Polar explorer Jarvis (Mawson: Life and Death in Antarctica, 2008, etc.) takes on the re-creation of one of the most difficult treks imaginable.
Trying to “double” Ernest Shackleton’s (1874–1922) desperate trip 800 nautical miles across the Southern Ocean in a 23-foot boat followed by a 35 kilometer trek across South Georgia’s heavily glaciated mountains requires a tight team with a strong leader. Shackleton had no choice as he altered his planned adventure of crossing Antarctica on foot from the Weddell Sea coast to the Ross Sea. After his ship, the Endurance, was trapped in the ice for more than a year, Shackleton set off in a reconfigured lifeboat with five men in search of rescue. It was the greatest survival journey of all time. After he was “asked by Shackleton’s granddaughter to undertake this journey and was inspired to want to do it as the greatest survival story of the heroic era of exploration,” the author’s attempt to repeat this desperate journey began with finding sponsors, which took three years. The author was lucky in finding TV sponsors, although the trek was limited by filming requirements. They also had to travel three months before the period Shackleton’s crew did due to permit requirements. The story of their journey is bone-chilling at the least and breathtakingly frightening. There are certain elements that will confuse nonsailors and nonclimbers, particularly terms never explained—e.g., katabatic winds, nunatak and bergschrund. The author’s description of icy seas soaking the crew as they tried to sleep like sardines in the hold is not reading for the claustrophobic. Surely it was difficult enough to attempt this voyage, but as they accomplished it without modern (waterproof) clothing or navigational aids, it was a most remarkable feat.
A well-written, compelling read begging for a warm fireside and a hot cup of cocoa.