Customer Review

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most inspiring and exhillirating books you will ever read., 12 Oct 2010
This review is from: South: The Endurance Expedition (Paperback)
Quite simply awesome. And I don't use the word lightly, considering it is very much an overused word. Ernest Shackleton was a hero not only because of what he endured, but because of how he led. As opposed to Robert Scott who made a series of errors (as well as experiencing some genuine bad luck with inclement weather) culminating in disaster in 1912, Shackleton's primary concern above all aspects of his mission were the men under his command. In 1908 - on his earlier 'farthest south' expedition, he turned himself and his men around when within reach of the elusive Pole. He had realised that due to depleted rations and muscles, in the face of extremely adverse weather, if they attained their stated aim of the Pole, they would not return alive. As it was, he had to be hauled on a sledge for the last slog by his two exhausted team-mates, as he was too weakened to carry on unaided...

This book tells the almost incredible tale of how his 1914 expedition failed early in its stated aims, but ultimately triumphed against a series of truly fearsome circumstances in the most inhospitable place on earth. Survival on the ice after the crushing destruction of their ship the Endurance, followed by the break-up of the ice and the harrowing escape over the ice floes into the open waters on board the Endurance's 3 lifeboats until the sanctuary of the bleak Elephant Island. Here is where the story begins anew as 'Uncle' Shackleton and 5 men depart for help leaving behind the remaining expedition team on the remote barren island with a protective shelter of 2 upturned lifeboats and a veneer of sealskins, and a diet consisting of pemmican hoosh, ship biscuit, seal blubber and seal meat when that could be hunted...

If all this hadn't been enough, the rescue party then attempts the crossing of the extreme South Atlantic (acknowledged as arguably the most treacherous open sea on the planet) in the remainng lifeboat - the James Caird. All the while Shackleton keeps his men going with his leadership skills and navigational expertise. His fellow rescue party undoubtedly play their part too in performing this miracle of marine adventure. Several hundred miles away their destination - South Georgia - is found. The journey is not yet over though as Shackleton and 2 others must traverse the unmapped mountainous spine of the island to the relative 'civilisation' of the remote whaling station at Grytviken. This final task proves almost the most dangerous...

The fact that Shackleton's team makes it to safety and in turn returns to Elephant Island to rescue the stranded expedition (by now clearly on the verge of madness and possible cannibalism) - without a single lost soul speaks volumes for his leadership capabilities and also for this generation's incredible resilience in the face of adversity in what Shackleton called 'the White War'. The tale is all the more powerful in the knowledge that many of the brave men on return to a Europe at war in 1916 must tragically go to battle again, and that so many fall in those foreign fields.

One of the most inspiring and exhillirating books you will ever read.
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