December 11, 2007

Review: Endurance

by F.A. Worsley, Captain of HMS Endurance
301 pages
First Sentence :
Sir Ernest Shackleton, Frank Wild, his Second in Command, and I were sitting in
Shackleton's cabin in the Endurance. The date was July 13th, 1915. The ship was fast set in the ice of the Antarctic, and while it was apparent that the difficulties of the 'Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition' were becoming acute, it had never occurred to me that we should lose our ship.

And there you are dragged into the action right from the beginning. Things are doomed from the first page. What follows is the amazing true story of how the 28 men aboard the Endurance were rescued by the endurance of their honored leader. There were many adventures and plenty of times when an ordinary man would have given up hope, but not Shackleton. His men's lives were of the utmost importance to him. More important than his life long goal of exploring the South Pole; more important even than his own comfort and life. And his men knew it and admired him for it. What comes through in the words of Cpt. Worsley is the deep respect that everyone who knew him had for this courageous man. They trusted him implicitly.

I had never been interested in antarctic exploration, or an adventure of this scope before my husband had rented the BBC movie Shackleton, which I highly recommend, especially if you have adventure loving children. I was fascinated by the courage and commitment this man exhibited. Under such overwhelming odds he never lost a single man under his care. I was tickled to read Anne Fadiman's essay The Odd Shelf in her lovely book Ex Libris. Here's an excerpt:

It has long been my belief that every one's library contains an Odd Shelf. On this shelf rests a small, mysterious corpus of volumes whose subject matter is completely unrelated to the rest of the library, yet which, upon closer inspection, reveals a good deal about it's owner.(...)My own Odd Shelf holds sixty-four books about polar exploration: expedition narratives, journals, collections of photographs, works of natural history, and naval manuals.

About two months ago I was browsing the shelves at a local used book store and came across Endurance. I had to read it. When the Seafaring Challenge came along, I knew now was my chance. And I've loved every minute of it. It is a beautifully written account of harrowing adventure in sub-zero temperatures. Perhaps not the best choice for a cold winter's night but with my hot tea and electric blanket I was just fine.

This is a wonderful book. Truly! Read it for yourself. Give it as a gift to a teenager you know. Watch the movie. Be inspired. I was.


Carrie K said...

Sounds like quite the dream! The book sounds interesting too. I'll have to read Ex Libris, I've only read her (edited by) ReReadings.

Petunia said...

The great thing about Ex Libris is that it's so compact and the essays are short enough to read when reading time is short, like waiting at the Drs. office.

Melanie said...

I'm going to have to get to this book for my Polar reading theme; I need to read some of the actual narratives. I love exploration narratives! There's an amazing site about Shackelton at NOVA.

Eva said...

I was going to say that this reminded me of that Fadiman essay! I get nervous reading true-life adventure stories; for some reason, I end up feeling so stressed, as if I'm trying to survive as well. Still, your review is so compelling, I might have to risk it! :)