Tuesday, May 31, 2011

South: The Story of Shackleton's 1914-1917 Expedition by Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton

South: The Story of Shackleton's 1914-1917 Expedition by Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton  (UK Edition) (DE Edition)

Here is some history (which you probably don't need.)  The race to the South Pole was over, but interest in the South Pole pressed explorers and scientists to continue finding “firsts.”  Shackleton’s trip with his ship the Endurance is well known, but have you read Shackleton’s own account of that historic trip and the privations they endured after the ship became stuck in the pack ice?  The story is famous for what is detailed below:
After hearing of the Norwegian success I began to make preparations to start a last great journey—so that the first crossing of the last continent should be achieved by a British Expedition.

We failed in this object, but the story of our attempt is the subject for the following pages, and I think that though failure in the actual accomplishment must be recorded, there are chapters in this book of high adventure, strenuous days, lonely nights, unique experiences, and, above all, records of unflinching determination, supreme loyalty, and generous self-sacrifice on the part of my men which, even in these days that have witnessed the sacrifices of nations and regardlessness of self on the part of individuals, still will be of interest to readers who now turn gladly from the red horror of war and the strain of the last five years to read, perhaps with more understanding minds, the tale of the White Warfare of the South. The struggles, the disappointments, and the endurance of this small party of Britishers, hidden away for nearly two years in the fastnesses of the Polar ice, striving to carry out the ordained task and ignorant of the crises through which the world was passing, make a story which is unique in the history of Antarctic exploration.

The book is engrossing for this sort of detail:
We were dreadfully thirsty now. We found that we could get momentary relief by chewing pieces of raw seal meat and swallowing the blood, but thirst came back with redoubled force owing to the saltness of the flesh. I gave orders, therefore, that meat was to be served out only at stated intervals during the day or when thirst seemed to threaten the reason of any particular individual. In the full daylight Elephant Island showed cold and severe to the north-north-west. The island was on the bearings that Worsley had laid down, and I congratulated him on the accuracy of his navigation under difficult circumstances, with two days dead reckoning while following a devious course through the pack-ice and after drifting during two nights at the mercy of wind and waves. The Stancomb Wills came up and McIlroy reported that Blackborrow’s feet were very badly frost-bitten. This was unfortunate, but nothing could be done. Most of the people were frost-bitten to some extent, and it was interesting to notice that the "oldtimers," Wild, Crean, Hurley, and I, were all right. Apparently we were acclimatized to ordinary Antarctic temperature, though we learned later that we were not immune.
I was interested to hear there is a coach's course for athletes based on this trip. There is no more dedicated sports' fan than me, but I hope the athletes take away the lesson that their trials and heroics are small indeed compared to Shackleton's achievement.

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