Book Review – Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing

It’s December 5th, 1914, and Shackleton leads his group of 26 (and discovers a 27th in the form of a stowaway) out of South Georgia Island in the middle of the South Atlantic to become the first group to cross the Antarctic from one side to another.

Having been beaten by the Norwegians in the last 2 races for ‘first’ status in the Antarctic, this was going to put Britain back on the map of cold climate exploration. It didn’t seem to be. On January 18th, 1915 their ship Endurance is trapped by the ice. Drifting on the ice pack for 9 months they managed to survive to see their ship is crushed on October 27th. A month later it was gone. Having salvaged everything that they could, with nothing more than a pack of dogs and 3 rowing boats, Shackleton was going to use all the resources possible to get his team back alive.  

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Endurance is the incredible story of how Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 27 men survived the “ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition”. This really is one of the great survival stories of modern history and you’re left wondering how all 28 could endure so much over 17 months yet not give up.

The book was written in 1959 by first time author Lansing. Having read some books from the early part of the last century or older, some age better than others. This was probably my first non-fiction book that has some age to it so I was cautious at first. However this was certainly one of the good ones and I was encapsulated from the very beginning.

Some non-books that tell tales of adventure and tragedy can fall into over exaggeration to make the story ever more gripping that it already is. This of course has it merits and can make some books far more readable but Lansing is rather more matter-of-fact about the trip. The language he uses throughout isn’t sensationalist and the emotion comes from referencing the journals of those who were there – Lansing didn’t get in the way of reporting on such an incredible stroy. Although it was lacking in ‘Pizzazz’ this did by no means take away any enjoyment of the book. If anything, his account was humbling and made the reader feel closer to Shackleton and his crew. I felt the tension, the boredom and frustration experienced by everyone to a point that I was wishing hard for them to get out of there. It was a well researched and authoritative piece having interviewed the crew themselves and access to the journals of those who were no longer with us.

They are a remarkable group of men, hardy to the core. This book was very much equal to it

We gave it 5 Trees

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