Melding superb research and the extraordinary expedition photography of Frank Hurley, The Endurance
by Caroline Alexander is a stunning work of history, adventure, and art which chronicles "one of the greatest epics of survival in the annals of exploration." Setting sail as World War I broke out in Europe, the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, led by renowned polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, hoped to become the first to cross the Antarctic continent. But their ship, Endurance,
was trapped in the drifting pack ice, eventually to splinter, leaving the expedition stranded on floes--a situation that seemed "not merely desperate but impossible."
Most skillfully Alexander constructs the expedition's character through its personalities--the cast of veteran explorers, scientists, and crew--with aid from many previously unavailable journals and documents. We learn, for instance, that carpenter and shipwright Henry McNish, or "Chippy," was "neither sweet-tempered nor tolerant," and that Mrs. Chippy, his cat, was "full of character." Such firsthand descriptions, paired with 170 of Frank Hurley's intimate photographs, which are comprehensively assembled here for the first time, penetrate the hulls of the Endurance and these tough men. The account successfully reveals the seldom-seen domestic world of expedition life--the singsongs, feasts, lectures, camaraderie--so that when the hardships set in, we know these people beyond the stereotypical guise of mere explorers and long for their safety.
Alexander reveals Shackleton as an inspiring optimist, "a leader who put his men first." Throughout the grueling ordeal, Shackleton and his men show what endurance and greatness are all about. The Endurance is a most intimate portrait of an expedition and of survival. Readers will possess a newfound respect for these daring souls, know better their unthinkable toil and half-forgotten realm of glory. --Byron Ricks
From Publishers Weekly
The unparalleled adventure and ordeal of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew, stranded on the Antarctic ice for 20 months beginning January 20, 1915, then forced to row a 22-foot boat 850 miles across storm-ravaged seas, has inspired at least three marvelous books: Shackleton's own memoir, South; Alfred Lansing's bestselling Endurance; and this stirring account by Alexander (The Way to Xanadu). In 1914, Shackleton sailed to Antarctica with 27 men in hopes of being the first human to transverse the continent. But his ship, the Endurance, was trapped, then crushed, by ice in the Weddell Sea, propelling the party into a nightmare of cold and near starvation. Alexander, relying extensively on journals by crew members, some never published, as well as on myriad other sources, delivers a spellbinding story of human courage (and occasional venality) in the face of daunting odds. She succinctly and boldly captures the character of the men and of the terrible land- and seascape they crossed toward salvation. What makes this book especially exciting, however, are the 170 previously unpublished photos by the expedition's photographer, Frank Hurley: stark, artfully composed tributes to the savage beauty of the ice and to the fortitude of the men and their dogs. Not one of the men died during their sojourn in a freezing hell; as Alexander makes clear in her gripping, emotionally resonant book, this incredible fact bears witness not only to Shackleton's leadership but to the strength of the human spirit. Agent, Anthony Sheil. Author tour. (Nov.) FYI: The Endurance is being published in association with the American Museum of Natural History, which in March 1999 will open an exhibit, curated by Alexander, chronicling Shackleton's voyage. A feature-length IMAX film on the subject will be released then, as well.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.