Reading the 20th Century discussion

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage
This topic is about Endurance
22 views
Buddy Reads > Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing (October/November 2019)

Comments Showing 1-41 of 41 (41 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

Susan | 8925 comments Mod
Welcome to our October/ November Buddy ReadAlfred Lansing of Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage Endurance Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing by Alfred Lansing

This is also called Endurance: The Greatest Adventure Story Ever Told - or the Shackleton book of your choice.

ENDURANCE is the story of one of the most astonishing feats of exploration and human courage ever recorded. In 1914 Sir Ernest Shackleton and a crew of 27 men set sail for the South Atlantic on board a ship called the Endurance. The object of the expedition was to cross the Antarctic overland. In October 1915, still half a continent away from their intended base, the ship was trapped, then crushed in ice.

For five months Shackleton and his men, drifting on ice packs, were castaways on one of the most savage regions of the world. This utterly gripping book, based on first-hand accounts of crew members and interviews with survivors, describes how the men survived, how they lived together in camps on the ice for 17 months until they reached land, how they were attacked by sea leopards, the diseases which they developed, and the indefatigability of the men and their lasting civility towards one another in the most adverse conditions conceivable.


message 2: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 8435 comments Mod
Let the discourse commence


Here's to another wonderful buddy read


Susan | 8925 comments Mod
I have just started this. Interesting that the expedition set off just after WWI was declared. Somehow, I thought, in my mind, it was an earlier time.


message 4: by Val (last edited Oct 12, 2019 01:26AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments I am reading this one and will be reading a couple of others on the same subject.

Lansing sometimes gives numbers without units or with confused units. I am a retired scientist, geek, pedant, etc., who feels compelled to attempt to translate him into meaningful values.
Ignore this bit if you don't feel the same way.
This is what I think he means, based on whether the numbers are measurements taken during the expedition or not.
Speed and distance:
When he gives the speed in knots and measurements of distance travelled by a ship in miles, he means UK nautical miles, as that is how it would have been measured and recorded during the expedition.
When he gives wind-speed in miles per hour, he means land miles (UK and elsewhere).
Anywhere else he uses miles, take your pick and regard it as an approximation.
Temperature:
I am fairly sure he is quoting all temperatures in degrees Fahrenheit, which was in more general use at the time of the expedition and at the time the book was first written. Average monthly temperatures for South Georgia bear this out. Zero degrees F is approximately -18 degrees C and -35 degrees F is approximately -37 degrees C (-40 degrees is the same on both scales).
Pressure:
He does not give any units, just some figures, but I am almost certain that pressure is given in inches of mercury. A 'standard atmosphere' is 29.92 inHg and no other unit I can think of would give figures in the range he quotes.
Latitude and Longitude:
Degrees and minutes, with compass direction, was standard at the time and is still used. (So is a decimal figure for degrees with + for N and E and - for S and W.)
Time:
I assume all times are given as local and are as accurate as possible, since accurate times would be required for navigation.


Susan | 8925 comments Mod
Wow! I'm impressed, Val. I shall certainly look back on that post when I am lost - as I suspect our heroes will be soon...

One of the things that interests me, in the early pages, is the fact that Shackleton took people on depending on whether he liked them or not; often based on just a few minutes conversation. In fact, he employed a meteorologist with no experience, who, to be fair to him, immediately went off and learnt what he needed to know. However, it could have been much different and was a risky way of assigning a crew.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4202 comments Mod
I've just started the Lansing book, and am pleased to see it was originally published in 1959, when this was very much living memory, and the author had interviewed most of the members of the expedition who were still alive at that time.


Susan | 8925 comments Mod
I had it in my mind that this was much earlier. How strange to think the world was at war when they went off exploring.


message 8: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments The expedition was planned before the war broke out and almost cancelled when it did, but they were told to go ahead. The war was one factor which meant that they could not depend on outside help, but the main problem was that they could not contact anyone.


message 9: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments Susan wrote: "One of the things that interests me, in the early pages, is the fact that Shackleton took people on depending on whether he liked them or not; often based on just a few minutes conversation. In fact, he employed a meteorologist with no experience, who, to be fair to him, immediately went off and learnt what he needed to know. However, it could have been much different and was a risky way of assigning a crew."
I don't think the process was as random as Lansing suggests. The candidates would have sent a detailed application beforehand, so a five minute 'will they get on with the rest?' interview is not unreasonable.
There were a few personal conflicts later, but Shackleton seems to have been aware of them and dealt with them before they became a problem.


Susan | 8925 comments Mod
There is mention that he was a great leader. I think he obviously knew what, or who, he did, or didn't, like.


message 11: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4202 comments Mod
I haven't got very far yet and am finding the writing style a bit of a struggle - hoping to warm to it more.


message 12: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments Lansing had access to a wealth of source material, including documents held at the Scott Polar Institute, diaries kept by members of the expedition, material collected by earlier biographers, etc. and he talked to several of the survivors. I don't think he made the best use of it, as there are a lot of details on some relatively minor incidents and few details on some more major ones. For example, I can see why people might include complaints about other people's snoring or bad rowing technique in their diaries instead of raising them with the people concerned and causing unnecessary tension, but I don't think they add much for us to read about them, or their toilet arrangements.


message 13: by Jan C (new) - added it

Jan C (woeisme) | 1002 comments I've just started the Lansing book although I did read Caroline Alexander's book when it came out, especially after I had seen her on C-SPAN's BOOK-TV.


Rosina (rosinarowantree) | 212 comments I have just finished listening to this - and marvelling at how stoic everyone was: I'd have thrown in the towel after the first week, and pined away from lack of home comforts.

On our bookshelves we have South: Shackleton's Endurance Expedition, and a book of his writings edited by Christopher Ralling (not on Goodreads), and I enjoyed the TV series starring Kenneth Branagh, but I appreciated the different focus of the extracts from accounts used by Lansing.

As I said, I listened to the audio book narrated by Simon Prebble. He also read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which I have listened to a few times. I was half expecting to learn that the bad weather was conjured up by English magicians.


message 15: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition by Caroline Alexander was the original suggestion, but was more difficult to get hold of than Lansing's book.
How would you compare them Jan?


message 16: by Jan C (new) - added it

Jan C (woeisme) | 1002 comments I'm at the very beginning of the Lansing book. It's kind of confusing - he just jumps right in to the smashing of the ship without any background of how they got there. The Alexander book was excellent. It tells the total story. Plus I got pictures with the book - they are probably currently being used as bookmarks.


message 17: by Jan C (new) - added it

Jan C (woeisme) | 1002 comments It looks like it is available here from Amazon - $10.98.


message 18: by Val (last edited Oct 16, 2019 12:00AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments I think Lansing started with the drama because he iswas a journalist, not a historian. He does go back to the start of the expedition and then follow it chronologically.
I will be reading the Alexander book as well, but I have been reading a couple of accounts by members of the expedition first.

The photographs are in a few books and they are excellent.


message 19: by Jan C (new) - added it

Jan C (woeisme) | 1002 comments Sounds like a good idea.


Susan | 8925 comments Mod
I have to say that I am struggling a bit with this. It should be exciting - the events are exciting, but the book is a bit dry. They are currently stuck in the ice, so I'm near the beginning. So far, they have indulged in some dog racing and, bizarrely, cut most of their hair off! Very odd.


message 21: by Jill (new)

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 536 comments I am reading South: The Story of Shackleton's Last Expedition 1914-1917 by Ernest Shackleton
It begins by telling us the main people who donated to the expedition and thanking those who helped. Also how he named the boats and places after them. Also as the King was unable to go to Cowes to see them off due to the impending war, he was summoned to the palace to receive the Union Jack.


message 22: by Jill (new)

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 536 comments The book I'm reading is really a day by day account , and can get a bit tedious. Slow going, but I intend to carry on


message 23: by Val (last edited Oct 20, 2019 11:19PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments The best I have found for pictures is Shackleton: The Antarctic Challenge by Kim Heacox for National Geographic. It has Frank Hurley's photographs from the "Nimrod" and "Endurance" expeditions, George Marston's drawings and lots of other later photographs of Antarctica. The text is a longish magazine article rather than a detailed account, but it does include all the main events.


Susan | 8925 comments Mod
I am on chapter 16 out of 41 on Audible. I don't really know why I am struggling with it. The book (I am reading Endurance) tells the story, but I just don't feel any connection with what is going on.

I shall continue, doggedly, following their exploits, and hope I begin to care what happens!


message 25: by Jill (new)

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 536 comments I have got to the end of Endurance and their recovery, and am now reading what befell the Aurora. I found that it became more engaging, and have really felt for some of the men. Also not sure if it is our change in weather, but definitely felt colder, and I have found myself looking for things to eat.


Susan | 8925 comments Mod
I have also trekked to the end. It was, obviously, an interesting story, but just never engaged me.


message 27: by Jill (new)

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 536 comments I ended up quite liking this read, although I did read a different book to that, that the group read. I am grateful to the group, especially whoever nominated this (can't remember who), as it is a book I would have continually put off reading for others. So thanks to all.


message 28: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4202 comments Mod
I'm about a third of the way through now and so far agree with your comments, Susan - it should be a fascinating story but is not really engaging me. The people all seem rather distant - I think it would make it more immediate if the author actually quoted their own words more than he does.


Susan | 8925 comments Mod
I suspect it is the book which is at fault. I really struggled with it and lost interest fairly early on, I must admit.


message 30: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments He does not really bring the situation to life as well as he should and his choice of 'human interest' details is peculiar at times. The photographs help a lot, so the book is perhaps better than the audible version. (I have spent quite a lot of time drooling over photographs like a toddler and barely skimming the text of a few books now.)
I'm hoping Caroline Alexander's The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition will be better, but it is coming by inter-library loan and taking a long time.


message 31: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4202 comments Mod
Val wrote: "The photographs help a lot, so the book is perhaps better than the audible version...."

Sadly, there are no photos in the Phoenix paperback edition that I got from the library.

I was very surprised to see that at one stage it was too hot in their tents when they were camping, and they had temperatures of 80F - they must have had very effective stoves or fires!


message 32: by Judy (last edited Oct 24, 2019 02:28PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4202 comments Mod
I was also surprised by the mention of a sea leopard and wondered what type of creature this was... I had visions of a big cat in the Antarctic, but Google revealed that it was in fact a leopard seal.


message 33: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments I love the image of big cats leaping over the ice floes.
Leopard seals are quite impressive in their own right though, and it seems that they were called sea leopards.


message 34: by Annabel (new)

Annabel Frazer | 82 comments I read Roland Huntsford's Shackleton book and got on with it pretty well. But this was in a phase when I was addicted to reading Antarctic exploration books so I would lap up anything. Of all the books I read, the standout was Apsley Cherry Garrard's The Worst Journey In the World, which was incredible.


message 35: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments Roland Huntford seems to specialise in biographies of polar explorers. I read his Nansen, which was very good, but have not read his Shackleton.
I agree with you about Apsley Cherry-Garrard.


message 36: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4202 comments Mod
I must read The Worst Journey in the World - thank you!

The Shackleton TV drama series starring Kenneth Branagh was good, I thought - it's available on All4:

https://www.channel4.com/programmes/s...


message 37: by Val (last edited Nov 25, 2019 11:19AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments I now have a copy of The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition by Caroline Alexander on inter-library loan. It starts with a mislabelled photograph*, which was not initially promising, but once I started reading it I found her style more appealing than Alfred Lansing's. I am not expecting to find any new information, as other books have covered pretty much everything anyone could think to say on the subject.
*The original mislabelling was Frank Hurley's. He did not have a good photograph of the rescue, so used one of the expedition members on Elephant Island cheering Shackleton and the James Caird on their way when they left and scratches the boat out. This is known and is covered in other books, including those Hurley collaborated on later, so there was no need to repeat this error.
Caroline Alexander does address Frank Hurley's photographic tampering at the end of the book and disapproves of it, but it might have been better to have included the corrections in the captions to the photographs.


message 38: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4202 comments Mod
I'm getting further with Lansing's book now, and must say the part where they travel in the small boats to Elephant Island is really exciting and moving. I do still feel he often jumps around and doesn't go into detail about things I would like to know more about, though - for instance, the brief mention of Rickinson suffering a heart attack when they landed. Did the others have to resuscitate him?


message 39: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4202 comments Mod
Quite astonishing that, before setting out for South Georgia, Shackleton left a letter with terms about who could do the lecture tours, if those left behind survived, and he didn't!


message 40: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 1710 comments Both the seamanship and the navigation on that voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia were incredible, but one of the thing Lansing skips through briefly is the final rescue of the men left behind. Perhaps he did not think that was dramatic enough.


message 41: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4202 comments Mod
I've finished reading Endurance now, and agree the account of the voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia is incredible - the book really caught my imagination during its second half, when the author seems to concentrate more on the battle against the elements. But, as you say, Val, there isn't much about the final rescue of the men who had waited all that time.


back to top