Alfred Lansing’s “Endurance” – a factual portrayal of man’s will to survive.

A Book Review by Thomas Burke                

EnduranceWhen people ask, “What’s your favourite film?” or “What’s your favourite band?” invariably the response involves a list rather than a definitive answer.

However, ask me “What’s your favourite book?” and I will immediately answer “Endurance” simply because it is the most riveting, suspenseful and enthralling book I have ever had the pleasure to read.

Endurance” written by Alfred Lansing is the true, astonishing account of a marathon voyage of exploration to the Antarctic led by Sir Ernest Shackleton.  It is a factual account based on the extraordinary diary entries which the crew maintained under some of the most incredible, extreme and inhospitable conditions ever endured by man.  It is based on Shackleton’s attempt to become the first person to lead an expedition across the continent of Antarctica.

It was his third such voyage.  In 1901, he was a member of Robert Scott’s expedition that got within 745 miles of the, yet to be discovered, South Pole.  He led his own expedition in 1907 but was forced to abandon his attempt when just an agonising 97 miles short of his objective.  In 1911, Norwegian Roald Amundsen became the first man to reach the South Pole.

Undeterred, Shackleton purchased a Norwegian built ship named the “Polaris” and re-christened it the “Endurance” in keeping with the Shackleton family motto “Fortitudine vincimus” meaning “by endurance we conquer” a term that was to prove prophetic.

The ship set sail from London’s East India docks on the 1st August 1914 with a crew of 27 men including the inimitable Tom Crean.  Each crewmember was handpicked and among them were a navigator, two engineers, two surgeons, a geologist, a biologist, a physicist and a photographer.

The ship was specifically built for arctic sea conditions.  Her keel comprised of four overlaid slabs of solid oak measuring 7 feet in depth and her sides varied in thickness from 18 inches to 2.5 feet.  Despite this, the ice flow that was to engulf the ship in the Antarctic’s Weddell Sea in January 1915 gradually crushed the ship causing the mighty timbers to bend and groan until the relentless pressure eventually caused them to snap like twigs.

Shackleton and his crew were left stranded on the moving ice pack with no hope of rescue.  What followed became an epic journey of resilience, adaptability and supreme heroism.

If you only read one book this year then read “Endurance” – you will not regret it. 

Available in all good book shops.  RRP £9.99

Published
04/05/2000

Publisher
Phoenix (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd)

 

 

 

 

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