Endurance: An Epic of Polar Adventure by F. A. Worsley
The term “epic saga” seems like it was made for a story like this. I’m not sure how well-known Shackleton’s story is, but all the attention it gets? Is well deserved. It’s an amazing tale that if scripted by Hollywood would be scoffed at as unbelievable.
Worsley’s account is especially gripping because he was there when it all took place – he’s not a historian sifting through the historical record to write the account and attempt to bring the characters to life. Worsley was the commander of the Endurance, the ship that was icebound off Antarctica.
If you are at all interested in survival stories, polar exploration, or historic accounts, this one is fascinating.
You seriously mean to tell me that the ship is doomed?” asked Frank Worsley, commander of the Endurance, stuck impassably in Antarctic ice packs. “What the ice gets,” replied Sir Ernest Shackleton, the expedition’s unflappable leader, “the ice keeps.” It did not, however, get the ship’s twenty-five crew members, all of whom survived an eight-hundred-mile voyage across sea, land, and ice to South Georgia, the nearest inhabited island. First published in 1931, Endurance tells the full story of that doomed 1914-16 expedition and incredible rescue, as well as relating Worsley’s further adventures fighting U-boats in the Great War, sailing the equally treacherous waters of the Arctic, and making one final (and successful) assault on the South Pole with Shackleton. It is a tale of unrelenting high adventure and a tribute to one of the most inspiring and courageous leaders of men in the history of exploration.
I had a really hard time picking between two books about the Endurance. I ended up going with Worsley’s take, but if you are at all interested in it, please check out Caroline Alexander’s book The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition. It’s packed with photographs, and is just different enough from Worsley’s book that it doesn’t feel as repetitive as you might expect.
Alexander has also got a fabulous kid’s book on the topic: Mrs. Chippy’s Last Expedition: The Remarkable Journal of Shackleton’s Polar-Bound Cat. Yes, it’s a fictionalized take on events as supposedly seen through the eyes of the ship’s cat, but it’s based on journals from the time. It’s just on the edge of being too cutesy, but I was entertained by it rather than being annoyed. As part of the nonfiction series last year I highlighted The Ice Master, and it’s great one if you like historic polar survival tales.
To see all the books featured in 31 Days of Great Nonfiction, go to the series page.
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