When Alfred Lansing's Endurance
was first published in 1959, few people in this country--or anywhere else for that matter--had heard of Shackleton or the Imperial Transantarctic Expedition of 1914. Britain's polar history had been rewritten with Shackleton airbrushed out and Captain Scott taking centre stage as the archetypal English hero who died on the Great Barrier on his long haul back from the South Pole.
If Scott's deification was almost instantaneous, Shackleton's descent into obscurity was more of a slow fade than a sudden death. He achieved a certain amount of acclaim when South, his own account of the Expedition, was published, but his legend seemed to die with him when he suffered a fatal heart attack on another trip south in 1922. His memory deserved much better. Not only was he a far better explorer than Scott, both in terms of his technical and man management capabilities, but the story of the Transantarctic expedition read like an epic out of a Boys Own annual. With his boat crushed, he led his men across the pack-ice, sailed them in open boats to Elephant Island. Once he realised there was no chance of rescue, he and four crew mates sailed a further 600 miles across the southern ocean to South Georgia where they were shipwrecked. The five men then made the first crossing of the island to reach the whaling station at Stromness. Three attempts and three and a half months later, Shackleton returned to Elephant Island to pick up the remaining men. Not a single member of either party was lost.
So we have Lansing to largely thank for Shackleton's rehabilitation. But herein lies the problem. Shackleton's story has been now been so well told both in books--especially Roland Huntford's definitive biography, and in film and TV, that even though Lansing's thrilling account, making liberal use of the diaries of several expedition members, was the first to be published it now feels all terribly familiar and adds nothing to what we already know. Even Frank Hurley's exquisite photographs which illustrate the book now engender a slight feeling of déjà vu--not least because they have already been better reproduced in a single volume published by Bloomsbury. But Lansing deserves his day in the snow and no polar library would be complete without this book. And if, by any chance, you've never previously read a word about Shackleton, this is as good a place as any to start. --John Crace
In the summer of 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton set off aboard the Endur ance bound for the South Atlantic. The goal of his expedition was to cross t he Antarctic overland, but more than a year later, and still half a continent aw ay from the intended base, the Endurance was trapped in ice and eventuall y was crushed. For five months Shackleton and his crew survived on drifting ice packs in one of the most savage regions of the world before they were finally ab le to set sail again in one of the ship's lifeboats. Alfred Lansing's Enduran ce: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage is a white-knuckle account of this astoun ding odyssey.
Through the diaries of team members and interviews with survivo rs, Lansing reconstructs the months of terror and hardship the Endurance crew suffered. In October of 1915, there "were no helicopters, no Weasels, no Sno-Cats, no suitable planes. Thus their plight was naked and terrifying in i ts simplicity. If they were to get out--they had to get themselves out." Ho w Shackleton did indeed get them out without the loss of a single life is at the heart of Lansing's magnificent true-life adventure tale. -- Amazon.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.