Book in Review: "Endurance"


Imagine being sentenced to months of polar exposure with nothing but seal blubber and penguin steaks for food. Your sleeping bag is perpetually wet. Your last remaining pair of clothing is continually soggy with ice water. Imagine further still being over a thousand miles from any remnant of human civilization, left on a God-forsaken pack of ice without any hope of being found. Your only chance at survival is to hope your ice flow drifts close enough to one of the Southerly islands, where you and your crew can make a mad break for it in three 20 foot boats--on the roughest, most unpredictable seas in the world.


Yeah, count me out.


Yet this was the sentence of Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 expedition that got stuck for months (and who's boat eventually was crushed to bits) in the Wendell Sea. As the journey homewards follows, every discomfort, every breaking wave, every stormy gale—becomes a desperate battle between life and death. The crew must face it all: the frostbite, foot amputations, hunger, and disease—all in the midst of the most uninhabitable conditions earth has to offer.


Alfred Lansing’s account of Ernest Shackleton’s ambitious attempt at a Trans-Antarctic expedition is an incredible ride. It is well written and surprisingly descriptive. Some parts will make you squirm as you read. Others will make you grimace as you wonder what the physical/psychological breaking point for these poor men is. But upon completion you will be filled with severe respect for both the captain and the crew who could together undergo such unrelenting trials.


On top of all that, this book gives us some brief insight into something we have lost in the comfort of our modern age: Genuine toughness. We have become soft (especially us millennials) and when anything threatens the safety of our comfort--we mope and complain. One of the amazing things about this book is with all the suffering the crew went through, all the emotional uncertainty--the months and months of inactivity--they maintained an incredibly positive outlook throughout. These men were dealt some of the bleakest hands possible, yet they remained steadfast and unfazed.


One thing is for sure: they don’t make ‘em like the ones on Shackleton’s voyage anymore.

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