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Astonishing tale of courage and survival,
This review is from: South: The Endurance Expedition (Paperback)
This book is one of the most fascinating and inspiring tales of human endeavour and resilience I have ever read. Shackleton's understated writing style at times downplays the dangers his party faced and you have to remind yourself that these men had no means of rescue, no contact with the outside world and no idea if they would make it out alive should anything go wrong. Polar exploration in the early 20th century was extremely dangerous and makes the accounts of those who went, despite the risks, all the more remarkable.
The book is made up of Shackleton's own description of the journey plus the diaries of other members of the expedition, which makes for a well-rounded account. Of all the astonishing tales in the book the one that emphasized, for me, the courage of these men and the desperation of their situation was Shackleton's description of the voyage to South Georgia in the James Caird, a small open boat, during a raging storm. He writes about looking up and seeing what he thought was clear sky showing through the clouds, before realising it was actually the breaker of an enormous wave. The account of Frank Wild leading the men on Elephant Island and keeping them motivated while Shackleton went for help is also particularly interesting and inspiring.
If I had one criticism it would be that there aren't enough photos included in the book. I have subsequently found a book called The Heart Of The Great Alone that is full of photos from different Antarctic expeditions, including the Endurance mission. It is well worth a look to get a proper idea of what the landscapes Shackleton describes actually looked like and the camps, both at sea and on Elephant Island.
This book is a must read for anyone with even a vague interest in Shackleton or polar exploration; and also for those who enjoy extremely frequent updates on the direction of the wind. I don't recall there being a single page when I was unsure which direction the wind was blowing in.