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As war clouds darkened over Europe in 1914, a party led by Shackleton set out to make the first crossing of the entire Antarctic continent via the Pole. But their initial optimism was short-lived as ice floes closed around their ship, gradually crushing it and ...
As war clouds darkened over Europe in 1914, a party led by Shackleton set out to make the first crossing of the entire Antarctic continent via the Pole. But their initial optimism was short-lived as ice floes closed around their ship, gradually crushing it and marooning twenty-eight men on the polar ice. Alone in the world's most unforgiving environment, Shackleton and his team began a brutal quest for survival. And as the story of their journey across treacherous seas and a wilderness of glaciers and snow fields unfolds, the scale of their courage and heroism becomes movingly clear.
Author Biography: Ernest Shackleton (1874–1922) was a junior officer under Robert Falcon Scott during the 1901–1904 expedition to the South Pole. His expedition on the whaler Nimrod in 1907 earned him a knighthood.
Fergus Fleming is the author of Killing Dragons: The Conquest of the Alps, Ninety Degrees North: The Quest for the North Pole, and Barrow's Boys.
Posted October 7, 2007
South: A Memoir of the Endurance Voyage by Ernest Shackleton is a gripping and intriguing book. However it is not a light read due to the nature of Shackleton¿s expedition. The book begins as the expedition is preparing to leave South Georgia Island and enter the Weddell Sea, hopefully leading to a landing on the continent of Antarctica. Each chapter tells of the daily triumphs and toils aboard ship. All looks well for the Endurance voyage until she enters heavy ¿pack ice¿ and becomes trapped for the winter. This is highly disappointing to Shackleton because he knows that they no longer have a chance of making it to the land of Antarctica. The little wooden ship braves out most of the winter until the pressure from the ¿pack ice¿ becomes to great and the Endurance can no longer hold her own. She is slowly crushed and the crew eventually evacuates the ship. Upon their departure of the Endurance, they begin their long and uncertain journey across the pack ice. The expedition spends the better part of a year living on the pack ice, eating seals and hoping that the pack won¿t crack beneath their feet. To make matters more difficult they brought all three of the Endurance¿s life rafts, so that they may one day sail to safety. When the pack begins to free, they launch all of the boats and begin to make their way to Elephant Island. The team lives here for a couple months, until Shackleton and a few other crewmembers sail for South Georgia Island to retrieve help. This crew arrives at South Georgia and after many months of searching secures a rescue vessel worthy of the Antarctic ice. The South Georgian Crew makes three attempts to reach Elephant Island and is finally able to rescue the crew and bring them back to safety. I found this book to be wonderfully intriguing. It entered a realm of scientific history that is rarely explored. After reading this book I have a new respect for those who risk so much in the name of learning and discovery. During their voyage they took many scientific measurements, all of which are explained and included in the text. Sometimes these numbers were overbearing, but overall I thought that they added a lot to the history of the subject. The technology that the crew brought with them was considered state of the art for the time, but their methods seem so elementary compared to the technology and equipment we have now. Despite this seemingly low level of exploration, the details provided about the data make it relevant still today. Not only does Shackleton capture the scientific part of his exploration, he also captures the human side. It is apparent from Shackleton¿s writing that he knew each and every one of his crewmembers like the back of his hand. He knew all of their idiosyncrasies and seemed grateful for each of them. As he describes each of his fellow sailors, the personality of a genuine and brilliant man leaps out of the pages. The value he puts in each of their lives is greater than the value that he places on his own life. During the rescue of his men, he enlists the help of many other countries. Each country is more than willing to send whatever help they can. When all is said and done, Shackleton takes it upon himself to personally travel to each country to thank them for their assistance and let them know how much it meant to him. As I said in the opening statement this is not a light read. Many of the facts make sections of the reading cumbersome. Although the detail Shackleton uses adds a lot to the text, it can be hard to digest. A fair bit of thought is also required to keep all 30+ of the sailors and their ailments in line, since little background information is given for each. The end of the book is also irrelevant to the main plot of the book it deals with another rescue effort of a stranded ship somewhere in the Antarctic region. I feel that this takes away from the book, because you lose sight of Shackleton¿s original crew and their su
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