Genre: Adult Historical Nonfiction
Year Release: 1959
Source: Library Audiobook
Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Frostbite, graphic descriptions of amputations, hunting, consumption of pets, gangrene
Spoiler alert: they all survive this one.
Told with rich contextualization of the available technology and understanding of wilderness survival in the early 1900’s, Endurance covers the harrowing adventure of Ernest Shackleton and his crew attempting to reach the South Pole. With fantastic characterizations and attention-to-detail, Lansing’s account captures all the trials and tribulations. Ultimately, it shows what a difference exploring a place with a landmass rather than strictly unpredictable ice floes and pack ice can make on the success of a journey. Though they failed in reaching their destination, there is this story to be told in all its rugged excitement.
As it always is with me and these types of stories, I wanna go to the South Pole at the end of the day.
While this book captured all the excitement, it steered far away from melodrama and excessive interpersonal conflicts. The situation was fraught enough as it is. The narration balances the grim realities with the hope and camaraderie that kept the crew of 27 going. Though not all crew members become main characters, the level of personality given to them as the story progresses gives the reader something to hold onto. I myself become far more drawn to the bigger pictures details like the boats and the degradation of their diets from rations to whatever available animals there were. But at some point in the later quarter, Shackleton goes off in search of aid, and I was so invested. I wanted them to succeed, and that quality definitely comes from all the work in the beginning.
There are also excerpts from different diary entries during the expedition which added a whole other level of immersion when more scientific or objective descriptions wouldn’t have the same effect. Though don’t worry, if you want to hear more than you ever wanted to about saltwater boils, gangrene, and the quality of penguin meat, there is plenty of that throughout.
There’s something for everyone in this riveting account, and I’m very grateful to Neil Cochrane for the recommendation.