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Shackleton's boat journey

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Frank A. Worsley was the Captain of the H.M.S. Endurance, the ship used by the legendary explorer Ernest Shackleton in his 1914-16 expedition to the Antarctic. This book tells the story of the ill-fated expedition.

160 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1940

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About the author

Frank A. Worsley

6 books25 followers
Frank Arthur Worsley was a New Zealand sailor and explorer who served on Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914–1916, as captain of the Endurance.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 94 reviews
Profile Image for JD.
666 reviews273 followers
July 17, 2017
A well written book by the captain of the Endurance, Frank Worsley, which covers, day-to-day, the epic journey of the James Caird over the storm invested South Atlantic in order to save the survivors of Shackleton's Antarctic expedition. The book was written shortly after the journey and is very descriptive of all the things as they happened, good read.
Profile Image for Mary.
197 reviews33 followers
February 10, 2013
I'd already read Worsley's "Endurance" and fell in love with the land of Ice. That book covers their entire journey while this little book zooms in on the truly horrifyingly-exciting adventure of that story: The last leg of an amazing time in the Antarctic by Shackleton et al.
Worsley's account of the Endurance journey is my personal favorite so when I stumbled upon this at my public library I grabbed it quick. You know how some story tellers just are more captivating than all the others? That's this man, Skipper Worsley for me. I'm quite fond of him.

Anyway, the lives of these men were tested, then tested some more but even tho I've read several books on Antarctic expeditions & was blown away by what type of circumstances these guys encounter, in this book alone did I come to realize that harrowing as it was, "Shack" was having a blast!
Pretty good read. In fact I "couldn't put it down" & finished it in one day. Enjoyable, high adventure that leaves make-believe stories in the dust!
Profile Image for Claire.
780 reviews92 followers
March 3, 2016
Holy mackerel! It took a little getting into because there was just so much sailing vocabulary I didn't know, but I ended up reading through without stopping (much to my chagrin tomorrow morning, I expect).

Recommended by a patron as this is the 100th anniversary of Shackleton's expedition. A surprisingly fast read and a gripping adventure, plus the added thrill of being a memoir by a man who actually referred to Sir Ernest* as "Shacks."

*("For scientific discover, give me Scott; for speed and efficiency of travel, give me Amundsen; but when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton." says the jacket.)
10 reviews
April 1, 2020
I enjoyed this book not so much or the style of writing, which was professional and matter-of-fact, but for the extraordinary courage of the Shackleton and his men. They come from an age that does not exist anymore. They endure the most extreme conditions with an unnatural humour and resignation that all will be well. An astonishing group of men.

There is a book called Barrow' s Boys that describes similar outrageous adventures. A pity it is now out of print.
March 10, 2018
I generally read this type of book in mid-winter by an open window after having had a cold shower from which I spare myself the luxury of drying off. The level of discomfort doesn't come near to that of the Heroic Age of Exploration super-humans here-in, but it certainly gives my imagination a jumping-off point. I'd previously read Shackleton's account of the journey, so this book was primarily a compare-and-contrast exercise which bestowed the perspective of one who hadn't (at least to Shackleton's degree) shouldered the burden of responsibility. Their accounts almost entirely accord, including the albatross fledglings meeting a noble and exceedingly tasty end in their cooking pots.

Thrill yourself with this short read if you're as addicted to Arctic/Antarctic exploration and humans straddling the the limits of discomfort as I am.
Profile Image for Kelly.
292 reviews
December 18, 2020
Absolutely fascinating. Straightforward narration that mixes some journal logs written at the time of events and some ex post facto narration to fill in the gaps. These men were almost unbelievable - it's hard to imagine any person alive today not only DOING what these people did but also WANTING to do it. A true tale of survival and heroism.
Profile Image for Wayne.
18 reviews
October 22, 2008
Loved this book. What a crazy adventure. What could be more fun then hanging with Shackleton in Antarctica? I could almost feel the cold as I read this book. Burr.
Profile Image for Matthew Magee.
12 reviews
November 19, 2022
This was my gateway into Shackleton and it's as good of a place to start for several reasons. It's not too long and in a sense throws you right into the middle of Shackleton's most famous expedition with it's nearly incomprehensible tale of survival.

Worsley is well qualified to write this account considering he was one of the twenty-eight men of the Endurance expedition, one of the six men sailing the James Caird and one of the three to cross South Georgia. Not only was he present, but he was the Captain of the Endurance and had the unenviable task of navigating throughout this whole ordeal. This is a retrospective review so may not be entirely accurate but from my memory Worsley downplays the commendable,  precise and unassisted feat of navigation that he pulled off in the most challenging of circumstances. His achievement was not and has not gone unrecognised by others.

Writing this account would be a challenge for the descriptive capabilities of any author as the main setting is at sea. Yet, in this book, the writing remains fresh and vivid throughout. Despite needing to repeatedly describe the weather, sea and ice, the writing never turns stale or repetitive. It's interesting too to read Worsley's own reflections on the whole experience. I was especially intrigued on the mention of a fourth presence. Read to find out more! It'll likely leave you wanting to know more about the Endurance Expedition, Shackleton and his men.

(P.S. This is a review for the Folio Edition reprint with an introduction by Ranulph Fiennes.)
Profile Image for Nicola C.
34 reviews
April 13, 2022
A comprehensive account written by Frank A Worsley of the boat journey highly detailed of the navigation to elephant Island & onwards to South Georgia.
Well written and descriptive especially when it comes to writing about Killer whales & how the crew would avoid them.
A well written and worthy of reading for those interested further in the Shackleton Expedition.
Profile Image for Carrie-Anne.
617 reviews57 followers
March 13, 2022
What a wonderful, powerful, uplifting tale of exploration and survival!
This book doesn't ease you in, straight away we are thrown into the lives of these men, the Endurance has already sunk, the men are in three small boat trying to find land, dealing with violent seas, lack of water and cramped conditions. What they didn't lack though is determination. Shackleton may have failed his initial mission of being the first person to cross the south pole, but where he succeeded was in the hearts and minds of his men. A constant optimist, a caring leader and a great man.
Also shout out to the author and captain, Frank Worsley, who along with Shackleton made sure his men were kept in as high spirits as possible.
Even though I knew no man was lost on this incredible journey, I did almost well up during the final few pages when the bulk of the men were rescued and all were accounted for.
This is a short but impressive account of only a small portion of this overall journey.
Profile Image for Jonathan Corfe.
220 reviews5 followers
December 13, 2021
Have a quick think about the times in your life where you've been a bit uncomfortable (and I don't mean because your Uncle has said something flagrantly racist over Christmas dinner). Maybe you've had a cold or your sock has got a bit wet inside your shoe. Someone has asked you to get up off the couch and turn off the lights so you can watch a movie in the dark. Now imagine it is 30 degrees below zero, a howling gale, you're in a boat in the Southern Ocean, you're seasick, soaked to the skin and have been for months. Oh, and you haven't slept for 90 hours.
Gives popping a mask on in public when your nose is blocked a bit perspective.
Around the turn of last century, in a frankly misguided act of bravery for King and Country, there was a race to the South Pole.
It got won by Johnny foreigner.
The greatest superpower on earth at the time didn't like this stain on its reputation one bit, so Sir Ernest Shackleton proposed an even more impressive bit of folly - we'll cross the whole bally Antarctic in one go.
Now, I'm quite attached to not being uncomfortable - the great outdoors is there for looking at, not being in. This is why we invented windows... even more so, why we invented the pub. But the thought appealed to the British public, the government and the 28 lunatics that embarked on a journey that took them to the Antarctic ice pack. Long story short, the ship Endurance was misnamed and ended up crushed along with Shackleton's hopes of a trans-Antarctic crossing. What makes this a story of a heroic failure was him leading all 28 of them back to safety on three lifeboats. The story, told by New Zealander, Frank Worsley, is remarkable. You feel every mountainous wave, the tongue-withering thirst, every triumphant and luxurious sip of boiling milk when they finally make terra firma, and you imagine every salty splash of frozen seawater that soaked them and gave them frostbite and every torturous hour without sleep and you think "You mad bastards. Why?"
I've done sleep deprivation, I've climbed across glaciers and up mountains and I've had hypothermia and I can tell you that individually, they all suck. Collectively, and for months on end it must be the limit of human endurance.
Couple this with a feat of navigation that is utterly remarkable and you've got an epic.
I was left with the thought that we live in a very comfortable world and there are some that cannot see their obligations toward other people, instead whining about the impingement of their 'freedoms'. If any member of that team of 28 had dragged the chain, whined or not done their duty, then they would definitely have died. They would possibly have taken the other 27 with them for their selfishness.
But you can't tell people that today...
Anyway. A remarkable book.
Profile Image for Susie.
87 reviews2 followers
December 22, 2019
I’m giving the book 5 stars more so for the story than for how it is told. Although I will say the optimism and positivity that F.A Worsley has in his retelling is astounding. In fact, the whole story is astounding and the fact that 1) individuals took on these conquests willingly and 2) that these men in particular survived everything defies reality.

The book tells a harrowing tale in the light of surviving it so I wonder how much of it really felt as it was told. I cannot imagine keeping such an attitude in such conditions but, perhaps, that is what makes an explorer great. The tale is a quick read despite the fact it likely was anything but for these men especially those left behind.
Profile Image for Rick.
850 reviews18 followers
June 22, 2012
I have read as much as I could put my hands on regarding the Endurance expedition of Sir Ernest Shackleton. There is simply not a better adventure story out there than this one. Worsley was Shackleton's ship captain; a man of courage, strength, and determination.

Worsley was also an amazing seaman, navigating a 22 foot open boat hundreds of miles through uncharted waters in a hurricane. Amazing just doesn't cover it. But don't start with this book. "Endurance" is his seminal work and you should begin there.
Profile Image for NeDa.
399 reviews20 followers
February 22, 2020
Свикнахме да поглъщаме храната и млякото много по-горещи, отколкото човек може нормално да издържи. По този начин затопляхме имръзналите си тела, за да могат да надделеят студа, умората и липсата на сън.

Вълните, които се разбиваха върху лодките, замръзваха на големи ледени късове върху носа и кърмата. Температурата беше под нулата, но не можехме да си позволим да изразходваме от скъпоценните си кибритени клечки, за да погледнем термометъра.

Между три и четири часа сутринта той ме намери скован от влагата и студа. Вече двадесет часа бях управлявал свит, седнал върху запасите. Когато той хвана руля му казах: "Обади ми се, когато наближим сушата." Маклин и Маклеод ме вмъкнаха под капещото платнище на палатката и ги помолих да ме опънат и да разтъркат бедрата и слабините ми. Докато правеха това - разгъваха ме, все едно че отваряха джобен нож - заспах в ръцете им. След като разтъркали енергично корема и краката ми, легнали от двете ми страни в палатката, за да ме запазят поне малко от разбиващите се върху лодката вълни.

Някои от членовете на екипажа бяха като замаяни и извън себе си от радост. Когато пристанахме, те тръгнаха да обикалят наоколо с буйни смехове. Други седнаха върху дребните камъчета и се заловиха като кротки луди да ги събират в шепи, после ги оставяха да изтекат между пръстите им за да се уверят, че нах-после наистина се намират на суха земя.

Знаехме, че е студено, но не носехме термометър - с него щеше само да ни бъде още по-студено.

Точно в седем часа през неподвижния утринен въздух до нас достигна очакваният звук на сирената за повикване от китоловната база - първият звук от външния свят, който чувахме от осемнадесет месеца.

Докато лавирах с "Йелчо" между заседнали айсберги и скрити рифове, Шакълтън с мъчителна тревога се взираше през бинокъла. Чувах как напрегнато брои фигурите, изпълзели изпод обърнатата лодка: "Две... пет... седем..." и след това - възторженият му вик: "Всички са там, капитане! Всички са живи!"
11 reviews3 followers
June 12, 2020
The most amazing first hand account of an adventure I have ever read.
Two Irishmen and one tough New Zealander; Frank Worsley, this guy was the skipper of an open top boat that sailed a last ditch rescue mission, from Elephant island to South Georgia island (1300K/800mi) , 2 weeks across the rolling southern ocean. Worsley was an amazing seaman and a beautiful writer. Worsleys navigation skills, to hit the exact speck of island in the vast ocean is still considered one of the greatest achievements in open water navigation to this day. Worsley has a stripped back to the bare bones style, every sentence in the very narrow spined book contains precise prosaic information about their astonishing adventure. It feels like you are on the boat and he is writing his diary.
The descriptions of how the boat moves and the wind blows and the waves crash splash off the page. The interactions between the three are funny. "Well ...that was juicy" one remarked soaked to the skin after they were nearly swamped by a crashing wave. There is one description of an albatross flying in the face of a southern gale while the lads are almost dying from exposure in the boat. It's worth reading this book to just find that paragraph. Worsley marvels at their juxtaposed situations and describes in one paragraph in gorgeous detail the image of this bird cutting the gale with its wings and an almost smile on it's beak. There were many twists and turns, how they survived is beyond me.
A must read for anyone who is looking for evidence that a human being can do very difficult things, inspirational and so rare to have the guy who was there, over a hundred years ago, give a first hand account. He is as good a writer as he was a sailor. By the way, 'Close to the Wind' by Pete Goss is another book to have on the bookshelf if you like Shackleton's Boat Journey. Enjoy.
11 reviews1 follower
April 8, 2019
The book Shackleton's Boat Journey by F.A. Worsley is written about Shackleton’s journey on the Endurance. Shackletons journey began August 1914 in London. This turned into one of the most amazing and breathtaking survival story of all time. Shackleton offered his boat to the war efforts and when they said to do it so they did. The Endurance was trapped and finally turned to splinters by pack ice in late 1915. They ended up drifting on an ice floe for 5 months. Then they were able to get onto open water and sending out three boats to Elephant Island. All they had to live off of was seal oil and ate baby albatross. After they got off the island on a 22 foot boat and they traveled 800 miles through the Antarctic seas in the winter to Georgia. The book does an excellent job showing everything the crew went through and exactly what it takes to survive. They worked together and helped one another survive. Shackleton's Boat Journey is a nonfiction book and is very good with making the book interesting. I would give this book 4 stars. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read books that are real events and have to do with survival. If someone is not into book about survival or nonfiction books I would not recommend it. F.A. Worsley is a good writer and is able to keep his readers on their toes, not knowing what was going to happen next.
51 reviews
October 1, 2017
The story of Shackleton's Endurance expedition is one of the great adventure stories of all time. Worsley was the captain of the Endurance, and a phenomenal navigator; his technical skills were as important for the eventual survival of the crew as were Shackleton's vaunted leadership skills. This book doesn't cover the whole expedition; it starts when the men have t0 abandon their camp on the ice, and recounts the voyage to Elephant Island, the further voyage of a small group to South Georgia Island, and the crossing on foot by an even smaller group. The day-to-day details are compelling; you really see the hardships they endured, and wonder how people can live through that.

This is a short book and easy to read (if you don't get hung up on all the nautical terminology; most of it went over my head, but that's okay). It's probably not the book to start with if you're not familiar with the whole story. I like the Lansing version, but there are several good ones. Then read this book for a close-up perspective on just what it took to sail across a violent ocean in a tiny boat.
Profile Image for Kurtie.
92 reviews
January 28, 2021
Written by the captain of the Endurance, nearly day-to-day description commencing when the ship becomes trapped in pack ice and drifted 1,000 miles, whereupon she was crushed and sank Nov. 21,1915. The journey continues as the crew of 28 men is cast adrift on an ice flow and ride another 600 miles over five months. Worsely's deference to Shackleton doesn't waiver; he covers for Shackleton constantly. At one point W. makes it sound like S. didn't want to risk sailing around Elephant Island but later blames the failure to make the attempt on two enfeebled men. It just seems like S. made this journey harder than it had to be.
Amazing stamina in these guys. Story sounds unbelieveable -- floating on ice for months, making it to a small island in three separate lifeboats, sailing to S. Georgia island through gales and hurricanes, hiking over a mountain. Through all of it, there is never any criticism of Shackleton.
Great story. Would really like to hear what the 22 men who were left on Elephant Island did during Shackleton's trip to S. Georgia.
Profile Image for Maria Ripoll Cera.
101 reviews4 followers
May 23, 2018
Vale la pena leer de primera mano historias reales de supervivencia como la del equipo de Shackleton cuando perdió su barco, destrozado por el hielo. En este caso, la historia la narra el capitán del barco. Qué simple parece esta aventura en que estuvieron un año y medio siempre húmedos, viviendo bajo una barca vuelta del revés sobre el hielo, navegando a merced del viento y las corrientes y utilizando los conocimientos de la zona y del cielo para tratar de alcanzar una isla ballenera que les socorriera.

No dejo de asombrarme nunca de qué es capaz la humanidad, y vale la pena vivirlo de primera mano para minimizar las tonterías propias de vez en cuando.
Profile Image for Rob.
33 reviews
August 18, 2020

The harrowing account of that epic journey of Shackleton and his team following the destruction and sinking of Endurance. From leaving the ice floe to landing on Elephant and the subsequent mission to get help, Frank Worsley, the Captain of Endurance, recounts the experience that these heroic men took to save themselves and each other from what was almost certain death.

I read this in a single sitting, unable to put the book down. The courage, the self-sacrifice, the companionship, brotherhood and teamwork of this superhuman effort is all laid bare.

A truly inspiring and wonderful read.

Profile Image for Katie.
147 reviews
May 24, 2017
This book is not as polished as "Endurance", but it written by a man who was there with E.Shackleton and lived through that dramatic survival story. Many of the details he adds give new insight into the minds of these men. Some of the details are a bit technical regarding sailing & navigation & I didn't really understand them. Scattered throughout the tale are his insertion of how the men eventually died. Since other accounts want to emphasize that all hands survived against all odds, it shocked me to think that many returned home only to die in other (useless) ways. Good read.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Benjamin Wallace.
Author 5 books14 followers
October 24, 2018
Captain Frank Worsley writes concisely and poignantly in his telling of the heroic journey to survive when all odds were against Shackleton and his men. I loved the insight and peak into this mans brain filled with incredible sailing and navigational knowledge. His skill set was paramount; this I believe with Shackleton's leadership, Wild's steadfast courage, more than Providence itself is what truly guided the men aboard the ill fated Endurance home safely. Excellent and noble adventurers who history should never forget.
Profile Image for Dan Mowbray.
110 reviews
May 20, 2019
A breathtaking account of survival in extreme conditions on Shackleton's failed Antarctic voyage. This is the written first hand account of the Endurance captain Worsley. Ernest Shackleton's aim was to reach the southernmost point of the continent ended in complete disaster in 1914. The ship broke up whilst entrapped in ice on Elephant island. Whilst the majority of the crew stayed behind, 6 men sailed on a 22 foot boat to the South West Georgia islands for help (the nearest inhabited island). An incredible tale in which the entire crew survived against all odds.
Profile Image for Cary O'Donnell.
134 reviews
February 1, 2020
Short, terse, account of superhuman endurance. The unique circumstances of how the journey even came about make it seem fantastical, yet its authenticity is beyond doubt. Shackleton is repeatedly credited as the driving force of inspiration and morale to the men under his command. There appears little doubt that without his leadership, all would have perished.

Hard not to think how many other people have endured as much and never lived to tell the tale (notably members of the last Franklin Expedition)

(Folio Society edition 1974, introduction and notes by Duncan Carse)
Profile Image for Dan.
8 reviews
July 7, 2020
Worsely understates one of the greatest feats ever. Almost a early-movie caricature of the Great British Explorer, yet also very much a seaman, he reveals his trauma unwittingly but writes enjoyably, succinctly. Hoosh features ... a lot. And it’s eaten hot — that point is made more than once. Yet other aspects of life are entirely absent, don’t look for them and you won’t notice. Then there’s the whole Shackleton bromance.
Is this a book review? No, it’s a nod to someone who did something incredibly hard, along with others, and lived to write the tale.
And what a story!
Profile Image for Gary Miller.
253 reviews8 followers
October 27, 2021
Here in New England (USA), we have a windy very wet NorEaster for two days. The perfect time to read this true adventure book of the Antarctic adventure, survival, escape, and rescue of the Shackleton party. An absolutely astonishing feat. In today's comfortable world, it is hard to understand the sacrifices, difficulties, or heroic efforts exploring new territories required. This small book (150 pages) should be required reading. I enjoyed it so much, I will have to look into additional books about this specific adventure.
Profile Image for Misha.
72 reviews33 followers
September 22, 2018
I read this book because it was recommended by NOLS as a leadership book, but I found it lacking in any details on leadership (besides explaining that Shackleton was a great leader because he always had a positive attitude, knew exactly what to say and had the highest concern for his men). Still it was an inspiring story and a quick read. There was a lot of nautical vocabulary that I didn't know, but I don't think that really took much away from the story.
Profile Image for Catherine.
76 reviews3 followers
August 30, 2020
Wow a truly incredible story of the strength of the human spirit. This book tells the true tale of an ill-fated expedition to Antarctica and the desperate mission to get out (complete with a small team crossing a vast wild ocean on a tiny wooden boat to South Georgia and sleeping inside animal carcasses). I found the writing a little difficult for me personally (or maybe it was just hard with all the nautical terminology that went over my head), but the story was so amazing.
Profile Image for Dwayne Hicks.
391 reviews4 followers
October 5, 2022
A rip-roaring adventure that depicts the collegiate, near-suicidal bravado of those at the tail end of the exploration age. A story about men that should humble the modern reader with seemingly unattainable courage and perseverance in face of suffering and hardship. Most poignant is the looming shadow of the World War that would soon wipe this class of adventurers into the open grave of trench warfare.
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