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The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  18,538 ratings  ·  488 reviews
In August 1914, days before the outbreak of the First World War, the renowned explorer Ernest Shackleton and a crew of twenty-seven set sail for the South Atlantic in pursuit of the last unclaimed prize in the history of exploration: the first crossing on foot of the Antarctic continent. Weaving a treacherous path through the freezing Weddell Sea, they had come within ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published November 3rd 1998 by Knopf
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Aug 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
As a big fan of Alfred Lansing's version of the story, I had to read this one too. It is a worthy complement to Lansing's "Endurance" and contains a great deal more detail on some situations, interpersonal relations and the psychological impact on the men who went through this incredible experience - all stuff that Lansing tactfully omits. Added to that, there are many more of Frank Hurley's dazzling photographs. I would recommend reading this in addition to Lansing's work.
Miquel Reina
I love overcoming, travel and adventure stories and for that reason I can't avoid recommending this amazing story of Caroline Alexander. "The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition," tells the real expedition of survival to Antarctica that Shackleton and his crew had to live after his ship was swallowed by the ice. It is a thrilling story full of adventures in which as a Pandora's box, comes to the surface every human emotion, in this case even hope. A hope that none of the crew ...more
May 30, 2007 rated it really liked it
I. f'n adore these men. As far as I'm concerned I AM one of these men. (Only the godforsaken tundra I explore is urban U.S)

I don't want to hear any of your goddimmed complaints until you've been stranded on South Georgia Island living in wet clothing on a diet of seal, penguin then penguin and seal, looking forward to a period of immobilty so that nothing of your nerves picks up information of icy damp material touching raw, chafed, bruised skin...

And you know, all of that and they still held
Jun 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: exploration
On pg 3, Alexander quotes Shackleton giving a prophetic warning to the ship's skipper as he navigates worsening conditions: "What the ice gets, the ice keeps." It's an obvious spoiler to say right off that the ice got the ship and nearly kept the crew. The rest is Alexander's riveting account of this astonishing and harrowing story, one filled with impressive examples of leadership, ingenuity, misery, and, in the end, cussed endurance, physical and mental. ES also said, "Optimism is true moral ...more
Mar 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a big fan of Alfred Lansing's 1959 story, "Endurance," I was leery of another version, but I was drawn into this one because #1: my library doesn't have too many audio books to choose from, and #2: I was sucked in by the promise of new material from previously unavailable sources. An excellent retelling; this book is definitely worthwhile. Shackleton and his crew set forth on a mission to cross the Antarctic continent on foot. Their ship freezes solid in the pack-ice before they can even ...more
The exhibition catalog for the exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History is more than a coffee-table book, this beautifully photo illustrated history of the Endurance expedition is a must read/must see for anyone interested in the history of polar exploration.

Alexander, who writes so ably and knowledgeably about polar exploration also recently penned The Race to the South Pole in National Geographic's Sept 2011 issue.

Illustrations and photos like this one by Herbert Ponting below from
Sep 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
I first read Capt. Frank Worsley's first-hand account of the expedition & was thoroughly fascinated by his telling of this amazing & actually horrifying ordeal in the Antarctic. Wanting to know more, I then began Shackleton's "South" as an e-book -without photos- & was wishing there were photos to show me what they were talking about. Then I chanced upon this book by Caroling Alexander at my neighborhood public library. Bullseye! In this book, Alexander has compiled all the pictures ...more
Although my favorite book on Shackleton's expedition is Alfred Lansing's account, this is also an excellent version. Focusing on the diverse members of the crew, Alexander creates vivid portraits of each man, revealing the camaraderie and toughness that undoubtedly contributed to their survival. The main narrative is interspersed with extracts from the crew's journals, and there is of course a portrayal of Shackleton himself, a truly gifted leader. As the author noted, "At the core of ...more
Sep 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: nonfiction
I read Lansing's book on this same topic and I was hooked on the story. While this story didn't go into as many details as Lansing's book, it did provide a glimpse into the relationships and thoughts of many of the men. The author's dependence on diaries really gave a the reader a clue as to how everyone felt as they struggled to survive. I also like how the photographs were strewn throughout the book and humanized a lot of the men. A great retelling of an an amazing adventure!
Jan 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
In some ways not the best choice for a read aloud (to the 15 year-old) because we don't read consistently every night -- over the course of three months, we found it hard to keep track of who was who among the twenty-something crew members, and got hazy on other details as well. Still, it was rather fun to experience the extraordinary story with my son (who managed to be relatively stoic about the fate of Mrs. Chippy and the dogs), and the photographs are simply stunning.
There have been a lot of books on the Shackleton expedition - including Alfred Lansing's 1959 classic Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage - but this is an absolutely outstanding addition to that list, for at least two excellent reasons.

But first, let's just reconsider exactly what we're talking about here. Shackleton's story is not just one epic tale of survival - it's more like six separate and equally incredible tales linked back to back:

- Surviving the antarctic winter trapped aboard
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Endurance is certainly the word that should be used to describe the way Shackleton and his men kept going in the most difficult of conditions.

He and a crew of 27 set sail in the ship 'Endurance' in August 1914 bound for the South Atlantic with the intention of being the first men to cross Antartica. Within 80 miles of their destination the ship became trapped in the pack ice and their endurance began. The 'Endurance' itself was a safe haven for them for some time but then it was crushed in the
Jun 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
I was lucky enough to attend a lecture by the author shortly after the book was released, and managed to get an autograph. I'm especially happy I did, as this book is a visceral experience. It was lovingly crafted and the publisher did not cut corners, particularly on the excellent grade paper. All the more important, because the reproduction of the photography is superb.

Here is one of the very, very few great adventures from the age before our communications became global, when mail still
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
I read through the night to finish it. At 3am I thought I would put it down and go to sleep, but how could I leave Shackleton, Crean, and Worsley just as they were setting out on foot in a desperate bid to get to the nearest whaling station on the island of South Georgia in order to get help for the men they had left behind. In a sheer act of will, they cross 22 miles of treacherous uncharted territory, traversing mountains, ice, and glaciers. It takes them 36 hours, with only short intervals of ...more
Jan 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
the only reason that i'm giving this 4 stars instead of 5 is because i'm comparing it to alfred lansing's version. that is the version to read for an intimate telling of the ordeal. alexander's version is amazing, but more of a bird's eye approach. i loved that she included so many background details. her story started before the ship set sail and ended long after the men were rescued - telling what happened to each man, individually, for the remainder of their lives. i also loved how many ...more
Mar 18, 2015 rated it liked it
The story is amazing. It's miraculous that anyone survived the crazy-extreme conditions these men faced, but the entire crew of the Endurance lived to tell the tale. What I enjoyed even more than the text were the beautiful black and white photos taken by a photographer on board, Frank Hurley. Miraculous too that these survived, considering everything they went through. Gorgeous, dramatic shots of the ship amidst the snow and ice floes, icy, stark, and in contrast, wonderfully warm portraits of ...more
Jun 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Saw this exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem when the book came out. The exhibit had many of the Frank Hurley photographs from the book along with artifacts, actual film, explanations etc.
This was a remarkable exhibition and one to remember when we think we have had a bad day....A great choice for adventuresome, inquisitive teenagers 14 years or older, or younger depending on their maturity. There are some gruesome images (starvation, eating seal meat etc) And, they are real, unlike
Oct 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: must, sea, ship, real, adventure, journey
This is one of these stories when reality is more unbelievable than fiction!
Jun 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Endurance is a short, quickly-paced book about Ernest Shackleton’s failed expedition to cross the Antarctic. The book was originally intended as a companion volume to the American Museum of Natural History’s 2011-12 exhibition, but can be read and enjoyed on its own.

The 1914 Trans-Antarctic Expedition, lead and organized by Ernest Shackleton, has captivated scholars and adventurers alike. Even now, a century on, it remains one of the greatest stories of human survival. The journey of the
Charles Lewis
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this book years ago before I ever joined Goodreads. I had worked several years in the Yukon and later a variety of assignmnets in the High Arctic including the Beaufort Sea. I was in no way an adventurer like Shackleton but my expereince in the high latitudes gave me a real appreciation of the extremes of Earth. And the beauty too. If you're ever going to buy one book about polar exploration I think this is the one. Not only is Caroline Alexander's text beautiful be the photos are just ...more
Apr 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
For pure, true adventure, there are few stories that match Shackleton's expedition to the Antarctic. I have read two books on the subject and this is the lesser. The greater is Alfred Lansing's Endurance:Shackleton's Incredible Voyage.

The story is that Shackleton set out in a wooden ship to explore Antarctica, partly because the races to the North and South pole had been so successful in terms of fame, glory and eventually some money. The world watched this explorers with genuine hero worship.
May 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is about the abortive trans-Antarctic expedition led by Ernest Shackleton between 1914-16. Caroline Alexander has written a superb, well-researched and absolutely gripping account of the journey and the subsequent epic survival of all the men against all odds once the ship sinks deep in the Weddel sea.
Shackeleton shows extraordinary leadership and courage in attempting an impossible 800-mile journey in the roughest oceans on a 22-foot boat to reach South Georgia island with five of
May 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Heather Stewart
Wow! I loved this book. This is the heroic tale of Ernest Shackleton and his expedition to the South Pole. His goal was to be the first to travel across the continent of Antarctica on foot. His team never made it to land because of the pack ice that built up around the coast. Their boat, the Endurance, became frozen into the ice with nowhere to go. It eventually sank and the twenty-eight member crew was forced to travel to an island where they knew there would be
Jan 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I actually started reading a different version of this adventure - Endurance by Alfred Lansing - but switched to this version about the time the ship started to sink. I prefer Caroline Alexander's writing style (and more modern English) over Lansing's. Plus she included more pictures.

Five stars for the incredible story! I could not put it down. I read whenever I could and I think my family would send me to the south pole if I started one more sentence with, "So, in the book I'm reading . . . ."
Jan 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The author Caroline Alexander brings this account of perseverance, courage, and the indomitable, adventurous spirit of the Shackleton Expedition into the nerve fibers of the reader, who is able to become an adventurer without ever leaving his armchair. As I read the account, I felt humbled by the thought that I would never have survived the ordeal; indeed, with the increased pulse rate and nervous anxiety I experienced by simply reading of the trials and tribulations of the crew bringing me to ...more
Mar 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
For some reason, I find myself obsessed with books about Antarctic and Arctic exploration in the final years before radio and telegraph. This story is thrilling. The photos taken on the expedition (included in the book) are amazing. I really felt like I got to know these guys. Reading their story made me appreciate the abundance of food in our kitchen, hot water in our bathroom, and clean clothes! Shackleton was an incredible leader, evidenced by the fact that he didn't lose a single member of ...more
Dec 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Caroline Alexander has become one of my favorite nonfiction writers and this book was no exception.The subjects she chooses are compelling and her writing is evocative. By not over-emotionalizing and letting the voices of the men speak for themselves she tells a powerful story of survival and leadership.

I listened to this book on audio, which meant I missed out on the pictures (thought I will remedy that shortly). If you listen on audio, I found the diction of the narrator a, but not
Sep 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Remarkable true story or courage bordering on delusion. Remarkable photography taken from 8x10 glass plates in double digit sub-zero conditions, some of which was buried under ice for months at a time before the photographer retrieved the film to resurrect should he ever make it home. Simply an amazing book and an amazing true story, expertly told
Mar 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
Unbelievable story, but true. It's a page turner about this arctic adventure and it's just incredible that they ALL survived - it's incredible that ANY of them survived. Well written, interesting all the way through, quick read. Definitely worth it. Read a lot of it while we were staying in a yurt in the mtns and cross-country skiing - very appropriate!
Seth Pierce
Aug 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Great book, just a little dry in a couple places, but the photos make up for it. Considered the greatest survival story of all time, this book records the amazing adventure of Lord Shackleton and his crew. Shipwrecked in Antarctica, not one person perished against all odds in the "crystal desert."

Go buy it.
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Caroline Alexander has written for The New Yorker, Granta, Condé Nast Traveler, Smithsonian, Outside, and National Geographic. She is the curator of "Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Expedition," an exhibition that opened at the American Museum of Natural History in March 1999. She lives on a farm in New Hampshire.