Jack Kirby and the X-man's Reviews > South

South by Ernest Shackleton
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U 50x66
's review
Mar 11, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: 1910s, 2009, author-uk, library_book, nonfiction, history, setting-antarctica, biography-autobiography
Read in March, 2009

A spectacular adventure story - with the bonus that it is true!

The fate of those on the Endurance holds the most interest, the story of their ship being trapped in the ice over winter, the inability to escape during the following summer, the crushing of the ship, the second winter on the ice out in tents, the mad dash in the lifeboats, the amazing sea journey and the final climb over the South Georgian mountain ranges - followed by the desperate attempts at rescue.
I felt the Aurora/Ross Sea story was a little disappointing after the Endurance tale. The story suffered for Shackleton being reliant on other's journals to recreate the story. You never develop the same empathy for the people - partially because of the occasional sniping from Shackleton, for example
It is to be regretted that though there was a good deal of literature available, especially on this particular district, the leaders of the various parties had not taken advantage of it and so supplemented their knowledge.

The extensive preparations, the detailed knowledge displayed by Shackleton, and the nod to scientific discovery through this expedition all set this book apart from some of the modern real-life adventure stories (eg the disgraceful Between a Rock and a Hard Place by the irresponsible Aron Ralston).

I've recently read Robinson Crusoe and frankly South is a much better tale. While Robinson was living it up, admittedly all alone, with corn, grapes, goats in a climate where "there was no need for clothes", Shackleton and co are stuck in -30 C temperatures with clothes that are falling apart, primarily surviving on seal meat. While the protagonists in South are Christian, Shackleton doesn't need to ramble on about Providence for 3/4 of the book - a simple reference here and there is all that is really required.

A shortcoming of the book is the maps provided are woefully inadequate. There are numerous references to geographic features not featured on the map, also latitudes and longitudes are commonly referenced - which are impossible to interpret using the maps provided. I would recommend using pm77's Google Earth kmz file in conjunction with the book - it is extremely well done and contains all the geographic information you could need.

There is a small selection of some of the key Frank Hurley pictures contained within this book. For a wider selection of images there are a number of books dedicated to this topic (eg South with Endurance Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition 1914-1917). The originals are located at the National Library of Australia, they have digitised some of these images which are available here.

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03/01/2009 page 32
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