For me, one of the most fascinating stories to appear in the news recently is the discovery to the wreck of the Endurance in Antarctica. The Endurance belonged to explorer Ernest Shackleton. He and his crew of 27 were stranded after the ship became trapped and then crushed by the ice in 1915. The pictures and the videos of the remains of this ship, which currently sits over 3000 meters (almost 10,000 feet) below the surface of the Weddell Sea are stunning. Here is a link to one of them: (I hope it works)
The reason I found this story so fascinating was because I had read the book Endurance, by Alfred Lansing. It is one of those STORIES that stay with you. I certainly never forgot it. Here is the publishers blurb:
In August 1914, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton boarded the Endurance and set sail for Antarctica, where he planned to cross the last uncharted continent on foot. In January 1915, after battling its way through a thousand miles of pack ice and only a day’s sail short of its destination, the Endurance became locked in an island of ice. Thus began the legendary ordeal of Shackleton and his crew of twenty-seven men. When their ship was finally crushed between two ice floes, they attempted a near-impossible journey over 850 miles of the South Atlantic’s heaviest seas to the closest outpost of civilization.
In Endurance, the definitive account of Ernest Shackleton’s fateful trip, Alfred Lansing brilliantly narrates the harrowing and miraculous voyage that has defined heroism for the modern age.
I can’t remember why I picked up this book. Something piqued my interest in the Shackleton episode so I ordered it online to satisfy my curiosity. What a book! The most amazing thing about this adventure is that every man survived. How they survived with none of the equipment and cold-weather clothing that modern explorers have today is well worth the read. I remember a description of their deerskin sleeping bags that were so wet and cold all the deer hair had fallen off. Yet they all lived. Their survival attributed to the leadership skills of Ernest Shackleton.
Shackelton was an adventurer at heart. His first trip to Antarctica was with Robert Falcon Scott in 1901. He was knighted by King Edward VII for being part of the Antarctica team who broke major exploration records between 1907 and 1909. He didn’t fair well when not exploring and while back in England after the fated Endurance expedition. He was restless and decided he wanted to go to war in 1917. Too old to be sent to the French front, which was where he wanted to be, he performed other duties for the government during the war years. Shackelton died of a heart attack in 1922, heavily in debt but heading off on another Antarctic adventure.
The actual photos of the expedition included in the book and seen online were taken by Frank Hurley. They are haunting black and white prints that indicate a talented eye for detail. After surviving the expedition, Hurley went on to be the official photographer with Australian forces for both world wars. He died in 1962.
I don’t know if you will find this as fascinating as I did; but if you did, I highly recommend the book. It is a much better read than the dry stuff on Wikipedia. There are details that you won’t find anywhere else and that you could have never have imagined yourself. It is a true story that is almost unbelievable. It is also a story that will make you appreciate all the comforts we take for granted. So if you do decide to read it, let me know what you think.
Thank you for reading.
Photos: Header – Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust; Ship in ice – Frank Hurley, expedition photographer; Book Cover – Chapters/Indigo