And yet they had adjusted with surprisingly little trouble to their new life, and most of them were quite sincerely happy. The adaptability of the human creature is such that they actually had to remind themselves on occasion of their desperate circumstances.Page 85 – Chapter 2
In December of 1914, Ernest Shackleton and his crew set out to be the first group to cross the Antarctic continent. Loaded down with gear, they began their adventure with high hopes. Those hopes were surrounded by ice packed into the bay they were sailing through. The ice pack quickly overtook their ship and left them stranded.
Shackleton’s crew set sail on December 5, 1914 and didn’t find reprieve from their strenuous circumstances until August 30, 1916. For two and a half years, they were pushed, frozen, wet, and fought to survive the elements of the Antarctic weather.
These men endured leopard seals, sinking ships, lack of food, melting ice underneath their feet, and were somehow able to maintain a positive attitude and find content in their situation. I wondered if some of the crew’s contentment stemmed from their lives before the ice. I can imagine that in 1914, life itself was much simpler. Men worked, women took care of the home or worked, and everyone lived in the present. There wasn’t technology or a need for constant stimulation, which you definitely weren’t going to find on the ice of Antarctica. I worry that people these days wouldn’t have the strength or tenacity to survive because of their addiction to technology, phones, and immediate satisfaction.
What I found truly incredible about this story is that none of the men died. They were able to keep their spirits positive for most of the trip, rallying around each other and hope of rescue. There were low moments, but they continued to push forward as a crew. They took care of each other the best they could which ultimately led to their survival. They had to work together and embrace the situation they were in. Throughout the book, it was clear that most of the men were equally frustrated and understanding of the others when disputes arose.
In some ways they had come to know themselves better. In this lonely world of ice and emptiness, they had achieved at least a limited kind of contentment. They had been tested and found not wanting.Page 109 – Chapter 5
Endurance is the tale of the men who set out on a mission. Alfred Lansing crafted this story from extensive research, interviews, and journals, and manifested the journey they went through to find help and stay alive. Lansing made this book approachable by creating a narrative infused with history and first hand accounts of the trials.
Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing is a tale of courage, hardship, leadership, and the fight within mankind. This was an incredible read that can be applied to any person in any occupation. Reading the trials that the crew went through was powerful and a true testament to the strength of men in difficult times.
This book should be a must read on everyone’s shelf.
I would recommend this book for all adults. But it is appropriate for high schoolers to read. There are themes of leadership, hardship, loyalty, and overcoming challenges that students could apply to their own lives and futures. I will be finding a copy for my classroom shelves.
Depending on the curriculum you use, this book could be utilized for excerpts to discuss the content and Lansing’s writing style (use of primary documents and narrative nonfiction). It also lends itself well to a critical study of the themes I mentioned above.