Ron's Reviews > South: The Story of Shackleton's Last Expedition 1914 - 1917

South by Ernest Shackleton
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's review
Apr 09, 2010

it was amazing
I own a copy

This is a gripping personal account by the leader of what, to my knowledge, was probably the most incredible adventure of the 20th century. Shackleton, after being locked with his crew in the Weddel Sea in Antarctica for more than a year, leaves them on a remote island and with a crew of five, sailed a life boat across 800 miles of ocean in the dead of winter to obtain a rescue party for the 22 men left behind. Written as a memoir, it is largely quotations from the journals of himself and his crew but assembled in a compelling manner that makes it hard to put down, even though I knew the outcome from history. After arriving on South Georgia Island, he is across the Island from the only habitation, and leaving three unable to travel, he and two others have to cross a glaciated mountain range to reach it. He is successful in his quest and the entire crew is saved without a loss of life.

Having faced over a prolonged period, seemingly insurmountable odds, and never becoming discouraged, he later stated with some authority, “Optimism is the highest form of moral courage.”

The book is not structured in any way as a testimony of God’s grace but is becomes eloquently so in one paragraph of summation which declares “ We had seen God in His splendours, heard the text that nature renders. We had reached the naked soul of man.” This is followed by another paragraph which acknowledges what the reader has sensed all along. “When I look back at those days I have no doubt that Providence guided us, not only across these snow fields, (of South Georgia) but across the storm white sea that separated Elephant Island from our landing place of South Georgia. I know that during that long and racking march of 36 hours over un-named mountains and glaciers of South Georgia it seemed to me often that we were four, not three. I said nothing to my companions on the point, but afterwards Worsley said to me, “Boss, I had a curious feeling on the march that there was another person with us.” Crean confessed to the same idea. One feels “the dearth of human words, the roughness of mortal speech” in trying to describe things intangible, but a record of our journeys would be incomplete without a reference to a subject very near to our hearts.

This is an excellent read, worth the time in every way. I would have wished for some maps of the area but it is rich with photographs taken by Hurley, the expedition’s photographer.

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