Shackleton's boat journey

by F. A. Worsley

Paperback, 1998




New York : W.W. Norton & Company, 1998.


On August 1, 1914, on the eve of World War I, Sir Ernest Shackleton and his hand-picked crew embarked in HMS Endurance from London's West India Dock, for an expedition to the Antarctic. It was to turn into one of the most breathtaking survival stories of all time. Even as they coasted down the channel, Shackleton wired back to London to offer his ship to the war effort. The reply came from the First Lord of the Admiralty, one Winston Churchill: "Proceed." And proceed they did. When the Endurance was trapped and finally crushed to splinters by pack ice in late 1915, they drifted on an ice floe for five months, before getting to open sea and launching three tiny boats as far as the inhospitable, storm-lashed Elephant Island. They drank seal oil and ate baby albatross (delicious, apparently). From there Shackelton himself and seven others - the author among them - went on, in a 22-foot open boat, for an unbelievable 800 miles, through the Antarctic seas in winter, to South Georgia and rescue. It is an extraordinary story of courage and even good-humour among men who must have felt certain, secretly, that they were going to die. Worsley's account, first published in 1940, captures that bulldog spirit exactly: uncomplaining, tough, competent, modest and deeply loyal. It's gripping, and strangely moving.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member overthemoon
The heart-stopping story of an incredible journey over the raging ice-laden seas of the Antarctic. I'd heard a lot about Shackleton's boat journey when researching Antarctic explorers but stupidly, never gave a thought to his crew - I had always imagined he did it alone. As said one of the
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Norwegians at the whaling station where Shackleton and his two companions eventually arrived - These are men. Just amazing to realise what human beings can endure, their skills and resourcefulness. Also amazed by Worsley's memory and recollection of detail; I can only gaze in admiration. And his understated sense of humour.
Nicely produced book with attractively textured cover. On the downside, the photo captions are too close to the gutter (I did not want to crack the spine to open it more) and I don't particularly like the choice of all caps, but that's a minor detail. Love the Bodoni typeface.
Now I want to know more about these men.

A quote, p. 39:
(after landfall on Elephant Island where most of the crew stayed while Shackleton and five others set off in the Caird lifeboat heading for South Georgia):
"Gales of wind off the ice-sheet blew almost incessantly. In one heavy gale sheets of ice 1/4 in. thick and 1 ft square were hurled about by the wind, making it dangerous to venture out.
After the tents were ruined we lived under the upturned boats. The aristocracy slept in their bags on oars and sledge-runners placed on the thwarts. On the dirt and blubber-caked shingle 3 ft beneath the rougher Bolshevik element insolently reclined. The swells above kocked out their pipes or dropped dirty socks on the lower classes. This sometimes caused a slight unplesantness which, fortunately, never culminated in a class war.
In that narrow gloomy space McIlroy and Macklin performed an amazing operation. They amputated Blackborrows' frostbitten toes, saving his foot and possibly his life.... Seriously, I was always sorry for the twenty-two men who lived in that horrible place for four months of misery while we were away on the boat journey, and the four attemps at rescue ending with their joyful relief."
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LibraryThing member pouleroulante
Astounding story. Mentions the myth of the third person walking next to them on South Georgia, which TS Eliot recycled in a poem
LibraryThing member Mockers
First hand account of the astounding exploits of Sir Ernest Shackleton in rescuing his crew from certain death in Antarctica. This covers the journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia in full fish scented detail. Shackleton is a true hero.
LibraryThing member Coelacanth
This is simply the most exiting real-life adventure I’ve ever read.
LibraryThing member co_coyote
In poking around for a book to read after Christmas, I found this slim volume on my wife's bookshelves. We have a personal connection to Antarctic exploration, as Tom Crean, who played a major role on this boat journey with Shackleton and who was with Scott on his ill-fated journey to the Pole, was
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my wife's grandmother's uncle. In fact, we have often wondered where my youngest son got his height and, well, his unusually large ears. Then we saw a picture of Crean. Say no more.

This book, as all first-hand accounts of Antarctic exploration for the early 1900's, is amazing. What men these were, how courageous and just plain lucky to have survived their ordeal. By all accounts, Shackleton was a leader who inspired the best efforts of his men. That not one of his twenty-eight men perished in this remarkable journey is as unbelievable as the journey itself. If you have not read a first-hand account of these brave men, you own it to yourself to do so.
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LibraryThing member lxydis
An unbelievable journey. Read this if you read Endurance or if you like seafaring adventures.
LibraryThing member ecw0647
Another truly great adventure story (although the saga of how he came to be in the predicament is a rather sorry one,) is that of Shackleton’s great boat journey. After his ship became trapped and crushed in the ice during an abortive attempt at a sea-to-sea overland journey across Antarctica,
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Ernest Shackleton led a group of six men (the remaining crew were left behind to wait for rescue) in a 22-foot boat across some 800 miles of the stormiest ocean known to man at the height of winter. The voyage is narrated by F.A. Worsley, captain of Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance.

It was an incredible feat of seamanship and navigation rivaling Bligh’s famous voyage (another unsung hero - Hollywood has really done dirt to Blígh.) After reaching South Georgia in the midst of a hurricane, Shackleton and his men still had to cross a mountain range and glaciers to reach the whaling station at the north of the island. From there he returned to rescue the men left behind. With amazing luck (or competence, more likely) no man was lost.
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