In August 1914, the ship Endurance left England on the first leg of what was called the Imperial Trans-Arctic Expedition. Led by Ernest Shackleton, the purpose of the expedition was to cross the Antarctic continent on land, from one end to the other, across the South Pole. The ship was sturdily built, well-supplied, and had an able crew. The Endurance left for Antarctica from South Georgia Island on December 5. By February 1915, the ship was trapped in the ice.
The crew wintered on the ship. In October, when it became clear that the Endurance was going to be crushed by the pack ice, Shackleton ordered his crew to abandon ship. They set up camp on an ice floe, in the hopes that it would drift north towards land. When the ice floe broke up in April 1916, the crew gathered in their lifeboats and reached Elephant Island. From there, Shackleton and a crew of five journeyed through the roughest seas on the planet back to South Georgia Island, about 800 miles away. Shacklteon then returned by ship to Elephant Island to rescue his crew, arriving on August 30, 2016, two years after they had left England.
The miracle of this expedition is that every man on the expedition survived. Shackleton’s leadership ability and courage are legendary.
So-everyone knows the basics of this amazing story. What Alfred Lansing has done is bring these intrepid explorers to life. For his source material, Lansing had access to diaries and personal accounts of some members of the expedition, and was able to interview a a number of the surviving members of the expedition. Even knowing the outcome, I was riveted by the details that Lansing wrote about.
The crew was subject to the constantly changing Antarctic weather. Shrieking winds, blinding snow, high seas, sub-freezing temperatures, and months of darkness plagued them during the winter. The Antarctic summer brought little relief, as temperatures hovered near freezing, and the melting and shifting ice brought extraordinary danger.
The story of Shackleton’s expedition is a true life adventure, with true life heroes.
In USA-published in hardcover-Adventure Library-1994
Softcover edition-Basic Books-1999
(Original edition published in 1959)