This is a true story, an adventure story, a story of survival in the harshest environment on earth, and it is a fascinating read. I HIGHLY recommend it.
*** What It Is ***
If you are not familiar with Ernest Shackleton's extraordinary Antarctic expedition (1914-1917) then you are missing out on an amazing piece of history. In short, Shackleton's mission to cross the Antarctic continent failed before it even began, when his ship, The Endurance, was crushed in the ice. Following the destruction of the ship, the crew spent months living on the ice. Only through Shackleton's heroism - and an 800 mile journey in an open boat - were the crew saved ... every last man. (Read more about it here.)
However, the other ship in the expedition, The Aurora, was not so lucky. Their mission was to lay supply depots along the latter portion of the cross-continental trail for Shackleton to pick up.
Yet all went tragically wrong when the Aurora broke free of her moorings in a gale and stranded ten men ashore in Antarctica, woefully ill-equipped to perform their task. Left with little more than the clothing on their backs and scavenged equipment, the men vowed to carry on in the face of impossible odds. Meanwhile, the crew of the disabled Aurora, cast adrift at the mercy of the elements, battled for survival in the pack ice. With no hope of rescue from civilization, the lost men struggled to save themselves and carry out their mission. (from the book's website)Does that sound amazing or what?!
*** My Thoughts ***
I've always been partial to non-fiction and this book is a prime example of why that is. It is absolutely fascinating and I didn't want to put it down. This stuff REALLY HAPPENED - these are REAL PEOPLE - and their experiences are simply amazing.
The author did an excellent job with the story. The pace never dragged, and I never felt like I was reading a textbook.
The author helpfully provided a list of all the crew aboard each of the ships at the start of the book. There are lots of men, and their introduction into the story was a bit confusing for me simply because it was hard to remember who was who. What I should have done is copied that list and made a few notes next to each name as they were introduced - I think that would have solved the problem nicely.
Here are some random things I'd like to remember from this book:
- It was Shackleton's personality and ability that was the driving force behind the survival of the men of The Endurance. The Ross Sea Party didn't have a leader of that caliber, hence their experiences on the ice were very different.
- The spirit of adventure and exploration was common to this era and it came across clearly in the words and actions of the men.
- Their mission to lay supply depots on the last portion of Shackleton's planned route across Antarctica ended up being completely pointless; Shackleton never even BEGAN the journey. I don't know whether to pity the Ross Sea Party for this or to think of it as their saving grace, giving them a purpose to help them continue on. (Check out a map of the expedition here.)
- The expedition set out at the start of The Great War. The men expected it to be over by the time they returned. What they found however was a world completely changed, unrecognizable to them. Many of them joined the military as soon as they recovered from their polar ordeal ... and some lost their lives in the war.
*** Other Interesting Links ***
- The main website, includes links to photos
- Photos from other Antarctic expeditions through the years - the ones from the Ross Sea Party have not been uploaded there yet
- The author talks about the book
- YouTube videos of Shackleton's expedition - includes excerpts from the men's journals and some of their photographs and videos - none from the Ross Sea Party has been posted yet
Have you read this book? Are you familiar with Shackleton's experiences? I listened to THE ENDURANCE on audio a while back and highly recommend that one as well. Please share your thoughts on any polar-related topic that interests you. Personally I'm fascinated by people who travel to the poles ... but I'd never DREAM of going there myself. What about you?