Robert Jesenik-Endurance

Author of Book: Alfred Lansing
Date Read: April 30, 2024

Book Report

Title: Endurance

Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage

Author: Alfred Lansing

Date: April 30,2024

This book was an unexpected surprise, sent to me with another set of books in the “Mitch Rapp” series, a CIA type suspense book series. Not sure what it was really about, so I placed at the bottom of the Mitch Rapp pile of books to read once they were all done. Well, all I can say is what a surprise and I highly recommend it!

This is a true non fiction story from 1914-1917, where Ernest Shackleton and about 30 crew members boarded the Endurance and set sail from england on an expedition/voyage to Antarctica. I can only imagine the lack of technology on board, let alone the ship’s limitations as compared to one from today. What’s different with this book than other non fiction books, is that the author wrote it in 1959, nearly 50 years later. He based it on all kinds of interviews of the survivors or their children, diaries kept from the journey, and even other books written on the voyage including Shackleford’s book he wrote himself. When published, the book received very good reviews, but never really sold much volume. Alford Lansing, having a successful career as a journalist, died thereafter in 1973 at the age of 54.

In 1986, another publisher bought the rights, and the “rest is history” as they say. After relaunch shortly thereafter, it became a NY Times best seller, and eventually sold more than 500,000 copies in the next few years.”Shackleton Mania” has now enabled two business books based on “leadership lessons” from the Endurance expedition, a BBC movie, and an IMAX documentary. As of the fall of 2013, the book is in its 49th printing.

The book tracks the entire journey, seems like daily/weekly episode by episode. While there are many experiences, several come to mind. First, after a few months, sailing into the iceb,only to be stuck between 2 large ice flo’s(think of wide and deep, not tall icebergs and low enough to see over or even live on until they dissolve in summer) which eventually squeeze the Endurance to a point where it is lifted up out of the water a fair amount, and then shattered from all the power of the shifting ice and current swells underneath the ice. I can’t even imagine the below zero temperatures, all the ice everywhere,gale force winds,watching my ship in the middle of nowhere getting crushed. Plus having to take 6 months of supplies off the ship, setting up tents in the blowing wind and on the ice with no wind breaker for the tents, with 0 to minus 30 degree temperatures. Incredible!

A second experience, six months later, was taking the three 25 foot lifeboats, 8 men apiece plus rations, sailing 200 miles in the ocean through 30 foot swells and waves at times crashing over the boat, and being so wet and cold, plus having to eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom in the middle of the ocean. All for 45-60 days until they found a small beach on an island covered with ice and ice bergs. The stories about sleeping in soaked bags 2 hours at a time, or standing 2-3 feet of freezing water most of the time,really brings to light a small tidbit of what it must have been like for 45-60 days.

Another experience, after being out in the elements for 18 months now, is where they were stuck on another island, totally running out of food and rations, so Shackleton determined the only last chance for survival was to take 3-4 men to find an island with people and food. So he left 20+ men behind, took a boat with the 3-4 men,targeting an island 600 miles away across the Drake Passage, one of the worlds most dangerous passages, hoping to find South Georgia Island with a fisherman’s harbor. He chose this island, partially because the winds seemed to be blowing that direction to aid the speed of the trip. What they encountered, from weather,seas,winds and waves was epic in terms of barely surviving. I can’t imagine anyone ever doing that again and surviving it was that treacherous.

Once they arrived on South Georgia Island,they were on the other side of the island from the harbor, and the ocean tides were too treacherous to use the boat to get there. So they hiked 26 miles across the island, up 4000 ft. glaciers, sliding down 2000 ft., backtracking when stuck, all in a very weakened and starving physical condition. At that point in history, no man had ever crossed the island successfully. Remember, all this after 2 and a half years of barely surviving, having decimated body strength, limited clothing/shoes, and of course barely any food.

In the end, they made the Harbor, and after another 3 months of attempts, Shackleton(with a much larger boat:))got back to the other island 600 miles away and rescued the remaining 25 members of the crew, who were barely hanging onto dear life. An incredible story of suffering, persistence, perseverance, and success and triumph!

In prison and in life, those are the same principles I need to be successful and its good to be reminded and provided perspective. Usually its not that bad when compared to many others, both in or out of prison!! BJ