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The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition Hardcover – November 3, 1998

4.8 out of 5 stars 252 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (November 3, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375404031
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375404030
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.9 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (252 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a truly gripping and beautiful book. The story of the voyage and survival of the Endurance, Sir Ernest Shackleton's 1914 expedition to traverse the Antarctic continent on foot, is truly awe-inspiring. The photographs of Frank Hurley, the expedition's photographer, are sublime and powerful. I can't recapture the magnitude or beauty of the book in a few words, but two things struck me as particularly moving. At one point, Shackleton and five men sailed 800 miles in a 22-foot boat through the tempestuous South Atlantic Ocean to reach help. I doubt that even Alexander's account of the voyage does justice to the courage, skill and fortitude exhibited by these men.
Two comments put this one piece of the survival struggle into perspective. Alexander comments, "They would later learn that a 500-ton steamer had foundered with all hands in the same hurricane they had just weathered." And upon reaching civilization for the first time, the captain of the Endurance, Frank Worsley records the reaction of some of the hardiest seamen in the world:
Three or four white-haired veterans of the sea came forward. One spoke in Norse, and the Manager translated. He said he had been at sea over 40 years; that he knew this stormy Southern Ocean intimately, from South Georgia to Cape Horn, from Elephant Island to the South Orkneys, and that never had he heard of such a wonderful feat of daring seamanship as bringing the 22-foot open boat from Elephant Island to South Georgia.... All the seamen present then came forward and solemnly shook hands with us in turn. Coming from brother seamen, men of our own cloth and members of a great seafaring race like the Norwegians, this was a wonderful tribute. (The Endurance, pages 166-167).
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By A Customer on August 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The story of Shakleton's Endurance expedition is my all-time favorite, having discovered it after I found out that my ancestor was one of the heros (Tom Crean). This book's highlights were the extra unpublished photographs and the details of the lives of the survivors after they made it back to civilisation. However this books fault (and a major one) is that it details the time on the Endurance and on the ice floes at the expense of the stories about the two boat journeys and the crossing of South Georgia. The crossings of Drake passage and South Georgia are almost rushed through (I can't even remember Drakes Passage even being mentioned). All the drama of the voyage of the James Caird, probably the greatest boat voyage ever undertaked, and the brilliance of Worsley's navigation are completely lost in the authors effort to tell us about the lives of the men on Elephant Island, especially Hurley of whom she is particularly fond. Frank Worsley's 'Shackleton's Boat Voyage' conveys all the drama and excitement of the voyage of the James Caird in vivid detail, while Alfred Lansings' 'Endurance' is without a doubt the best book written on the subject, a book I couldn't put down for a second, and I knew how it ended.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Several days after purchasing Caroline Alexander's, "The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition" from Amazon.com, I read a few customer reviews that recommended Alfred Lansing's 1959 classic: "Endurance: Shakelton's Incredible Journey." These reviews extolled Lansing's book, and pointed-out how Alexander's was essentially a rewrite of this earlier work. Consequently, I also purchased his book, and thoroughly enjoyed reading the two of them while on vacation a few weeks ago. (I had already begun Alexander's book -- so, completed it before beginning Lansing's.)

Alexander's book has one (and only one) distinct and obvious advantage over Lansing's -- the inclusion of scores of the original expedition photographs taken by Frank Hurley (the ship's photographer). These photos are incredible and make Alexander's book indispensable to anyone interested in Shakelton's Endurance expedition.

That said -- here's why I gave her book only ONE STAR. In the Acknowledgements" section of her book, Alexander makes only a one sentence reference to Lansing's earlier work -- something to the effect of, "An exciting sea adventure." (although more elaborately stated).

Yet, Lansing's "Endurance: Shakelton's Incredible Journey" is a far better account of the Endurance expedition than is Alexander's -- better written, longer (maybe 50% more narrative), far more detailed in its entirety, much more interesting and exciting to read, PLUS: IT WAS FIRST..!!

It surprises me that Alexander paid no real tribute to Lansing's earlier work -- which in many respects seems to have been simply reworded by Alexander.
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Format: Hardcover
The Endurance by Caroline Alexander is a non fiction book about an explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew as they try to become the first explorers to cross Antarctica on foot. Sir Ernest Shackleton was one of the most known polar explorers of his day. Shackleton and his crew of 27 set out to sea on his boat Endurance on August 8th, 1914. The 28 men went down to Buenos Aries, Argentina then they continued to their last stop South Georgia Island which is in the southern Atlantic before they went to the pack ice and beyond. Once they got the ship into the pack ice they followed the cracks between each floe (leads) to try to get to the main land of Antarctica. Do they ever get home to England? Do they all even survive such a journey? This book was a heart racing kind of book. If you previously were not interested in history books The Endurance might change your opinion. I was impressed by how these men risked their lives freezing to death just to obtain their personal goals. The adventure of when they have to abandon ship will leave you hanging from your seat. The way Caroline Alexander wrote the book was engulfing . Her detail was thorough and she must have put many months of research on their journey. She also used clips from journals telling in the sailor's words what was happening and what was going on in their minds. I have read a few books about sailing the sea and The Endurance was the best one because of the way in which it was written. The photographer Frank Hurley took unbelievable shots of the whole expedition. The types of photos that were taken included, black & white stills, movies and color slides. The photographs look like they were taken recently by a digital camera instead of a Kodak in the early 1900's. Technically the pictures are crisp and clear for surviving the 22-month journey. This is a book that should be in every school library and all public libraries so everyone can experience The Endurance.
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