Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage
“In that instant they felt an overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment. Though they had failed dismally even to come close to the expedition's original objective, they knew now that somehow they had done much, much more than ever they set out to do.” ― Alfred Lansing, Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage
Yesterday was the anniversary of the date in 1916, Sir Ernest Shackleton set out in a lifeboat from Elephant Island to get help for his shipwrecked Antarctic expedition. If ever there was a book whose title deserved to include the word "incredible" this is it. The voyage of Ernest Shackleton receives a well-deserved and beautiful portrayal in Alfred Lansing's famous book. One of my favorite adventure books, it is a detailed account of the events and the extremes that were encountered on the Antarctic voyage where disaster struck when his ship, Endurance, was trapped in pack ice and slowly crushed, before the shore parties could be landed.
The book recounts the failure of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition led by Sir Ernest Shackleton in its attempt to cross the Antarctic continent and the subsequent struggle for survival endured by the twenty-eight man crew for almost two years. The book's title refers to the ship Shackleton used for the expedition, the Endurance. In 1914 Shackleton led twenty-seven men on the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. The goal of the expedition was to transverse the Antarctic continent by dog sledge. The ship was beset and eventually crushed by ice floes in the Weddell Sea leaving the men stranded on the pack ice. All in all the crew drifted on the ice for just over a year. At the end of October, 1915, the Endurance finally succumbed to the intense pressure and was slowly crushed. The crew, led by Shackleton, abandoned ship and made camp on a huge floe of pack ice. Shackleton then led a crew of five aboard the James Caird through the Drake Passage and miraculously reached South Georgia Island 650 nautical miles away. He then took two of those men on the first successful overland crossing of the island. Three months later he was finally able to rescue the remaining crew members they had left behind on Elephant Island.
Virtually every diary kept during the expedition was made available to the author and almost all the surviving members at the time of writing submitted to lengthy interviews. The most significant contribution came from Dr. Alexander Macklin, one of the ship's surgeons, who provided Lansing with many diaries, a detailed account of the perilous journey the crew made to Elephant Island, and months of advice. The narrative of the astonishing sequence of exploits, and an ultimate escape with no lives lost, would eventually assure Shackleton's heroic status. Lansing provides an account worthy of this epic adventure.