The Endurance

theenduranceSuggested by Brad Nelson • In January 1915, after battling its way through a thousand miles of pack ice, and only a day’s sail short of its destination, the Endurance became locked in ice. Thus began the legendary ordeal of Shackleton and his crew of 27 men.
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13 Responses to The Endurance

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Even though I’m a scant 20% into this book, and I cannot yet say that this is a terrific read (but it’s at least so-so so far), I thought considering the present chilly local wind-chill weather (yikes!) that this book would make for an interesting and timely read.

    First off, “yikes” indeed. It starts off with a description of Scott’s fatal and failed attempt at being first to the South Pole. (He got there, only to see the tracks of Amundsen’s sleds.) You can’t take anything away from their daring-do, but they were a little short on planning. Scott seems to be a manufactured hero, made great by a few stiff-upper-lip words written during the needless death of his company due to just plain incompetence.

    On the other hand, Roald Amundsen, with proper planning, relatively breezed to the south pole making an average of 15 miles a day on skis and proper use of sled dogs….and up to 20 miles on some days (and on the way back made up to 30 miles in a day). One can’t help get the impression that more than a few British fell for their own supposed superiority. But the chill of Antarctica cares not for pretension.

    And although there are heroics galore in the story of Shackleton and the Endurance, it’s still a situation of sticking your nose in a fan and then getting praise for extricating that nose and not bleeding to death because of heroic work to close the wound. Because Shackleton knew, while waiting on the island of South Georgia, he would never be back if he waited for the ice to break (which likely meant waiting until next season), he trudged on. Even then, it appears (the book is sort of vague on this) that they might have made it through to the base camp they had planned to set up on the continent if not for a self-imposed delay of some kind while out on the ice.

    Anyway, it is what it is. I’m pretty sure both Timothy and Mr. Kung have some knowledge on this and might like to flesh out this event.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I”m not an expert on Antarctic expl9ration, but a friend is and probably has read The Endurance. He’s certainly a big fan of Shackleton, and would largely agree with your assessment of Scott. Someone — I think it may have been Evan Connell — once compared Scott to Custer. They were both brave men, but rather slapdash. They were also unlucky; Custer faced an unusually large assembly of Indians more willing than usual to fight, and Scott was caught by a large storm just 30 miles from safety. But better preparation in both cases probably would have enabled them to survive despite their ill luck.

  2. Anniel says:

    I have read “Endurance” several times over the years. The fact that Shackleton overcame so many things in his trek, without losing a single soul, is nothing short of a truly amazing story. About five years ago our local museum had a Shackleton exhibit of the things left from that voyage based on the photographic plates that the ship’s photographer returned to and rescued just before the ship finally sank. He had to go into the hold and dive in the icy water to get what he needed.

    The exhibit included a mock-up of the small boat Shackleton used to escape from Elephant Island (? I think that’s where they wound up.) to get help for his stranded men. They managed to land at the base of a mountain range that had never been climbed before, crossed the range safely to the whaling station and went back to save those they left behind. Then finally off to the near starving men left on Elephant Island. Talk about so many heros.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Wow. The most interesting part of this book so far are the photographs. I had no idea that the photographer made such heroic efforts to save his work. I do understand that most of the the scientists and artists were to have returned to South Georgia after depositing the crew and supplies to serve as some kind of a support camp for his crossing of Antarctica. They were not necessarily immediate happy campers because of their situation. I can’t blame them.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        As best I can recall, Shackleton went back to South Georgia, but had to cross much of it to get to their camp.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Think of the wonder to read of these things, to see of these things that happened long ago, in the kind of detail that can put you there. Books are a treasure.

      • Anniel says:

        “For scientific discovery, give me Scott; for speed and efficiency of travel, give me Amundsen; but when you are in a hopeless situation, when you are seeing no way out, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton.” I don’t remember who said it, but I did buy a black tee shirt with that printed on it. On the back was a picture of the Endurance all broken up before she sank.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          From the brief bio that the author gives of the primary players onboard the Endurance, it’s hard not to see a couple dozen Bear Grylls in their company. Had they crossed the continent (and returned across it again, as I believe was their plan), it certainly would have been some kind of accomplishment. Instead, like Bear Grylls who is helicoptered and dropped into a wasteland with minimal supplies, they gained greatness by what happened after their proverbial helicopter drop, when the ship became stuck in the ice and they all started to drink their own urine….or whatever the equivalent of that was in their adventure.

          I’ll keep reading this and I’m sure my opinion will change and I’ll even be more impressed by their adventure. But I don’t so easily dismiss the “efficiency” of Amundsen. The man showed wisdom and skill lacking in many others. Give me an Amundsen and you’d likely never be in a Shackleton situation in the first place.

          The photos though are amazing. They brought a whole lot of civilization onboard with them. Studying one photo I saw a typewriter and a stack of Victrola records. Apparently they did not have a radio transmitter (just a receiver…I think). But they sure packed a whole bunch of stuff on that ship. I wish (and maybe this will come) there would have been a little bit more about the design and building of Endurance, as well as the evolution of ships meant to run through and break thin ice. Apparently she had a very special hardened construction, including an outer layer of a sort of very hard wood….a kind I don’t ever recall hearing about before.

          And speaking of dogs, the author noted that the dogs while onboard Endurance preferred to sleep outside of their kennels on top of the snow on the exposed deck. Tough dogs. Those were certainly not Democrats!

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Here’s a map of Shackleton’s route/drift. I figure this can be taken as a gigantic metaphor for Progressivism. It sets off on a journey through impossible odds, gets ice-locked in reality short of its goal, and the whole project simply drifts as the forces of nature will take it. The survivors do what they can to make their way to their own Elephant Island. Those not completely broken by the system make their way to safety using their own wits.

    Okay. Not a perfect metaphor. And I’ll bet someone out there can create a better, more humorous one. But you can’t help looking at that hardship-circle through the ice that skirts solid ground (just out of reach) , drifting aimlessly, and not think of, say, Obamacare.

    In this metaphor, Trump would be a modern ice-breaker that steams at full power from the Falkland Islands set to make “Antarctic Exploration Great Again.” A strong, capable ship, it goes off course for lack of a solid rudder.

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