Drawing upon previously unavailable sources, Caroline Alexander gives us a riveting account of Shackleton's expedition--one of history's greatest epics of survival. And she presents the astonishing work of Frank Hurley, the Australian photographer whose visual record of the adventure has never before been published comprehensively. Together, text and image re-create the terrible beauty of Antarctica, the awful destruction of the ship, and the crew's heroic daily struggle to stay alive, a miracle achieved largely through Shackleton's inspiring leadership.
The survival of Hurley's remarkable images is scarcely less miraculous: The original glass plate negatives, from which most of the book's illustrations are superbly reproduced, were stored in hermetically sealed cannisters that survived months on the ice floes, a week in an open boat on the polar seas, and several more months buried in the snows of a rocky outcrop called Elephant Island. Finally Hurley was forced to abandon his professional equipment; he captured some of the most unforgettable images of the struggle with a pocket camera and three rolls of Kodak film.
Published in conjunction with the American Museum of Natural History's landmark exhibition on Shackleton's journey, The Endurance thrillingly recounts one of the last great adventures in the Heroic Age of exploration--perhaps the greatest of them all.
Stumbling across the gravel beach of South Georgia Island toward mid-afternoon of May 20, 1916, Sir Ernest Shackleton and two companions knocked on the door of Thoralf Sorlle, station foreman of the Stromness Whaling Company. Sorlle, not recognizing the ragged men, asked if he could be of service. When the saddest looking of the threadbare trio stretched upright and said, "I am Shackleton," Sorlle turned his face away, and wept.
Caroline Alexander, author of four previous books, is the curator of an upcoming exhibition on Shackleton's famous journey sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History. Gleaning new information from previously unavailable sources, and including 150 photographs from the official expedition photographer, Frank Hurley, the author chronicles the expedition from embarkation at Plymouth to the crew's rescue from Elephant Island on August 30, 1916.
Shackleton and his crew on the Endurance set sail from South Georgia in November, 1914, bound for landfall at Vahsel Bay, Antarctica. There a select party was to trek overland across the continent. But the Endurance became trapped in pack ice short of the coast, forcing the crew to spend the winter aboard. When the ship succumbed to the monumental pressure of the kinetic ice, the crew bivouacked on the floating ice for months, awaiting the eventual thaw.
Their original supplies mostly spent, the crew survived on seal meat, penguins, blubber, a doughy delight called "bannock," and pemmican. The men eventually escaped the diminishing ice pack in the ship's three life boats, reaching Elephant Island for their first contact with solid earth in 497 days. Shackleton and a hand-picked crew of five immediately embarked in the largest of the life boats and crossed the South Atlantic to return to South Georgia, where he secured a ship and returned to rescue his shipmates.
Ms. Alexander's story of their 21-month ordeal in unbelievably harsh conditions is fast-paced and journalistic in tone. Her retelling of this chronicle includes more complete biographies of the crew than previous accounts, and their diaries add rich detail to the narrative. The bounty of stark, surrealistic images of the polar world harvested during the long ordeal by Frank Hurley also brings the drama to life. The author's vivid prose combines with these photographs to offer a book deserving of attention.
C.D. Sinclair is a writer in Wichita Falls, Texas.