'Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage' is the definitive version of this incredible story of courage and survival
This book captures a remarkable story of bravery, grit and determination. I have read about many adventures of people overcoming the odds to survive in the most challenging and hostile environments. In my opinion, this is the daddy of them all.
Ernest Shackelton was a seasoned mariner and had been on a couple of expeditions to the Antarctic with mixed success. In August 1914 the 28 man crew of the British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914–16) left England under Shackleton’s leadership aboard the Endurance. He planned to cross Antarctica from a base on the Weddell Sea to McMurdo Sound, via the South Pole. The winter of 2014 was particularly harsh and the Endurance ended up getting stuck in the pack ice. Most of us would have found this pretty miserable but these were tough people and despite what must have been extremely unpleasant conditions they stuck to their task – not that they had much choice. The hope was that the icepack would break up and they would be on their way, but no such luck, in fact, they spent a miserable polar winter onboard and eventually the Endurance was crushed under the incredible pressures of the ice that surrounded it and eventually sunk. The 28 men onboard had no option but to take to the ice flow. Anyway, I won’t spoil the story by disclosing more but the adventure continues and becomes even more extreme.
There has been numerous book written on the British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition and on Ernest Shackleton. He was evidently a great leader and his skills in this area have been analysed and documented in books just focused on this aspect of the story.
Anyway, Alfred Lansing’s book is the definitive tale and is based on the diaries of those who were on the journey. Along the way, the crew of the Endurance had to jettison many of their belongings but they were thankfully allowed to keep their diaries which Lansing had access to. Lansing was also able to interview eight of the crew personally and got a fabulous insight into the characters of these 28 remarkable people which gives his version of the story a nuance that other authors on this topic could not get. He is also a great storyteller. So, this is simply the best book about the Endurance and this particular expedition and I cannot recommend it highly enough.