The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition

by Caroline Alexander

Other authorsFrank Hurley (Photographer)
Paperback, 1998

Call number

919.89 ALE



Alfred A. Knopf Inc. (1998), Edition: 1st, 211 pages


History. Photography. Travel. Nonfiction. HTML:In August 1914, days before the outbreak of the First World War, the renowned explorer Ernest Shackleton and a crew of twenty-seven set sail for the South Atlantic in pursuit of the last unclaimed prize in the history of exploration: the first crossing on foot of the Antarctic continent. Weaving a treacherous path through the freezing Weddell Sea, they had come within eighty-five miles of their destination when their ship, Endurance, was trapped fast in the ice pack. Soon the ship was crushed like matchwood, leaving the crew stranded on the floes. Their ordeal would last for twenty months, and they would make two near-fatal attempts to escape by open boat before their final rescue. Drawing upon previously unavailable sources, Caroline Alexander gives us a riveting account of Shackleton's expedition--one of history's greatest epics of survival. And she presents the astonishing work of Frank Hurley, the Australian photographer whose visual record of the adventure has never before been published comprehensively. Together, text and image re-create the terrible beauty of Antarctica, the awful destruction of the ship, and the crew's heroic daily struggle to stay alive, a miracle achieved largely through Shackleton's inspiring leadership. The survival of Hurley's remarkable images is scarcely less miraculous: The original glass plate negatives, from which most of the book's illustrations are superbly reproduced, were stored in hermetically sealed cannisters that survived months on the ice floes, a week in an open boat on the polar seas, and several more months buried in the snows of a rocky outcrop called Elephant Island. Finally Hurley was forced to abandon his professional equipment; he captured some of the most unforgettable images of the struggle with a pocket camera and three rolls of Kodak film. Published in conjunction with the American Museum of Natural History's landmark exhibition on Shackleton's journey, The Endurance thrillingly recounts one of the last great adventures in the Heroic Age of exploration--perhaps the greatest of them all. From the Hardcover edition..… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member John
Shackleton set out on an Antarctic exploration mission just at the time of the outbreak of WWI. In fact he telegraphed the Admiralty shortly after departure to ask whether he should proceed, or return with his crew for the war effort. To his great relief the reply was that he should continue. But
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the planned trek to the South Pole was not to be. Instead, Shackleton's ship, The Endurance, was frozen into the ice before he could get to the point where the seamen would have left him and the other explorers and returned on their own to the last staging point. From that time through months of drifting with the icepack, and then living on ice floes after the ship was crushed by the ice, and then finally making a run it for it in three open boats, the crew of The Endurance survived 497 days before they touched land. And what a land: Elephant Island (named after elephant seals): uninhabited desolate in the extreme, and so far off the shipping lines that no one would ever look for survivors in such a place, assuming of course that they even would be looking for Shackleton and his crew after over a year's absence. Shackleton and a small crew of six, in a re-fitted, very small boat, set out from Elephant Island for the nearest point of help: a Norwegian whaling station that took them 16 days to reach in a feat of seafaring and navigation that is still widely recognized as nothing short of incredible. Even when they eventually arrived at South Georgia Island, they were not at the whaling station itself, and Shackleton and two others had to walk for 36 hours through snow, ice, and storms, through steep passes, to reach the station. The rescue of the men left on Elephant Island proved much more difficult than could have been thought. Shackleton tried two or three times but was turned back each time by the ice, and he had incredible difficulty in finding the loan of ships to undertake the operation. In the end he succeeded, and returned with what he regarded as his greatest triumph: that through all of the incredible hardships, he did not lose a single man.

This seems to be largely attributable to Shackleton's leadership style. He was always optimistic, did not allow negative or pessimistic conjectures; he was very solicitous of the well-being of the men, and he seems to have not been infected by the class snobbishness so characteristic of his time; he had an excellent eye for those who might cause trouble, and he acted quickly and decisively when necessary to deal with problems and to isolate difficult personalities.

The story is woven together through the diaries of various members of the expedition, and in this edition it is beautifully illustrated with photographs taken by Hurley, the expedition's official photographer. The clarity, the composition, and the sheer beauty of many of these photographs is astonishing and they add wonderfully to the description of the ordeal. They are all the more impressive when one considers the conditions under which they were taken, the state of photographic technology in 1914, and the harsh conditions under which the negatives had to be stored and treated.

Shackleton pulled together an incredibly disparate group of men, most of whom dispersed around the globe when it was all over, and who, with few exceptions, had little or no interest in staying in touch afterwards. The experience was unique; the incredible physical closeness and the fact that the men depended so much on each other for their survival was special to that time and place and did not translate, for most, into any lasting friendships or even acquaintances.

In the aftermath of WWI, Shackleton could not really take advantage of his story; after the carnage of the Ypres and the Somme, there was not much appetite for adventure stories, and the Brits already had the doomed hero of Scott to hang on to. Shackleton survived by touring and giving some lectures, and a stint as an arctic advisor, or some such thing, in a British Mission in Russia post-war, but he never really settled down or found his niche. Even the royalties of a book he wrote on the adventure had to go to creditors of the expedition who hounded him for payment. He ended up recruiting a few of the Endurance crew for a trip to the southern points, in particular South Georgia, where he was known and recognized for what he had achieved. He died there of a heart attack, in 1922 at 47 years of age; his wife instructed that he should be buried there rather than be returned to Britain. A poignant end for a man who was never successful in the "civilian" world, but who had a reputation as an arctic explorer, and who showed greatness in one great trail of life.
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LibraryThing member kcslade
Great story of explorer trapped in Antarctic ice who goes on to save all his crew.
LibraryThing member JBreedlove
Heard this on tape. An account of the amazing adventure and survival of Shackleton's crew during its escape from the Antarctic.
LibraryThing member ldmarquet
Starts slowly but is a gripping story of, well, endurance. Imagine the most grueling challenge and you won't be close. An inspiring but ultimately, futile expedition.
LibraryThing member joeythelemur
An absolutely fascinating account of the plight of the Endurance and her crew in their quest to reach the South Pole. The photographs are incredible and the cast of characters equally so. The fact that these men were stranded in Antarctica for months yet suffered not a single lost life is
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practically unbelievable. Shackleton's leadership was on clear display as he held together a rough band of men through the most difficult ordeal imaginable. A highly recommended read.
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LibraryThing member CymLowell
The story of the trek of Ernest Shackleton and his crew across Antarctica in 1914-1915 is told in this magnificent biography in a manner so that the reader feels a part of the crew. The trip was undertaken in the wooden ship Endurance with sails billowing and steam engines throbbing on its way into
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the icy domain of South Georgia and the South Pole. It was not the first mission to the frozen world.

Danger vested immediately as the ship was consumed by the icy forces of raw nature and the crew, including 69 sledging dogs and a cat named Mrs. Chippy, was on its won with no means of escape. The adventure was captured with the artistic photography of Frank Hurley, with many previously unpublished photos prominent in this story.

Endurance was entombed by ice in the early months of 1915. The story touches on the lives and feelings of the crew, as well as the amazing leadership of Shackleton. He seemed to prize optimism in his men, which he referred to as “true moral courage.” The reader is there with these brave souls, anticipating each step in the process with the enduring question of whether they will survive to return to England (and World War I) -- boiling whale blubber, catching penguins for food, tending to the parasite infested dogs, addressing the aches and fears of the crew, giggling at the antics of the dogs, or the seeing the natural beauty of the icescape.

By August of 1915, the blocks of young ice were grinding on Endurance, eventually breaking it up and sending crew and dogs on their way, even teams of men pulling the life boats. In April 1916, the team finally came to land at Elephant Island ending their trek across thin ice. The n Shackleton led a crew across 800 miles of ocean and ice back to South Georgia. Rescue of the men and dogs on Elephant Island finally occurred in August 1916.

Caroline Alexander has an amazing skill of blending diary detail and pictures to allow us readers to enjoy the optimism of the beginning, the agony of the shipwreck, the leadership of Shackleton, and the strength of character to endure the way forward. I felt as if I was on the journey, relieved at last to be on my way home with not a life lost! Simply Amazing!
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LibraryThing member jastbrown
To have such a complete photographic, as well as written, record of such an adventureous expedition as this, begun in 1914 is just amazing to me! Ms. Alexander does a wonderful job of staying out of the way and letting the story tell itself, while her occasional guidance and expert chronology
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making this easy reading indeed! This is the kind of book that awakens the adventurer in us all!
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LibraryThing member cmbohn
Themes: teamwork, exploration, endurance, determination, hardship
Setting: the Antarctic and South Polar regions, 1914-1916

These guys give a whole new level to tough. Shackleton was amazing. I love this book too because it has many of the original photographs taken by Hurley,the expedition
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photographer. This one was a book club pick; otherwise, I don't know if I would have picked it up. I read another book, Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Journey, a few years ago, and I didn't really plan on reading another book about the same subject. But I'm glad I picked this up. I think in some ways Lansing's book was better, but this one did a better job of telling what happened after the trip was over, and it had all the photos. I'm looking forward to the discussion. Very good. 4 stars
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LibraryThing member kenno82
This is the first book that I have read about the Shackleton expedition. Amazing story, but I found the writing a bit dry. It wasn't gripping like a story of this nature should be. Alexander makes some interesting points regarding Shackleton as a leader, and a lot of Hurley's photos are included.
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However, there's little insight into what the members would've been going through physically and emotionally. All in all, not a bad introduction to the story... but I'm sure there's better accounts. I'll read Shackleton's personal account (South) next.
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LibraryThing member hcubic
This year's exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History of artifacts from the 1915 scientific expedition to Antarctica led by Sir Ernest Shackleton has been accompanied by the publication of Caroline Alexander's book, which includes the documenting photographs of Frank Hurley (some of which
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could be seen on the Museum's Web site). This well-written and beautifully-produced volume tells a story of hardship, courage, and ultimate triumph that is hard to top. Their ship, The Endurance, was trapped and eventually crushed by ice, marooning the men. When the ice eventually broke up during the following spring, three small lifeboats were sailed two hundred miles to Elephant Island. The ultimate rescue was accomplished only after Shackleton had navigated by stars and sextant the largest of the lifeboats 800 miles through frigid and stormy waters to South Georgia Island. I had read Alfred Lansing's book, Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage published by Carroll and Graf, in its first edition several years ago, and found his storytelling to be somehow even more gripping than the illustrated new accounting, but that may have been because I didn't know the whole story in advance. A modern reader cannot help but be struck by the technological differences between that time and this. A great story!
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LibraryThing member berthirsch
An exciting tale of a small group of men and their leader who survive under the most horrendous conditions. Wonderful photographs help illustrate and bring the tale to life.
LibraryThing member SusannainSC
I was so cold when I read this, that maybe I should have read it in July, when it's stifling, rather than in January.
LibraryThing member drhichamriba
I recommend this book for anyone in the midst of a very trying time in their life. It delivers perspective at its finest. The fact that every member of the crew survived this nightmare is unarguably a testament to Shackleton's commitment to leadership, life and his ability to inspire faith. These
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were not all men who were amiable social butterflies by nature, not by any stretch. No one is uplifted in the destruction of innocent animals or watching their ship, their shelter, their ticket home and all its contents, crushed and devoured by ice. Yet, he so gracefully convinced them to remain positive in the face of their cold stark circumstances and focused on their common goal - getting home. Whatever you are facing, this story will give you strength, albeit through tears and a bit of laughter.
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LibraryThing member AntT
If you like true adventure tales, this should be on your to-read list.
LibraryThing member AntT
If you like true adventure tales, this should be on your to-read list.
LibraryThing member mjspear
This is what good nonfiction is all about. Author Alexander shows rather than tells the incredible story of Edward Shackelton's voyage on the Endurance. After being entrapped in ice, the crew live on the ship, the ship breaks up and sinks so the men move to ice floes, then set out in small boats,
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land at Elephant Island, in time, a smaller crew (incl. Shackleton) then sail to So. Georgia Island, march across the Island to the whaling villages on its opposite shore... after several attempts, a rescue ship is able to land at Elephant Island and the remaining crew are rescued. Through blizzards, rains, starvation, deprivations, and more: not a single life was lost The book is enhanced with superb pictures. A true tale of perseverance, tenacity, and courage.
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LibraryThing member gbelik
Shackleton and 27 crew members set out to cross the Antarctic continent on foot. The hardships they endured were truly awesome. The adventure is well told in this book. I read it as an audio book so missed the photographs that would have enhanced the story. Also the maps that were probably included
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in the book would have been helpful.
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LibraryThing member dypaloh
I read Caroline Alexander’s The Endurance, an account of the legendary 1914-1916 expedition accomplished by Ernest Shackleton and his men, while sampling a gift I’d received: “Shackleton Blended Malt Scotch Whisky…The Spirit Supplied to the 1907 British Antarctic Expedition.”

The 1907
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expedition isn’t the one described in Alexander’s book, of course. Also, better whiskeys than Shackleton exist. Sipping it, though, can create a sensation that the man’s spirit has been infused into your own. Such accompaniment enhances time spent with him and his men at sea and on ice and seems to fortify the diary entries Alexander quotes extensively. The most diligent diarists inevitably get more attention than other crew members, not necessarily for the best. No matter. More than any other, the paramount contributor to this book is expedition photographer Frank Hurley. His pictures are many and breathtaking and do much to show the physical character of an enterprise in which men survived an experience that lies well near unfathomable.
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LibraryThing member Pferdina
Another great telling of the amazing Shackleton expedition. This one is special because it contains many of Hurley's photographs. Also in the final chapter, what happened to the participants after they returned from the Antarctic.
LibraryThing member ibazel
The start of the Shackleton Obsession (a subset of the Antarctica Obsession)
LibraryThing member michellebarton
This book tells the incredible story of Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated voyage to Antarctica. When their ship, the Endurance, becomes locked in the ice, Shackleton and his crew begin their desperate attempt to survive the harsh, unforgiving landscape of Antarctica and find some way to escape their
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isolation and be rescued. Amazing photographs taken during the actual voyage help make this tale come to life! Also check out the fabulous documentary by the same name!
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LibraryThing member kslade
Great account of the Shackleton expedition, stuck in ice in Antarctica, just before World War One, and how they all survived.




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