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Thread: SOUTH! by Sir Ernest Shackleton.

  1. #1
    Registered User prendrelemick's Avatar
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    SOUTH! by Sir Ernest Shackleton.

    South! The Story of Shackleton's Last Expedition. 1914 – 1917.


    Congratulations to 21 year old Bryony Balen in becoming the youngest Briton to ski to the South Pole. Bryony and her team were airlifted to Union Glacier Camp on November 23 and arrived at the pole 2 months later. She is now awaiting her flight back to civilisation. (Not to say the South Pole isn't civilised these days.) Through various social media sites, her own web page and with satellite tracking, we have been able to follow her progress step by step.

    It was different in Sir Ernest's day. In 1914 he set off to try and cross the frozen and completely unexplored continent. He was neither seen or heard from again until, dressed in rags, he staggered into a whaling station on South Georgia, two years later. South! is the story of what happened, in Sir Ernest's own words.

    He had never even made it off his ship (The Endeavour) - until it was crushed by pack Ice in the Weddell Sea. ( about 500 miles north of where Bryony was dropped off.) He then led his men across the disintegrating ice flows, dragging three small boats with them. They finally managed to reach land - Elephant Island - and set up a camp there, in what is one of the most hostile environments on Earth. All he had to do then, was go and get help across 800 miles of stormy Southern Ocean in an open boat, then trek over the unexplored interior mountains of South Georgia to Stromness whaling Station on the other side.

    He then begged and borrowed various ships, and on the forth attempt was able to rescue the men left on Elephant Island.

    Another party of the expedition were stranded on the opposite side of the continent, when their ship, the Aurora, was torn from its moorings and disappeared during a storm. Their story forms the second half of the book. The deprivations they went through - scurvy and starvation- were as bad as anything Shackleton's men suffered, until they were brought back in February 1917 (Shackleton was in the rescue party)

    It is the most remarkable story of hardship and survival you will ever read. How through a mixture of discipline and leadership, (or pluck and luck) and very much against the odds, Shackleton brought all his men home. It does not have any great literary merit as such, for it is a report rather than a novel, mostly made up of excerpts from his journal. The weather, logging positions and sounding depths, account for a few too many pages. The reader is left to wonder what it felt like in those moments of deadly peril and setbacks. In a way his straight forward delivery gives us a glimpse of the straight forward attitude that pulled them all through – If your plans go awry, make another plan and work towards it, never give up.

    I would not recommend this book for everybody, it's prose is dry and can be tedious, it is bettered by many later writer/explorers in that respect. I am sure when Bryony's book is published it will be a better read and have colour pictures as well. But the story of Ernest Shackleton, the greatest ever Polar explorer, out-adventures every other book of the genre.
    Last edited by prendrelemick; 01-22-2012 at 07:50 AM.
    ay up

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    I like this kind of documentaries. Will read it for sure. Thanks. I also loved the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition from the South of USA up to the Pacific Ocean. Recommend the movie.

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    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    Howdy Mick,

    Nice review.

    I found a Project Gutenberg ebook copy of that book and I’m looking forward to reading it.

    A while back I read Alfred Lansing’s 1959 book, Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage. It was one of those books that kept me up until the wee hours. I could not put it down.

    I remember thinking early on in the book: Wow, this guy is one arrogant SOB. Then later on I changed my opinion to: Wow, this guy is one incredible leader. It seems to me that practically anyone else in his situation would’ve, at one point or another, faced mutiny, or at least dissention in the ranks. But with Shackleton’s strength of leadership, his men followed – almost unquestioningly.

    He showed a sort of human side and sort of a sense of humor in the incident with the stowaway. As I recall, there was a man who wanted so badly to be a part of the expedition that he managed to get a couple of his friends on the crew to smuggle him onboard in Buenos Aires. He was found out and brought before Shackleton only after the ship was too far along to return to port. After berating the man Shackleton said something like this: “Okay, you can stay, but if we have to eat anybody, we’re going to eat you first.” (and I’m sure I badly butchered what was actually said, but it’s been a while since I read the book and that’s how I remember it).

    Anyway, besides Shackleton, the man on that voyage that impressed me the most was Frank Worsley – him for his ability as a sailor and a navigator. Working with questionable chronographs, old charts, and almost perpetual cloud cover, that guy was dead-on accurate with his position plots every time he managed to spot a celestial body through a break in the clouds. He was never more than a mile or two off – simply amazing. I went right out and bought a Celestial Navigation Kit for beginners and I’ve been star gazing ever since. (and now I’m pretty sure I spot the Big Dipper and Polaris on a really-really clear night)
    Some people call me Maurice
    'Cos I speak of the pompatus of love

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    Registered User prendrelemick's Avatar
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    My interest with Shackleton began with the family legend that he is an ancestor of mine. (Great Great Grandma Annie was a Shackleton.)

    I know what you mean, His leadership really shines through and his preparedness, he was always thinking and never without a plan but was flexible too. There was some dessent. After the ship went down a couple of the crew thought their contractual obligations were at an end. Shackleton came down hard on them - if he hadn't I think they would have all died. However that episode is not mentioned in this book.

    I didn't mention it in the review, but at the end of the book there is a kind of appendix that details the methods Worsley used.

    The two others that stand out in this account, is Wild for his indefatigable spirit, and McNish the carpenter for being indispensible. (McNish was one of the "mutineers" and did not receive the Polar Medal with the rest of the crew.)
    ay up

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