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South: The Endurance Expedition (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 5 Nov 2015
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As a Kindle book it would have been greatly improved by the inclusion of maps and any illustrations mentioned in the text.
Maps, data and sketches not included in this ebook though - which is a shame.
It's so detailed and yet covers the sweeping adventure of Shackleton and his team exploring the Antarctic in the early twentieth century. It's in diary format for the most part, with gaps filled in here and there. The story of the men involved as well as the landscape itself and the wildlife - it's compelling. I really enjoyed it, although certain parts did upset me a little (mainly the killing of animals parts).
The style is very Keep Calm and Carry On - very English gentleman on an adventure. There's no hysteria, everyone just seems to accept the situation and just get through it as best they can, keep going, always stoic and joking through some of what must be the harshest conditions I have ever heard of humans inhabiting. This is a story of survival if nothing else.
I watched a documentary about Prince Harry and some Iraq veterans going to Antarctica the night before I started reading this book, by chance, and the whole way through the book I couldn't help but constantly make comparisons of their conditions with the modern-day. They covered a vast, frozen terrain and icy waters wearing woollen jumpers and normal shoes with nails in the soles, never changing their clothes, wearing them until they literally fell apart. They had nothing to protect them from the elements towards the end. The food (and lack thereof) is mentioned often, and Shackleton comments that humans can fortunately survive on any kind of diet. I certainly wouldn't have wanted to, though, especially when they started digging up fish bones to re-boil up.
A map would have been fantastic but otherwise I don't think this account could be improved upon. A fantastic read that has stayed with me. Recommended for anyone. Animal lovers should be warned about the middle section, though.
It is almost impossible to imagine the hardships experienced by these men, in appalling weather conditions of almost non-stop blizzards and temperatures down to 50 degrees F below freezing. Not for weeks, or months, but for years. Totally cut off from the outside world, no means of communicating with each other. It makes man's greatest achievement (the moon landings) almost seem like a walk in the park!
And there is no complaining, no whingeing, nothing but a British stiff upper lip. It staggers belief that anyone could endure the conditions, but these men almost relished the hardships, filled with wonder at the amazing spectacle of nature around them.
Well worth a read if you have any interest in the subject. I have only 2 minor gripes, firstly, that the Kindle edition is without maps or photographs. Without maps it is hard to get a feel for the scale and distances involved. Luckily my coffee table book is full of maps and photographs, so it complements this very well. The Shackleton Voyages: A pictorial anthology of the polar explorer and Edwardian hero
The other problem is that several chapters at the beginning and end of the book drag a bit. There are a lot of pages which just describe the day-to-day weather conditions, bearings and position, sightings of icebergs, depth soundings, geological samples etc, which gets a bit monotonous after a while. Once on the Antartic proper and the land journey is under way the story moves along at a much better pace, so stick with it!
The detail of the diary of the escape off the ice to Elephant Island and thence to South Georgia is astounding and provocative, yet delivered almost deadpan, without ostentation: What now, what should be next and how to achieve it.
The book also relates the story of the Ross Sea party, where sadly there were casualties, not to be discovered until later.
I had been expecting some of the photographs of Hurley (the official photographer) to be included but they were not.
Along with 'Shackleton's Boat Journey' by Worsley, the crucial navigator, and 'Endurance' by Lansing, I thoroughly recommend this book.
Try 'Home of the Blizzard' by Sir Douglas Mawson too.
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