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Shackleton's Boat Journey Paperback – 14 Aug 1998
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A first-hand account of the voyage to safety, led by Worsley, of six men stranded for six months on the Antarctic ice pack when their expedition's ship was crushed by the ice.
About the Author
A native New Zealander, Frank A. Worsley served as a reserve officer in the Royal Navy before becoming captain of the Endurance. He commanded two ships in World War I, for which he was decorated, sailed with Shackleton again in 1921, and in 1925 was the joint leader of the British Arctic Exploration. Worsley died in 1943.
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The trip was made to save his shipmates and himself from certain death so it had to be done, but the skill in navigating such distances in an open boat in the storms and the cold must be appreciated, I was a former navigator so I can appreciate the skill required to hit such a small island, miss it by a couple of miles and that would have been the end.
Then there is the physical effort required to do it, unbelievable. All this with no satellite radios, no GPS, the sailors of today do not know how lucky they are. A good read.
Worsley includes a detailed explanation of how he navigated during the South Atlantic crossing, along with the challenges of navigation in partially unchartered waters. He also gives an insight into the pressure he was under at this time, knowing that the entire party's lives depended on his accurate navigation. His description of conditions aboard the boat are wince-inducing and it's staggering that any of them survived that journey, let alone the crossing of South Georgia's mountain ranges.
Worsley also sheds light on the care Shackleton took of his men, describing him as "fussy" and "almost womanlike" in his attentions to everyone's health. He recalls how Shackleton gave his last pair of dry socks to one of the men, regularly stayed awake so others could sleep longer and made everyone stop for a drink of hot milk if he thought one of the men was struggling.
There is a very good selection of glossy photographs in this book. Many are fairly famous but there are several that I had never seen before, including some of the sea camps and the whaling station at Grytviken. I would advise reading Shackleton's `South' before reading this, as his full account of the expedition puts Worsley's account of the latter half into context. After reading this book you will never again feel justified in complaining about being cold!
It's that good. He serves only to take you there.
I felt present at these events ... bleak and petrifying, humbling and uplifting.
The best book I ever read.