Author: Alfred Lansing
Genre: Non-fiction, biography
Star Rating (out of 5): *****
Reading Around the World: Antarctica
For Fans of: Adventure, survival stories, sailing, exploration
“MEN WANTED: FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY. SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS, CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOUR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS. SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON”
This was the advertisement that Sir Ernest Shackleton published in a London paper in 1914, and the fact that anyone responded tells a great deal about the men who set out in 1914 hoping to cross Antarctica on foot. Shortly before they reached the continent, disaster struck as the vicious ice locked around their ship, freezing them in place. After months of waiting for the ice to thaw, they came to the grim realization that the ice floes were moving and slowly crushing their ship. Their only choice was to abandon ship and begin traveling over the floating sheets of ice in a desperate attempt to reach help before they starved or froze to death.
It doesn’t seem like a book about a year spent on an iceberg would be that suspenseful, but I found this book absolutely gripping. The hardships that they survived are simply mind-boggling, and since cold and hunger are two of my most-hated things, their experiences seemed especially horrific to me. Lansing interviewed survivors and was granted access to journals and photos from the expeditions, and the end result is a chronicle of truth that is more incredible than fiction. The explorers had to find ways to survive inadequate shelter in some of the world’s harshest weather, eating only what they could kill on the ice, exhausting treks while dragging all their supplies, ice that cracked open under their camps while they slept, an 800 mile sail in an open lifeboat through one of the most violently stormy parts of the ocean, and a mixture of fear and boredom that would be enough to drive you mad. Their iron will to live is as astonishing as the trials they overcame, and this is a great read for anyone who enjoys exploration, survival stories, and true stories of incredible courage and determination.