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Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage

>> Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Published: 1959
Genre: Nion-Fiction
Pages: 280
Challenge: Non-Fiction Five #4

This sometimes dry and weirdly detailed account of a failed expedition to Antarctica in 1914 would be completely unbelievable if submitted as a movie script, but it’s true.

In 1914 Sir Ernest Shackleton and a crew of 27 sailed the Endurance to the Weddell Sea – an ice filled sea off of Antarctica. Their goal was to make their way through the ice and be the first to cross Antarctica overland. They never made it, but their story is a truly amazing one when you step back to remember that first of all it’s real, and secondly that this was in 1914.

I say the account is weirdly detailed because Lansing used logs and crewmembers diaries as the basis of his account, so there are many instances of ‘they left at 3:10 pm’ and other excess minute details that seem odd in the big picture of this story. Nevertheless, the story is an amazing one that I’d never heard of before.

I first heard about this book from an online message board for runners (My Husband is a member). Periodically they’ll post a thread about what they’re reading or recommending and I’ve found several good book recommendations from this group. I’d put this one on my TBR list a while ago, and Joy’s Non Fiction Five Challenge was the motivation to finally read it.

When the ship and it’s crew sailed into the moving and drifting icepack of the Weddell Sea, they expected to make their way to land and then cross overland with their sledges and dogs to the Ross Sea. In January of 1915, the ship became trapped in the ice pack. For 10 months the ship and crew were passengers in the drift of the ice pack. In October of that year, they were forced to abandon the ship when the moving ice began to crush it. They then spent many more months camped out on the ice floes as they moved around the sea, and finally were forced into their 3 lifeboats that they’d managed to salvage before the Endurance sank.

For seventeen months these 28 men survived and in unthinkable conditions and life threatening danger. They eventually made their way to a small island, but it still took an 850 mile long voyage in a 22 ft. open lifeboat to reach an inhabited island and eventual rescue for the entire party in August of 1916 .

. . . and I though camping in Oregon was bad.

The book drags a bit in the first half when they’re stuck on the ice-bound ship. There’s only so much you can say about the ship is still blocked in the icepack and drifting, but when they are forced off the ship onto unsheltered ice floes, the sense of impending doom for the crew doesn’t let up. The story is a fascinating one, and I simply cannot imagine how these men managed to survive. The leadership of Shackleton and his team of officers combined with the amazing men who rarely seemed to lose hope is what allowed them all to survive.

The expedition photographer, Frank Hurley managed to document the journey and save his negatives, resulting in some amazing photographs.

Here are a couple of websites with more information about this expedition and more photographs and maps than were in the book:
(this one has some great information and photos by expedition photographer James Hurley)


____Maggie 8/15/2007 9:43 PM  

This isn't my favorite rendition of the story. I actually like a YA version with lots of pictures. :D

Bookfool 8/16/2007 7:19 AM  

I've got a different version than yours and it's quite a chunkster. Those photos at the Kodak site are awesome!!

SuziQoregon 8/16/2007 7:28 AM  

Maggie: I've seen other books about the expedition and I'd be interested in checking into them sometime. The story is amazing and fascinating, but I don't think this is the most readable version out there.

Bookfool: aren't those pictures awesome? My library has a couple of different video versions ( An A&E biography of Shackleton and a NOVA tv special) they both look interesting

Robin 8/16/2007 1:11 PM  

My 6th graders for the last 5 or 6 years have all read "Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World," by Jennifer Armstrong, as a class project. They become absolutely fascinated with Shackleton and the story of what happened to Endurance. It's a wonderful learning about leadership, teamwork (or not), and survival under the most brutal conditions. There's a film called "South" which was released in 1924, (available on VHS and DVD)and it's made up of the Frank Hurley stills and moving film. My kids really enjoyed it, and it was their first experience with silent movies! They especially loved seeing the footage of the dogs.

Lynne 8/16/2007 2:47 PM  

I never heard about this expedition before. I'm off now to look at the pictures.

Bookfool 8/16/2007 6:16 PM  

I'll have to look in our library's AV section - thanks for mentioning that. I was sitting here enlarging everything and just blown away by the photography.

SuziQoregon 8/16/2007 7:17 PM  

Robin: I wonder if that's the book version that Maggie was referring to. I think that video version might be available at our library.

Lynne: The Kodak site is amazing.

Bookfool: My library has this book that I need to get my hands on

Link here

kookie 8/17/2007 6:08 AM  

This is probably one of my all time favorite books. I'm just constantly amazed that went Shackleton left to get help, his men never gave up hope. They all were completely confident that he would return for them. It's a very inspiring story. Thanks for reviewing it.

Booklogged 8/18/2007 5:04 PM  

This story sounds fascinating. I've never heard of it either. I like that about reading book blogs - I always learn something new. Just looking at those pictures made my arthritic fingers ache (and it's 90+ degrees)!

Bookfool 8/20/2007 8:11 PM  

Oooooh, I want to see that!!! Danger, danger. My library sucks. I might have to order. No! Stop! Stop, self, stop!

SuziQoregon 8/20/2007 8:48 PM  

Kookiejar: It is definitely an amazing story. I want to read more about it.

Bookfool: thought you'd like that book. Any chance you can get a hold of it via some sort of interlibrary loan?

Nyssaneala 8/21/2007 8:03 AM  

I bought this for my husband a while ago, but haven't read it yet.

If you like this genre (um, I guess that would be the arctic/antarctic expedition genre?), I would definitely recommend The Ice Master, by Jennifer Niven, about the 1913 arctic voyage (and sinking) of the Karluk. It is very well-written, and at least in this true story, there are some survivors!

SuziQoregon 8/23/2007 7:54 PM  

Nyssaneala: thanks -that sounds interesting - I'll look for it at the library.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment. I read and respond them here although not always right away. If you would prefer an email response let me know.

I do moderate comments on posts older than 14 days in order to control spam. I will approve your legitimate comments as soon as I can.

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