by Caroline Alexander
The Endurance was published in 1998 and I read it shortly thereafter, handed to me by a friend in a book club. It is by far one of the most memorable books I have ever read. It is a true account of the 1914 expedition of Irish explorer Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 27 men, as they set sail to cross the South Atlantic in hopes of being the first to reach the South Pole. This book has it all: Their ship “Endurance” gets trapped in the freezing Weddell Sea and eventually gets crushed into a thousand matchsticks, stranding the crew on the ice floes. The writer takes you through the next agonizing 20 months as they try to escape in open lifeboats, try to survive on the ice, and ultimately wait to be rescued by Shackleton himself, who leaves in an open boat to find help.
One of the most astounding things about this story is that one of the crew members was a photographer from Australia named Frank Hurley. His photodocumentation of their horrific ordeal somehow miraculously survived, and is reproduced in this book for the first time through cooperation with the American Museum of Natural History. As you know if you have read any of my blog, I am a firm believer in the power of images to tell a story. The photos published along with this narrative tell a powerful story of first their adventure, then their trauma, and finally their triumphant rescue. This is why you must read the hard copy version of this book! No audio books here. You must see these photos to get a full appreciation of what these men went through.
Also—I have since read other accounts of Shackleton’s journey. None compare with this version. This is the book you want to read for lasting impact.
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