by Alfred Lansing

Other authorsNathaniel Philbrick (Introduction)
Paperback, 2015



Call number




Basic Books (2015), 357 pages


Biography & Autobiography. History. Nonfiction. HTML: This is a new reading of the thrilling account of one of the most astonishing feats of exploration and human courage ever recorded. In August of 1914, the British ship Endurance set sail for the South Atlantic. In October, 1915, still half a continent away from its intended base, the ship was trapped, then crushed in the ice. For five months, Sir Ernest Shackleton and his men, drifting on ice packs, were castaways in one of the most savage regions of the world. Lansing describes how the men survived a 1,000-mile voyage in an open boat across the stormiest ocean in the world and an overland trek through forbidding glaciers and mountains. The book recounts a harrowing adventure, but ultimately it is the nobility of these men and their indefatigable will that shines through..… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member katiekrug
What a story! I had a vague idea of who Ernest Shackleton was (someone who did something in the cold) but no idea of what the goal of his expedition had been nor what had happened to him and the 27 men under his command. The whole story is a series of terrible events, bad luck, indomitable human
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will, great leadership, and finally, some good luck. What these men endured is unbelievable, and Lansing has weaved together the history and first-person accounts into a thrilling and emotional narrative. The audio version is read by Simon Prebble, who is pretty near perfect. Very much recommended!
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LibraryThing member chrissie3
This was exciting! I recommend this book to those who want to throw themselves into another world, albeit a world cold, wet, icy and filled with fear, exhaustion and hunger.

Ernest Shackleton set out in 1914 to cross the Antarctic from west to east. Yes, WW1 had broken out and he had Churchill’s
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go-ahead Why? For the glory of Britain and for his own glory too. The race for polar discovery was in full-swing. On December 14, 1911, the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen led the first successful expedition to arrive at the South Pole, five weeks ahead of a British party led by Robert Falcon Scott. Robert Edwin Peary, an American explorer, is credited with having been the first to reach the geographic North Pole. There has been some debate as to whether Frederick Cook, also an American, got there a year earlier.

The audiobook narration by Simon Prebble is excellent.

When the expedition began there were twenty-nine men aboard the Endurance; there was one stowaway! All twenty-nine survived. This book lets you live the experiences of these men and shows how this amazing feat was accomplished. I have a shelf for books concerning “bad-trip” expeditions. To date, this is my favorite.

Completed May 26, 2013
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LibraryThing member MarieAlt
This is intense, but also inspiring. Lansing definitely has a poetic bent and does so well illustrating these men and their circumstances that it was almost like reading fiction: I was so caught up in the suspense, I had no interest in looking up the story anywhere else. Who cares about factual
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reliability (not that this isn't) when the story is so strong?
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LibraryThing member Kathleen828
I am beginning to be a bit self-conscious about giving out 5-star ratings. If everything gets 5 stars from me, where is the comparative value? I assuage myself by thinking that I just happen to have read a great many 5-star books.
This one merits that designation for several reasons.
1) A subtle, but
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remarkable thing is that the author has done such a good job with this that he is actually not noticed at all. That is the mark of both exceptional talent, and of exceptional maturity. Lansing is wise enough to know, and mature enough to accept, that this story is so compelling it is best told quietly and calmly. The conditions endured are so extraordinary that a simple recounting of them takes the breath away. Only a very good author would trust his material enough to become essentially invisible.
Secondly, what these 28 men endured beggars description. I happened to read it during a 24-inch snow storm which added greatly to the intensity of the experience.
This is a compeling and worthwhile read and I recommend it to anyone. I read it in a library book club and am very grateful to the librarian for introducing me to it. It is not something I would ever have picked up on my own.
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LibraryThing member jpsnow
Lansing's mastery lies in letting the story present itself through the characters and their awesome spirit of determination. Any single stage of their journey would be in itself the adventure of a lifetime; for most people, a traumatic, if not terminable one. They spent nearly two years on frozen
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ice and arctic waves. They lived on aging rations, seals, and penguins. They performed feats of survival, navigation, and mountaineering. Read this and experience writing strong because of its simplicity, an adventure strong because of the fortitude it demanded, and leadership lessons proven strong by their result - survival.
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LibraryThing member Katie_H
Absolutely incredible and inspiring! This amazing Antarctic expedition would be unbelievable if you didn't know it to be true. It covers the 1914 attempt of Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 27 to be the first to cross the Antarctic overland. The goal was interrupted when their ship, the Endurance,
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became trapped in ice in the Weddell Sea. From there the book describes an exceptional tale of courage, survival, and heroic leadership, with ridiculous odds, brutal conditions, and numerous life threatening events. Lansing bases the well researched novel on interviews and diaries that the survivors kept. A mind boggling testament of human endurance, this is a poignant reminder of how much determination a person can have when his life is at stake. The novel also serves as a thorough Antarctic travelog; I've always had an interest in traveling to Antarctica some day, and now I am more inclined to make this dream a reality. Recommended to anyone who loves adventure and exploration - even if adventure stories aren't your thing, this is short enough to be well worth reading.
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LibraryThing member bcquinnsmom
I must say, I never get tired of this story, no matter how many accounts I read. And I have read a lot of them, beginning years ago. While this account may not be as complete as say Caroline Alexander's book that more closely details Shackleton's amazing feat, this book is still a fine read & well
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worth the read.

Let me also say that the title, Endurance, may have to do with the name of Shackleton's ship, but overall can be the theme of this and other accounts of this story. What these people endured was well beyond the limit of what most people could and would endure.

As the book opens, the ship Endurance was stuck in the antarctic ice and the ice was breaking up & sinking the ship little by little. The captain & leader of the expedition, Ernest Shackleton, had taken the ship from England with the goal of crossing the south pole over land from one coast to another. By this time, the pole had been reached (and there are many excellent books about these journeys), but what Shackleton wanted to do had never been accomplished. So with the expedition at a standstill with the sinking of the ship & being stuck on an ice floe, the focus turns to survival. For months at a time his crew lived on an ice floe, waiting for it to break up so they could take to open water to find land. Instead, they made it to another ice floe and literally floated it, hoping that the drift would take them close enough to land for them to launch their boats & find some refuge. By April, 1916, the ice broke up allowing the men into the boats, but the journey to land was harrowing. After a terrifying crossing, the came ashore at Elephant Island; but it was clear that this would not do for any great length of time. Thus Shackleton and a few of his men took one of the 20-ft whaling boats, hoping to sail to populated land to get help.

The bulk of the story here is the expedition's time on the ice floes & their journey to Elephant Island. Shackleton's run through open ocean on his small boat is mentioned, briefly. To get an even better view of the story, read Caroline Alexander's book, Endurance. It is much more fully detailed & documented. However, considering that Lansing's account is brief, it is still a fine fine piece of writing & a good addition to the Shackleton story.

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LibraryThing member gbill
The amazing story of Ernest Shackleton’s foiled attempt to become the first man to trek across Antarctica, and his long odyssey to lead his crew of 27 men back to civilization is truly hard to fathom. Shackleton left England on the day it entered WWI with the government’s blessing, and after
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leaving a whaling station in South Georgia in December 1914, his ship the Endurance got trapped in ice a month later. They hoped the ice floe would break up but it never did, and like a small speck on an ice cube, they drifted along helplessly, away from land, for about 10 months. Conditions aboard the Endurance were actually reasonably good, aside from the inevitable boredom that set in, as they were warm and had food. However, the pressure of the ice eventually crushed it, forcing them to abandon ship and live in tents on the ice itself for 5 and a half months, where conditions were much worse, and would get worse still. The floe they were on would ultimately break up, forcing them to take to the lifeboats and face brutal conditions in the sea before successfully landing on a deserted island a few weeks later. And all of that’s not even the stunning part. Shackleton and 5 others then had to leave the others behind and pilot the best of their lifeboats 650 nautical miles through the Drake Passage, one of the stormiest and most dreaded bits of ocean on the planet. They miraculously landed a few weeks later, and even then still had to scale a mountainous glacier to reach the whaling station on the other side of the island. This included a free fall, “tobogganing without a toboggan”, in order to descend and avoid freezing conditions at night, one of many memorable moments. When they stumbled into the station, covered in the grime from burning blubber, dressed in what seem to be rags, and completely unkempt, it was the first time they had seen civilization in 17 months – an ending I might roll my eyes over if I saw it in a movie.

To survive and save his crew, Shackleton had to make difficult decisions, take risks but not those which were unnecessary, and keep morale up, so he’s often cited as an outstanding leader. He’s not always right, and to the book’s credit, he’s not idealized in this account. There are many moments throughout this odyssey where all truly seems lost, and yet they carry on. The conditions are extraordinary, starting with the bitter cold, of course. It’s impossible to truly know what they went through, but you do get a sense for what it means to be in each of the conditions they found themselves in – seeing ice showers from the sky and icebergs tower over the ship as they approached Antarctica, enduring blizzard winds, seeing giant ice floes battering against one another, hearing the haunting sounds of their pressure on the ship at night, and watching helplessly as it’s mangled and slowly sunk. Trying to haul lifeboats across the barren snow, but having feet and legs sunk in freezing water while making ridiculously slow progress. Having to (very sadly!) kill their trusting dogs as the supply of food from killing defenseless seals abated, at one point being attacked themselves by a sea leopard, and one day being surrounded by thousands and thousands of migrating penguins. The inevitable frustrations and irritations from being in close quarters with the same people for so long, and some of the ingenious ways to cope. Having the ice as both the safety of something solid, and yet a menace, as it would crack while they were on it and threaten their boats while at sea, ramming them, and possibly closing up around them. Starving and undergoing severe rationing while having to do things like cut off one man’s gangrenous foot. Getting to the sea but then enduring freezing water, giant waves, and dehydrating while getting little to no sleep over periods of several days. Relying on the incredible navigation of Frank Worsley to hit tiny islands hundreds of miles away, and then when getting there, having great difficulty landing … and on and on, it just boggles the mind. (Phew)

The book reminded me of The Martian in the sense that it shows human perseverance under extreme conditions, and ultimate success against long odds after being marooned, but it’s better written, and all true. Alfred Lansing wrote it four decades after the fact, but he did painstaking research, reading diaries several men kept, and interviewing many of the survivors. He knew a great story when he saw it and has a flair for the dramatic as the events unfold, but his writing is dry-eyed and highly authentic. The photographs included are also outstanding. It’s a miracle that Frank Hurley’s negatives survived, and I found the images and their quality level to be extremely good, and something you might see printed in a book from today. Non-fiction is not usually my thing, but the book was given to me as a gift from an old colleague, along with a bottle of whiskey recently recreated from those Shackleton brought along to the Antarctic. Needless to say, I enjoyed the pairing. :)
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LibraryThing member jwhenderson
If ever there was a book whose title deserved to include the word "incredible" this is it. The voyage of Ernest Shackleton receives a well-deserved and beautiful portrayal in Alfred Lansing's famous book. One of my favorite adventure books, it is a detailed account of the events and the extremes
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that were encountered on the Antarctic voyage where disaster struck when his ship, Endurance, was trapped in pack ice and slowly crushed, before the shore parties could be landed.

The book recounts the failure of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition led by Sir Ernest Shackleton in its attempt to cross the Antarctic continent and the subsequent struggle for survival endured by the twenty-eight man crew for almost two years. The book's title refers to the ship Shackleton used for the expedition, the Endurance. In 1914 Shackleton led twenty-seven men on the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. The goal of the expedition was to transverse the Antarctic continent by dog sledge. The ship was beset and eventually crushed by ice floes in the Weddell Sea leaving the men stranded on the pack ice. All in all the crew drifted on the ice for just over a year. At the end of October, 1915, the Endurance finally succumbed to the intense pressure and was slowly crushed. The crew, led by Shackleton, abandoned ship and made camp on a huge floe of pack ice. Shackleton then led a crew of five aboard the James Caird through the Drake Passage and miraculously reached South Georgia Island 650 nautical miles away. He then took two of those men on the first successful overland crossing of the island. Three months later he was finally able to rescue the remaining crew members they had left behind on Elephant Island.

Virtually every diary kept during the expedition was made available to the author and almost all the surviving members at the time of writing submitted to lengthy interviews. The most significant contribution came from Dr. Alexander Macklin, one of the ship's surgeons, who provided Lansing with many diaries, a detailed account of the perilous journey the crew made to Elephant Island, and months of advice. The narrative of the astonishing sequence of exploits, and an ultimate escape with no lives lost, would eventually assure Shackleton's heroic status. Lansing provides an account worthy of this epic adventure.
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LibraryThing member Kristelh
This was incredible. I can hardly believe that any of these men, let alone none died. I can't even imagine how awful it would have been to be in these conditions for this length of time. I knew little about Shackleton's voyage in the South Pole so really enjoyed this free audioboook read by Simon
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The ship never really was a part of the book. It was crushed by ice and then the men spent over a year on the ice pack. It was over 400 days before they made it to land. That land was a barren, uninhabitable island and there was no chance that they would be found. So in a small boat not meant for perilous sea travel, a few men took the trip to the inhabited island over 800 miles through treacherous seas to get help. Another accomplishment, Shackleton and his small crew then walked over land of South Georgia Island, another accomplishment against odds. A book about failure that shows man's will to survive.

Published 1959. The author interviewed survivors and used their journals.

Rating: 4.17
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LibraryThing member brenzi
”The order to abandon ship was given at 5 PM. For most of the men, however, no order was needed because by then everybody knew that the ship was done and that it was time to give up trying to save her. There was no show of fear or even apprehension. They had fought unceasingly for three days and
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they had lost. They accepted their defeat almost apathetically. They were simply too tired to care….The ship was being crushed. Not all at once, but slowly, a little at a time. The pressure of ten million tons of ice was driving in against her sides. And dying as she was, she cried in agony.”

And then, oddly enough, the real adventure began. Because these explorers, who were meant to cross the Antarctic continent overland from west to east, found that that goal was not going to happen because their voyage was doomed almost before it began.
I’ve read several books that deal with explorations into the coldest places on earth and it always amazes me how the men on these expeditions survive unlikely and brutal conditions. And I always ask myself the same question: How in the world is it possible to have so much courage, to go on when you are to the point of exhaustion, when you haven’t had any water to drink in way too long, when your hands and feet are probably suffering from frostbite? How do you just push yourself to go on? I can’t say this book answered this question but it was a stark reminder that there are people in this world who have demonstrated this uncanny ability. And the men on Shackleton’s expedition were among those men.

Using first-hand accounts in the diaries of the men on the expedition, Alfred Lansing has written a masterwork that details the horrendous conditions and the value of working together to accomplish a common goal. I don’t really know how not one person suffered from pneumonia or bronchitis as many of them were submerged in the arctic seas with little chance of drying out. Everything was cold and wet including the sleeping bags. But somehow these men survived, defying the odds.

”Though they had failed dismally even to come close to the expedition’s original objective, they knew now that somehow they had done much, much more than ever they set out to do.”

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LibraryThing member larryerick
On one extreme, you're on a tropical beach. The breeze is soft and cooling. A well-chilled pitcher of your favorite beverage is within arms length. Soft lilting melodies can be heard in the background. Life is good. Life is easy. Now, at the exact midpoint, there is Navy Seals boot camp. And at the
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very opposite extreme, there is what takes place in this book. Any questions?
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
A friend and I were discussing heroism and leadership. Who are the real life Captain Kirks out there in history? And she recommended this book. This is the very passage she used to entice me:

Shackleton... had a talent--genius, even--that he shared with only a handful of men throughout
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history--genuine leadership. He was, as one of his men put it, "the greatest leader that ever came on God's earth bar none." For all his blind spots and inadequacies, Shackleton merited this tribute:

"For scientific leadership give me Scott; for swift and efficient travel, Amundsen; but when you are in a hopeless situation, when there seems no way out, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton."

And that's exactly the situation the 1914 Endurance expedition found itself in. They had planned to cross the Antarctic continent on foot, but their ship was crushed by ice floes before they could even disembark. Twenty-eight men found themselves stranded on pack ice and found themselves in a struggle for survival. Using diaries of the men of the expedition as well as lengthy interviews of the survivors (the book was published in 1959, so there were still several alive when this was being written) Lansing was able to give a detailed account of the story. And besides Shackleton, the Antarctic itself is the fascinating character here--one that has drawn me back to the book more than once. It's one of the Earth's extreme environments, and like the Everest of Krakauer's In Thin Air, its portrait in this book made an indelible impression.
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LibraryThing member OldRoses
For many years, I controlled my addiction to books by staying out of bookstores but now that booksellers have moved to the internet, it has become increasingly difficult for me to curb my need to buy books. It is just too easy while online to click over to Amazon or various other discount
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It was while I was exploring a new-to-me discount book selling site that I came across "Endurance". I vaguely remembered seeing something on TV about it years ago. More to the point, a friend had read the book and highly recommended it. The price was right (prices are rarely "wrong" when it comes to books) and I ordered the book.

The first few pages seemed familiar, as if I had read them before, perhaps during one of my "I’m not going to buy books, I’m only going to borrow them from the library" phases but I was so enthralled by the story that I continued reading. Drawing on diaries (honestly, who keeps a diary while alternately freezing and starving?) and interviews with members of the expedition, the author weaves a tale almost too incredible to be true.

Trapped on the Antarctic ice after their ship was crushed, Shackleton and his men lived in tents, waiting for the ice to break up. As spring progressed, they dragged their boats across the ice until they found open water and with improvised sails, made for the closest islands, landing on Elephant Island. Leaving most of the crew on the island, Shackleton crossed the worst seas on the planet with five men in an open boat, landing on the opposite side of South Georgia Island, forcing them to hike across a glacier to reach their goal, a whaling station. He spent the next three months trying to get back to Elephant Island to rescue his stranded crew.

Despite knowing that everyone made it safely home, I couldn’t put this book down. It’s easy to see how this book became a classic. I literally read it in two sittings. And yet, I was bothered by one seemingly minor detail. Something that I don’t remember being mentioned on TV but when I read it in the beginning of the book, I said "uh, oh" and the series of subsequent disasters suddenly made sense. What didn’t make sense to me was the fact that experienced mariners signed on for this voyage.

Mariners are very superstitious. In the past, they would refuse to serve on a ship that was considered "unlucky" or serve under a captain that was considered "unlucky". Also considered bad luck was changing the name of a ship which is what Shackleton did. The Endurance was originally named Polaris. He changed it to reflect his family motto, "By endurance, we conquer". So it should have come as no surprise to anyone when by "a freak" Endurance became trapped in the ice. Or that the weather or the ocean always foiled their escape plans. In light of the fact that Shackleton had brought bad luck on his expedition by renaming his ship, the safe return of his crew and him is nothing short of miraculous.
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LibraryThing member dmarsh451
The benchmark for freezing on ice-caps stories.
LibraryThing member hcubic
One of the greatest adventures (and ordeals) of all time, vividly told.
LibraryThing member ursula
For someone who is more of an indoor type of girl, I sure do love adventure stories. Seafaring, mountaineering; you name it, it probably appeals to me. So it's not surprising that I was drawn toward this amazing tale. I had only heard the barest outlines of the story before - I knew Shackleton had
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a famously doomed expedition to Antarctica and that somehow everyone had survived. That, obviously, doesn't begin to describe what really went on. In some ways, the book is a little like an exercise in Murphy's Law - if there's a way things can get worse, they probably will. The Endurance gets stuck in packed ice, eventually being crushed by the pressure from the moving floes. Now the men are stranded hundreds of miles from anything vaguely resembling civilization, and they are floating on an ice floe, hoping it will blow in the right direction. I couldn't even entirely wrap my mind around that.

And then things get worse. The story involves near-starvation, exhaustion, facing some of the world's worst weather, sailing treacherous seas in small boats, and much, much more. Yet, none of that will spoil the story for you. I've seen others say that knowing the outcome doesn't spoil the story in the least, and I have to agree. You'll find yourself forgetting that they all make it, and wondering how on earth it's even possible for them to have all survived. I highly recommend this book to anyone.
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LibraryThing member trbixby
A great story. Title is very appropriate. I found it very captivating and inspiring. Highly recommend.
LibraryThing member nathan.c.moore
I felt like my heart was frozen in place as I read this book. In fact, I think I've hung my head a little lower with shame this week as I have spent my evenings reading this story, reminding myself that I'm simply not made of the same stuff Shackelton and is crew were. Their story is truly
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unbelievable. The way Lansing told the story, it seems like they should have perished a dozen times over. Yet a story like this could have been easily ruined by a lesser author. Lansing was up to the task. I marveled at the author's canny ability to describe the most nondescript details of such a monotonous existence and never run out of language. These details gave believability such a remarkable story. Left out, the story would have been too fast and overstated. Over-described and the details would have seemed glamorous or unbelievable. If I had any complaint about the book, and I'm whispering now, it would be that perhaps the author could have done more to develop the individual characters and their personalities a little more. I was especially disappointed that the story didn't focus as much on the intriguing Shackleton character as the title and opening pages led me to believe. I do feel as though I picked up a few lessons on leadership, such as when it is wise to keep my own counsel, but this story was driven by the facts and events. I found myself wishing to know more of what these men were made of. I can quickly forgive Lansing for the absence of these observations as the author was the beneficiary of other authors's research. The dried out journals of the crew may have lacked the content for such musings.This is a superb book that I hope is widely read. I've already loaned out my copy!
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LibraryThing member SesameG
One of the greatest adventure stories of all time. A grim tale of Antarctic survival - and Lansing's version is epic.
LibraryThing member kaitekelly
This is one of the most incredible maritime adventure stories ever told. What the men of the ship of Endurance endured and all survived is truly amazing.
LibraryThing member Carolfoasia
Amazing story. Amazing men who maintained their good attitudes throughout this treacherous journey under the able leadership of Shackleton. Perfect timing to listen to this audiobook. My back had gone out during the most difficult part of their journey. I kept thinking that my pain was nothing
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compared to theirs! Great book.
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LibraryThing member LaBibliophille
In August 1914, the ship Endurance left England on the first leg of what was called the Imperial Trans-Arctic Expedition. Led by Ernest Shackleton, the purpose of the expedition was to cross the Antarctic continent on land, from one end to the other, across the South Pole. The ship was sturdily
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built, well-supplied, and had an able crew. The Endurance left for Antarctica from South Georgia Island on December 5. By February 1915, the ship was trapped in the ice.

The crew wintered on the ship. In October, when it became clear that the Endurance was going to be crushed by the pack ice, Shackleton ordered his crew to abandon ship. They set up camp on an ice floe, in the hopes that it would drift north towards land. When the ice floe broke up in April 1916, the crew gathered in their lifeboats and reached Elephant Island. From there, Shackleton and a crew of five journeyed through the roughest seas on the planet back to South Georgia Island, about 800 miles away. Shacklteon then returned by ship to Elephant Island to rescue his crew, arriving on August 30, 2016, two years after they had left England.

The miracle of this expedition is that every man on the expedition survived. Shackleton's leadership ability and courage are legendary.

So-everyone knows the basics of this amazing story. What Alfred Lansing has done is bring these intrepid explorers to life. For his source material, Lansing had access to diaries and personal accounts of some members of the expedition, and was able to interview a a number of the surviving members of the expedition. Even knowing the outcome, I was riveted by the details that Lansing wrote about.

The crew was subject to the constantly changing Antarctic weather. Shrieking winds, blinding snow, high seas, sub-freezing temperatures, and months of darkness plagued them during the winter. The Antarctic summer brought little relief, as temperatures hovered near freezing, and the melting and shifting ice brought extraordinary danger.

The story of Shackleton's expedition is a true life adventure, with true life heroes.
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LibraryThing member Marlene-NL
If you have not read this book I tell you now go and try to get a copy. What an incredible story and the more amazing cause it happened to be true! The writing is so well done that it sometimes felt a if I was there. (and that was not fun ;) ). I am so amazed how they kept on fighting and stayed
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I finished it this morning and the first thing I did was turn on the Internet and look for more information. There are incredible photo's shot by James Frank Hurley where you can see the Endurance stuck on the ice.
I can tell you I want to read more books like this. My next plan is to get myself a book about the fatal (alas) Scott expedition and if you read this review and know of more books where men have to face so much please let me know. I am planning to buy The Long Walk this week which is not on the ice but another real adventure journey.
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LibraryThing member 2400
One of those books I couldn't put down before completing. Why are some people's life spared and others allowed to die? What role do each of us play in being accountable in our actions for our survival. This book clearly reveals the importance of our actions, the folly of trusting solely in those
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actions, and the mercy and grace of Our Lord who reveals himself to us in-spite of ourselves. "Not because of what I've done, but because of Who He is."
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Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

357 p.; 8.25 inches


0465062881 / 9780465062881
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