South: The Story of Shackleton's Last Expedition 1914 - 1917 Paperback – Illustrated, 4 Nov 1999
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It's all so British. Which polar explorer do we all know and revere? Captain Scott. Which polar explorer had a fixation for Naval class distinctions and refused to contemplate the idea of sledge-dog travel, thereby condemning himself and his companions to an icy death? Captain Scott. If we're looking for heroics, we've been looking in the wrong place. Ernest Shackleton has not received a quarter of Scott's plaudits but he is infinitely more deserving. Having got within 100 miles of the South Pole in 1908, pioneering the route up the Beardmore Glacier on to the polar icecap in the process, Shackleton was left to watch Amundsen and Scott slug it out for the big prize. Looking for a different challenge, he set sail for the Antarctic in the Endurance in the summer of 1914 in the hope of making the first trans-Antarctic crossing. The Endurance was crushed in the pack ice and Shackleton successfully led his 27 men to the edge of the ice. From there he made a sea crossing in three open boats to Elephant Island. After several months he realised there was no hope of rescue, so he set sail with four others on a 600-mile crossing to South Georgia. He was eventually shipwrecked on the uninhabited side of the island and forced into making the first-ever winter crossing. Two days later he strolled into the whaling station at Stromness, having been long since given up for dead and proceeded to personally oversee the rescue of those still stranded on Elephant Island. Not a single person in Shackleton's expedition party was lost. South is Shackleton's own account of this expedition. It tries hard--in the way latter-day Edwardians did--to play up the scientific discoveries but there's no disguising this is basically a classic tale of derring-do. As such it's a wonderful, if understated read, with an unexpected poignancy in the epilogue. When Shackleton returned to Europe, the First World War had been going on for two years. The political and psychological map of Britain had changed for ever and many of the returning explorers found it hard to adjust. This book has been reprinted many times since it was first published in 1919. This edition comes with a workman-like introduction from Peter King, who bizzarely manages to refer to Roland Huntford, author of the brilliant definitive biography of Shackleton, as James Huntford. Where it does score, though, is in the assembly of James Hurley's fantastic photographs of the expedition which are liberally sprinkled throughout the text. If the words don't get you, the pictures will. --John Crace
"A tale of human courage, or endurance, of hope undiminished, of skill and inventiveness, and above all, of leadership" (Lord Hunt)
"For scientific discovery give me Scott; for speed and efficiency of travel give me Amundsen; but when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton" (Sir Edmund Hillary)
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Top Customer Reviews
Naturally nothing went right. Shackleton's ship, the Endurance, was trapped in pack ice which sealed her in and eventually crushed her. Abandoning the ship, and unable to reach the continental land mass itself, Shackleton led his men from ice floe to ice floe, setting up camps and abandoning them when the floes broke in two (as they frequently did) eventually ending up on a tiny, unexplored island with only three ships boats to provide shelter and living off the scarce resources of an inhospitible land.
In simply the bravest move I have ever heard about, Shackleton decided that to reach help he had to sail across the southern Atlantic in a tiny open rowing boat to the island of South Georgia - over three hundred miles away. Once there and safely landed he then had to march across the desolate island to reach the whaling communities on the far side - something that had been thought of as impossible.
South made Shackleton's name as an explorer - and you can see why. The story is staggering - even more impressive when you consider that only one of Shacklton's party perished in their two year stay on the ice.
If I have any criticisms it is that lack of any review or explanation of the book by an editor. Penguin Classics, their reprinting of the works of the Classical writers, are all prefaced by an editor who provides much of the back story and explanations of the times in which the books were written.Read more ›
The book is similar to Shackleton's first writing, 'The Heart of the Antarctic' in that it is a report and it's style is very matter of fact. This limits the early and later chapters, because they chronicle and summarise the administrative parts of the expedition. Although it is important to understand the organisation, logistics and motives for Shackleton and his comrades, it does not provide the thrills that this book is famous for.
When the thrills come they hit you hard, and Shackleton's matter of fact style then begins to help you become absorbed in the way these men faced insurmountable odds, and continued bravely, knowing that failure would mean certain death. I found myself pausing during reading, just to sit and think about how terrible and helpless their situation became. It was at the most dire occasions that Shackleton's awe inspiring leadership and self belief showed most. I felt there was much to learn from his approach: 'A man must shape himself to a new mark directly the old one goes to ground' Wise words from an exceptional man.
As a Kindle book it would have been greatly improved by the inclusion of maps and any illustrations mentioned in the text.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Of all the accounts of Shackleton's expedition that I've read or seen, none matches this original by the man himself. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Bluey
Recommended, this book of Shackleton's was read out of interest and to satisfy an urge to read something serious. It did not disappoint on either front. Read morePublished 1 month ago by john mckenna
A superb book written by an extraordinary man. Compulsory reading for aspiring blue-sea mariners ... and anyone else who feels there is no way out of a problem!Published 1 month ago by Dave
What a story. The history books don't give Shackleton the due credit for his actions. He is one of the 20th century's true heroes.Published 1 month ago by adrian barker
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