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10 / 30 books. 33% done!

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49 / 104 books. 47% done!

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39 / 52 books. 75% done!

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44 / 165 books. 27% done!
Thursday, April 07, 2022

With Recent Discovery of Famous Ship, Now Is the Perfect Time to Read Alfred Lansing's Iconic Endurance

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

With the recent discovery of the Endurance—which sunk 107 years ago and currently lies remarkably well preserved at the bottom of the Weddell Sea—now is the perfect time to discuss Alfred Lansing's classic book about the ship's last journey. Published in 1959, Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage tells the whole story in captivating detail. It follows the British explorer Ernest Shackleton as he launches his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, which aimed to send a group of adventurers across the Antarctic continent, from west to east, on foot. He, along with 27 crewmen and 69 sled dogs, left London on 1 August 1914. They arrived on South Georgia Island a few months later. On 18 January 1915, Endurance became hopelessly mired in thick polar ice. As the vessel slowly begin to sink into the frozen depths, the men were forced to abandon ship. As their vessel disappeared, they found themselves utterly alone in "a place where no man had ever been before, nor could they conceive that any man would ever want to be again" (104).

Knowing a cache of food and supplies had been left on Paulet Island, some 346 miles away, the men had little choice but to trek off to find it. Any chance of rescue was even farther afield. The journey that ensued was a remarkable one, fraught with danger of every kind. In spite of a constant battering by severe weather, lack of adequate food, physical exhaustion, and mental fatigue, remarakably, not one of the men perished. They all lived to tell the tale—and what an amazing one it is!

Lansing describes their entire journey in vivid prose, allowing the reader to trudge in the men's footsteps, feeling the excitement of discovery as well as the misery of being constantly wet, cold, dirty, overworked, bored, and tired. Although I would have liked to know more about Shackleton himself (his childhood and personal life are almost wholly ignored in the book), I found Endurance to be a riveting account of his Antarctic expedition. It's narrative non-fiction at its best, bringing history to life in a way that is not just fascinating, but also engrossing and impactful. I couldn't stop reading this iconic book.

Readalikes: I believe this is the first non-fiction book I've read about Antarctic exploration, so I'm not sure what to compare it to. Suggestions?


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs) and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love: I bought a copy of Endurance with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger. Ha ha.
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