I do love a good survival story! Knowing my attraction to stories of surviving the impossible, my brother-in-law gave me a copy of “Endurance.” I had just learned that the tale of the crew’s tumultuous voyage had made its way into Felix Palma’s “Map Of The Sky,” so I was even more intrigued as to the events of the famed ship trapped in ice. Captain Shackleton had prepared for more than four years for this voyage with the ultimate intention of crossing the Antarctic on foot. To finance the quest, he sold book and movie rights in addition to a percentage of the property acquired during the expedition. But not far into the voyage, the Endurance is caught in icy water that freeze the ship in place until it is completely crushed by the ice and destroyed.
Alfred Lansing’s detail filled story of survival had an easy writing style that communicated the plight of the brave men without being overly dense. Forced to abandon ship, separate into small groups and navigate iced waters in a small boat, then trudge miles through the snow, the heroic journey of the Endurance crew was an epic tale of strength and courage. The gravity of the situation struck me in several ways. The weather conditions that fell far below zero and often resulted in white out snow storms only further exasperated the men’s attempt to move away from the ship. The impact of the lack of food was made startlingly clear when one man almost bursts into tears after spilling a half cup of milk. But the men’s humanity made the tense situation bearable as evidenced when several men poured their own milk into the now empty cup. It was this camaraderie that allowed the men to survive even when they were forced to feast on dog food and lard. When that ran out, the men had no other option but to eat their sled dogs. And when a 1,000 pound seal was killed, the men relished not only in the meat of the seal, but in the undigested fish in its belly.
I am constantly amazed at the strength of the human spirit. Anyone who enjoys amazing survival tales, like “Unbroken”, will be happy to have journeyed with Shackleton and his crew.