Alfred Lansing’s book Endurance, is one incredible true story! It recounts, in remarkable detail, Ernest Shackleton’s heroic, yet unfortunate, voyage to Antarctica in the technically starved year of 1915.
Endurance begins with a slow crushing death—and a small resigned group of exhausted men who, almost like zombies, retreat from the horror. They have been witnessing the slow, methodical, literal crushing of their ship, the Endurance, for three days.
This ship, on which they’ve made their home for the last six weeks, and which has brought them to the bottom of the earth, is hopelessly trapped in a pack of ice flows.
With ten million tons of ice pressing in on her from all sides, she is buckling. The men have heard her beams breaking one by one. They lie in bunks, work at the pumps, and pack-up supplies as the crushing causes the wood to snap and split with a sound liken to artillery fire.
Without benefit of electricity, radio, satellite (or any communication at all)…without modern luxuries such as goose-down parkas, thermal socks, or waterproof boots…without, even, adequate food or medical supplies, Shackleton and his 27 men now face a universe of ice and months of winter in the most savage region on Earth.
Garnering details from the diaries and logs of the ship’s crew, and conducting interviews with these extraordinary men, Lansing recounts this intensely suspenseful and absolutely gripping story of human courage and endurance. He captures the spirit and strength of these noblest of men—and the unequaled leadership that determined every man would stay alive.
The book graciously regresses, at one point, to the beginning—the planning of the fateful journey—and the listener becomes privy to background information about the men and the mission. Here, we learn much about Shackleton’s character in the re-telling of his method for choosing the crew who would accompany him.
The men he chose came from very diverse backgrounds. They ran the gamut from Cambridge University dons to Yorkshire fishermen. That this heterogeneous collection of souls all liked each other served them greatly, later, when their lives depended it.
I do not know how to recommend the value of this work strongly enough. The historic value, the astonishing human-feat value, the value of the emotional depths and heights it will take you to.
I can warn you, though; this book will make you late for work, for dinner, for whatever else is waiting on your presence while you sit in your car simply unable to push “STOP.”
I think Simon Prebble was an excellent choice of narrators for this tale. His voice added vibrancy and solemnity in all the right places.