Endurance

by Alfred Lansing | Nonfiction |
ISBN: 0380006707 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 11/28/2012
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2 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Wednesday, November 28, 2012
I found this slightly-battered '60s-era paperback from the Used Book Superstore during their store-closing sale. I've read excerpts from this book, but hadn't read the whole thing, so I was pleased to find it.

It opens in dramatic fashion, at the point where the stranded survivors realize that their long ice-bound ship is being crushed, and the official abandon-ship order is given. The description of the dying ship is riveting, from quivers to anguished outcries, and "most agonizingly for the men were the times when she seemed a huge creature suffocating and gasping for breath, her sides heaving against the strangling pressure."

The book then shifts back to the formation of the expedition, with some colorful accounts of the various personnel, from Shackleton himself to an unexpected stowaway, a young Welshman who'd been smuggled aboard by a friend. [When his presence was revealed to Shackleton, Shackleton gave him a merciless lecture, finishing with "if we run out of food and anyone has to be eaten, you will be first" - a bit of a twinkle in the eye for that last bit, after which the youth was forgiven and assigned to a job in the galley.]

The book as a whole is lively and colorful, and relies extensively on quotes from the surviving diaries of many of the crew, as well as some interviews; all in all, it made me feel as if I were along for the ride, experiencing the drama as well as the tedium of waiting, and the fellowship as well as the maddening personality clashes (there were fewer of those on this expedition than on Scott's last trip - Shackleton seems to have been an expert at choosing people who would work well together, and in making adjustments to assignments to reduce the inevitable chafing). In these days of instant communication and satellite GPS, it's hard to imagine being trapped in a place where one could not get word in or out, and had to rely on tedious and time-consuming readings to work out an approximate position. They were aware of the possibilities of traveling via drift-ice; in fact, a brief and nightmarish attempt at hauling their boats and goods over ice-humps by sledge taught them that they could make much better mileage by simply camping on the ice and waiting for winds to blow the ice pack. But that kind of wait-and-see method can take a terrible toll on the emotions. Another indication of Shackleton's leadership is that not only did he make difficult choices such as "wait" rather than "push on at any cost", but he managed his crew to keep them from going off the rails (with only a few minor exceptions).

Their plight was so hopeless that it is amazing that they just kept trying; if I'd been there I'd have been tempted to just curl up in a ball and go quietly to sleep. Heck, if they'd known when the ship finally sank what their future travels would involve (but without knowing that they'd survive), they might all have given up, it was that difficult. Camping on ice floes that could - and did - split underneath them without warning, at the mercy of the wind and weather, their only hope of rescue being to manage to reach a tiny island in battered, much-repaired boats, through some of the worst seas in the world...

[While Shackleton is famed for the miraculous survival of his entire expedition, that's not the whole story; at the same time that Shackleton and his men were struggling to survive after their ship was crushed by the ice, there was another team on the other side of Antarctica with plans to lay supply depots for Shackleton's proposed crossing of the continent. But that expedition ran into troubles of its own, and didn't fare quite as well; see Shackleton's Forgotten Men.]

Journal Entry 2 by wingGoryDetailswing at Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Thursday, December 06, 2012

Released 6 yrs ago (12/6/2012 UTC) at Nashua, New Hampshire USA

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I'm adding this book to the Rescue bookbox, which will be on its way to its next stop with BCer hyphen8 in Hawaii today.

Journal Entry 3 by wingBooksandMusicwing at Seattle, Washington USA on Monday, May 08, 2017
I don't know how long I've had this book because I did not journal its arrival into my house. I am in the middle of it now and it is very tense. I had read Mrs. Chippy's Last Expedition: The Remarkable Journal of Shackleton's Polar Bound Cat by Caroline Alexander. Endurance basically begins where that book left off. I am very interested in reading about Shackleton's Forgotten Men, thanks for including the link in your JE.

Journal Entry 4 by wingBooksandMusicwing at Seattle, Washington USA on Wednesday, May 10, 2017
The most amazing story of survival that I have ever read, maybe the most amazing story of survival that has ever occurred.
Sir Ernest Shackleton has planned, raised funds for, and organized the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. The ship that was to take Shackleton and his twenty-seven crew to the Antarctic was a beautiful ship called Endurance. They were heading for the Weddell Sea hoping to make landfall at Vahsel Bay and begin their overland journey from there. She left England in August of 1914, Buenos Aires at the end of Oct. 1914. Shackleton estimated they would be ashore by December. He was wrong. There was ice in the way, lots of ice. Jan 24, 1915 the Endurance was stuck fast in the ice. They were only 60 miles from Vahsel Bay but they weren't going anywhere. The crew lived aboard the iced in boat until Oct 24th 1915 when she was crushed in the ice and the crew had to abandon her. It wasn't just the crew, it was also about 50 dogs and a cat, the carpenter Harry McNeish's cat. I had read Mrs. Chippy's Last Expedition: The Remarkable Journal of Shackleton's Polar Bound Cat by Caroline Alexander. It was my introduction to Shackleton's Expedition. Endurance picks up where Mrs. Chippy's leaves off and tells the story of the almost unbelievable survival of the 28 men as they live on ice floes, eat seal, blubber, and penguin, make a sea journey in little boats to find land. I am not explaining how wet they were all the time, how frozen, how alone! No way to contact anyone, no hope of rescue. If they were going to survive they were on their own. The stunning thing is, they did survive, all twenty-eight of them.
There is another book I would like to read now called Shackleton's Forgotten Men: The Untold Tragedy of the Endurance Epic. These would be the men who were to cross Antarctica from the other side and leave food caches and meet the first group at the South Pole.

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