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Customer Review

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, 7 Feb. 2011
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This review is from: The Lost Men: The Harrowing Story of Shackleton's Ross Sea Party (Hardcover)
This is the fascinating story of an almost forgotten polar expedition which commenced at the outbreak of the first world war. Ernest Shackleton planned to traverse the content of Antarctica, sailing himself on his ship 'Endurance' to one side of the continent, with the aim of being supported and picked up 1500 miles away on the opposite shore by the ship 'Aurora'. This book describes not Shackleton's expedition, but the lesser known tale of the Ross Sea party aboard the Aurora.

The whole expedition was woefully disorganised, poorly-planned, under-funded and under-resourced. It demonstrates a kind of very British amateurism allied with enormous bravery, personal sacrifice, fortitude and perseverance in the face of huge difficulties. People chosen to participate in the expedition often had no polar experience and once on the ground the same applied at times to what would be called team leaders in modern parlance who lacked any appropriate experience even when others in the party did have the necessary skills. Much of this seems to have been based on social rank: "Mackintosh believed it was only proper to put an Oxbridge graduate in charge of a party" - even though the "Oxbridge graduate" was completely inexperienced. The book is good at showing the tensions, the differing perspectives of the team and their personal rivalries, drawn from diaries, notes, books and other documents but the author is even-handed and just lays out facts for the reader to form his or her own view.

Though the story is very interesting, the quality of the writing at times leaves something to be desired, particularly in the first third of the book. One slight irritation, but forgivable and easy to ignore, is that the author is American and even though this edition has been released by a UK publisher, it has not been edited for British English. At times I found the narrative a little confusing, e.g. it wasn't clear on a couple of occasions which of two individuals was saying what so I turned to the notes and index to clarify or check things. The index was occasionally inaccurate and the note format somewhat idiosyncratic (it does not follow the usual convention of being numbered so you go to the notes and find that there are maybe ten entries for that page and you have to read through them all to find the information you are looking for). I suspect that most people won't care about this but I am one of those sad people who does make use of notes when they are provided!
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Marand
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   

Location: Warwickshire, UK

Top Reviewer Ranking: 123