions. Given the collection of military, civilian, scientific and blue-collar personnel that made up the expedition, it's compelling to see how each man deals with his fate. Add in the party's adventures of sledding in subzero temperatures with the sociological aspects of being stranded for nearly two years in such an inhospitable place, and the result is a gripping work. Maps, illus. (Apr. 24) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Historian Tyler-Lewis (visiting scholar, Scott Polar Research Inst., Cambridge) draws on previously unpublished journals to enrich our knowledge of Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, whose ship, the Endurance, famously stranded his 28 crew members for 22 months. Less attention has been paid to the expedition's separate supply team, known as the Ross Sea Party, which was tasked to support Shackleton's crossing with a lifeline of food and fuel depots. When the Ross Sea Party's ship, the Aurora, was swept out to sea by a storm while ten men were ashore, leaving them marooned with scant supplies, the men agreed "that the one object that must be obtained, no matter what else was sacrificed, was to place food depots for Shackleton's party." Tyler-Lewis notes in her prolog that to a modern observer, the Ross Sea Party's journey to supply an expedition that "never arrived" might have seemed "for naught" (unlike the members of Shackleton's party, they did not all survive), but the Ross Sea Party did not necessarily see it that way. Recommended for all libraries with an interest in true adventures or polar exploration.-Robert C. Jones, formerly with Central Missouri State Univ., Warrensburg Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
To Roland Huntford's The Last Place on Earth (1985) and Caroline Alexander's The Endurance (1998), add this last stirring chapter in polar exploration's Heroic Age. In 1914, at the outset of WWI, Ernest Shackleton set out to make the first crossing of the Antarctic interior. He personally led the first prong of the expedition, attacking the continent from the Weddell Sea; the saga of how Shackleton led all his men to safety after his ship was crushed in the pack ice is perhaps the most stunning success story in the annals of survival. Tyler-Lewis (History/Cambridge) tells the lesser-known tale of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition's second prong, the Ross Sea Party, which actually accomplished its mission: to lay a 360-mile lifeline of supply depots on the other side of the continent, intended to sustain Shackleton on the final quarter of his crossing. Due to horribly inadequate planning, meager financing and atrocious conditions, three men died, and a relief party was needed to rescue the rest. Because all their efforts proved ultimately futile, the Ross Sea Party's story seems destined for eternal second billing to Shackleton's spectacular failure. But Tyler-Lewis manages to spin a breathtaking yarn of survival and achievement under the most extreme conditions. Her adroit chronicle draws on a splendid assembly of raw materials: public records, private papers, journals, logs and letters. Insightful portraits of the leading actors explain how their individual strengths and weaknesses affected the fate of the expedition every bit as much as the unforgiving Antarctic environment. The survivors returned to a world transformed by the Great War. Gone, too, was the romance of polar exploration,killed by technological advances and the diminished appetite for pointless sacrifice. The expedition's ethos seems distant now, though the last surviving member of the Ross Sea Party died in only 1978. A judicious, sensitive account of an Antarctic trial by ice.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641873515
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 4/20/2006
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Kelly Tyler-Lewis, a historian, is Visiting Scholar of the Scott Polar Research Institute of the University of Cambridge, England. Her research took her to Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Antarctica, where she spent two months with the U.S. Antarctic Program.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 23, 2009

    An interesting look at Antarctic exploration at a time of changing values

    This is a fascinating look at the world of polar exploration in the early 20th century. What I found so interesting was the lack of preparedness of Shackleford's team of explorers and the determination with which they carried out their mission. Although the age of Victoria had passed, they clung to a Victorian sense of duty, which was sadly at odds with much of the reality they faced. "Was it worth it?" is a question that can easily be raised, and this book points out that there is no simple answer.

    The author, Kelly Tyler-Lewis deals with the conflicting personalities of the participants and does a good job of not assigning blame, while recognizing many of their weaknesses.

    An interesting book to discuss.

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