When Ernest Shackleton resolved to cross Antarctica in 1915, he knew the task would require two parties of men. Shackleton and his crew aimed to cross the continent - but were to meet with disaster when their ship, the Endurance, was frozen into the ice of the Weddell Sea. Meanwhile a smaller group - the Ross Sea party, led by the impetuous one-eyed captain Aeneas Mackintosh and the hard-headed Ernest Joyce - went before them and landed on the opposite side of the continent. Their mission was to haul sledges almost 2,000 miles across the harsh interior in order to set up a lifeline of depots for the coming Shackleton party. However, like the men of the Endurance, this group also lost their ship, the Aurora - along with their supplies - when a ferocious polar gale ripped it from its moorings. But Mackintosh and his men, who knew that their failure would doom Shackleton's party to starvation, refused to give up. They scavenged supplies from an earlier expedition, led by Robert Scott, and set out on one of the most remarkable journeys in polar history.
Battling against deadly weather, with scant food and makeshift clothes, the small band hauled tons of supplies across the bitter polar wastes. Scurvy and madness overtook several men and, in the end, three of the party died - but not before they had accomplished their task.
This is the story of ordinary men who rose to extraordinary heights of courage, determination and endurance. While their achievement was futile - Shackleton never came - it was also one of the greatest and most astonishing in the heroic age of polar exploration.(20010730)