THE ENDURANCE by Caroline Alexander


Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition
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The saga of the Endurance and her crew—Shackleton’s Antarctic fiasco turned heroic melodrama—is discovered anew through the expedition’s previously unpublished photos and Alexander’s (The Way to Xanadu, 1994, etc.) well-turned storytelling. The Heroic Age was coming to a close when Sir Ernest Shackleton took off in pursuit of one of exploration’s last prizes: the crossing on foot of the Antarctic continent. But his boat never made its intended southernmost harbor. Instead, it got stuck in ice in the Weddell Sea, abode of 200-mile-per-hour winds and 100-degree-below-zero temperatures. Thus began two years of chilly misfortune, met by the crew’s perseverance, and conveyed by Alexander in an elegant, subdued manner: The eerie portents of the ice close ever tighter around the Endurance, the helpless, hopeless, endless days follow one another on the ice pack, and finally Shackleton makes an outrageous bid to reach South Georgia Island, 900 miles distant, in one of the abandoned mother ship’s small boats—through a hurricane, no less. Accompanying the expedition, luckily, was photographer James Hurley, who was to chronicle the exploit visually both for scientific purposes and entertainment value. His images, which miraculously survived the ordeal, give the story an added palpability in time and space. Many of the photographs are not only quite beautiful, particularly of the Endurance as it sits icebound yet under desperate full sail, but also moving, with crew members putting on their best faces as death sat waiting just outside the picture frame. Published in conjunction with an exhibition about the expedition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, this book occupies a prize spot in the already abundant literature of polar exploration.

Pub Date: Nov. 8th, 1998
ISBN: 0-375-40403-1
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1998


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