I read this book on a transatlantic flight and the time flew. Highly recommended.
Shackleton was quite a character and the book gets this across well. The Endurance expedition was astonishing, incredible, amazing and Shackleton is now one of my heroes.
The book is not overweight, it has had a hard workout and carries no excess flab. But it does cover Shackleton's life comprehensively. The author makes good use of primary sources, including extracts from both Shackleton and his rival, Captain Scott's diaries on the 1902 Discovery expedition to the South Pole. He describes the battle of wills between two very different characters, culminating in Scott's decision to invalid Shackleton off the expedition. The disintegrating relationship between Scott and Shackleton threads through the first part of the biography with Huntford painting Scott as the gloomy backdrop to Shackleton's brighter outline.
The main body of the book focuses on Shackleton's Nimrod attempt to reach the pole in 1908, and the Endurance expedition of 1914. In the first, Huntford describes how Shackleton came within 97 miles of his goal in January 1909, beating Scott's furthest South at the time by 360 miles. Despite getting so close, Shackleton and his companions were forced to turn back in "one of the bravest acts in the history of exploration". Huntford juxtaposes Shackleton's selfless treatment of his men with the later demise of Scott's team just short of the pole. On his return home, Shackleton rightly received a heroic welcome. Not only had he cut a new path to the pole, later used by Scott and the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen who finally bagged the Pole in 1911, but more important Huntford stresses that he brought his men back alive.Read more ›