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.
For ten months the ice-moored Endurance drifted northwest before it was finally crushed between two ice floes. With no options left, Shackleton and a skeleton crew attempted a near-impossible journey over 850 miles of the South Atlantic's heaviest seas to the closest outpost of civilization. Their survival, and the survival of the men they left behind, depended on their small lifeboat successfully finding the island of South Georgia—a tiny dot of land in a vast and hostile ocean.
Alfred Lansing’s Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage is a tale of courage and perseverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. The nonfiction work details the harrowing circumstances of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, the last major expedition in the Heroic Age of Antarctic Expedition in which Ernest Shackleton and his crew set out to accomplish the first crossing of the Antarctic continent by land.
The expedition was unsuccessful, and instead of a grueling polar crossing, Shackleton and his men faced the horror of being locked in an ice flow for months on end; stranded on the ice when their ship, Endurance, was crushed and sank; and forced to launch out into a frigid, deadly sea to reach the closest landmass not once, but twice. The story of the Endurance expedition is one of incredible resilience and human endurance—both physical and psychological. It is also a testament to the human will to survive against all odds and an ode to the burning and ever-present drive to explore the far reaches of the world.
Lansing’s retelling begins slowly as he sets the scene, and his writing is straight-forward and unembellished—and all the more powerful for its lack of adornment. Lansing captures the grimness of the men’s predicament, the heartbreak over being forced by hunger to eat their beloved, loyal dogs, the dangerous and grisly tolls the men faced both physically and mentally. There are parts of the tale that are long and drawn out, but the tedium is a brilliant reflection of the brutal months the expedition team spent trapped in the pack ice. Lansing’s research is so thorough—comprised of interviews with survivors and access to numerous primary resource materials—that each man of the crew is brought to authentic life on the pages. Shackleton himself is a character whose leadership and resourcefulness was both astonishing and commendable, and he exists in the pages of Lansing’s book not merely as an intriguing historical figure but as a flesh and blood man with a thirst for adventure and exploration and a deep concern for the men he led.
The work is a stellar monument to the men of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Lansing’s Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage is a suspenseful, gripping story of adventure, of survival, of camaraderie, and of incredible endurance.
Highly recommended for fans of nonfiction focused on survival, expeditions, and astonishing human resilience