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on 10 January 2000
South is Ernest Shackleton's much praised report from his second expedition to the South Pole. The plan was to sail to the Weddell sea and march across the land mass of Antartica via the pole to the opposite side where another ship would collect the men and bring them home.
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. I felt a little lost, my knowledge of the start of the century being more than a little vague, and many of the terms used in the book particularly in reference to the food they ate are now obscure and could have done with a simple footnote to explain.
As a piece of first-person historical evidence, Endurance is faultless. It is also a cracking read, showing Shackleton's gift as a writer. It is, however, a report, and towards the end of the book where lists of provisions and descriptions of Antartic bases occur means the book peters out instead of a really solid ending.
However these gripes are small. I wish the publishers would do this great book justice with a nice editorial and some term explanations. Hopefully for the next issue :)
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on 19 October 2010
I was not sure what I was expecting from my first free Kindle story. I have to say that I very pleasantly surprised, as Shackleton tells his story in a very matter of fact way that still fails to hide the sheer drama of what happened with his expedition. It would appear that almost every aspect of the expedition went awry from Day One, and yet he comes across as either a compulsive optimist or else a prime example of the 'Keep Calm and Carry On' brigade. He tells his story by the facts, and it is up to the reader to add in the countless days between notable events or to understand the paucity of the food. What he does convey is the sheer enormity of the Antarctic, the remoteness, the simplicity of their equipment and the initiative of his men. It is far more than just a diary of events, and the imagery that it conjures up transforms this into a spectacular tale from an era where we were continuing to push the envelope of what man could achieve. I suppose that some people will also enjoy the opportunity to judge Shackleton as a leader of men, and this book certainly does give an insight into the loneliness of his position, the stark options that he had to choose between and the risks that he led his men into. After reading this book, I intend to re-visit the TV mini series with Kenneth Branagh as I remember this as a very strong portrayal of the expeditionShackleton [DVD] [2002].
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on 31 July 2003
Not being a writer myself, I feel that my simple use of words will struggle to give this book justice. It is a frank, first person account of an expedition that bordered on disaster, of heroic endurance, and leadership that you seldom hear of.
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.
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on 16 December 2010
This is an epic story of a struggle against very harsh conditions by fifty-eight or so Antarctic explorers. As a tale it is very powerfully told because it is related in the manner of a mission report eliminating much of any emotional strain being felt by the author. Shackleton emerges as a superlative leader, surrounded by ordinary men caught up in an extraordinary feat of survival and endurance.

As a Kindle book it would have been greatly improved by the inclusion of maps and any illustrations mentioned in the text.
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on 23 November 1999
This is Shackleton's own account of the now legendary Antartic expedition, a story of one of the most astonishing feats of polar escapology. It is an intensely dramatic story, but what sets this new edition apart are the additonal notes by Peter King who has examined the latest research on the whole affair. This provides a fascinating insight into what actually occurred, as we learn about the oversights in the planning of the expedition that led to near-disaster. To accompany the prose are the stunning photographs taken by Frank Hurley, the expedition photographer. These now classic photos are in themselves a superb essay on composition, contrast and dramatic lighting. All in all, a thoroughly absorbing read, and the numerous photos and captions make it equally good for just dipping into now and then. The large format of this Pimlico edition making it ideal for the coffee table at Xmas.
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on 10 August 2011
Having no prior knowledge of this story, I was left dumbfounded and in awe at the tenacity of these explorers from the turn of the 20th century.

I spent two weeks talking incessantly about Antarctica while reading this book, looking at the continent's amazing geography on Google Maps and imagining how horrific the environment must have been for the crew of the Endurance. The author paints a realistic and objective look at the stuggles of his friends and compadres during their epic journeys and undertakings. The story really touched a nerve with me and I frequently found my head shaking, agog with disbelief at some of the elements that Shackleton jotted down.

This is a completely true tale, making this book one of the most affecting ones I have read for a long time. If you like adventure, history, geography or are just curious about the world I'd highly recommend. What an amazing story.
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on 26 June 2000
The account of Shackleton's outstanding expedition is extremely interesting to which the large collection of Hurley's photographies provide a wonderful illustration.
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on 27 December 2009
this is an intresting read & an excellent first hand account for anyone intrested in polar travel. it is illustrated by some excellent & informative photographs. however i have written this review beacause of the terrible amazon review by john crane who obviously has little to no knowledge of shackleton, scott or polar travel. scott along with shackleton first pioneered to beardsmore galcier route during scotts first expedition, secondly shackleton got within 100 miles of the pole using ponys & manhauling which was the same method that scott later employed, dog travel would have almost certainly have met with failure due to the crevasse fields. thirdly it was the unseasonable & unforseen bad weather temperatures down to -40 with a windchill of -90 which fatally slowed scotts pace along with frostbite, injuries & a fuel shortage (caused by their pace slowing) that led to evans, oates, wilson, bowers & scotts deaths.
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on 12 October 2010
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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on 13 June 2013
if you thought you were a hard man - read this book, THEY were hard men. They never complained - except that -20°F was too warm!! Hard to credit this happened not quite a century ago. Rubbish equipment, rubbish food, no contact with the outside world for months at a time. A walk over South Georgia, over the glaciers at 4000 feet in rotten boots and torn clothing! Barely believable. After reading this you will think twice about complaining about anything ever again!!!

Maps, data and sketches not included in this ebook though - which is a shame.
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