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Shackleton's Forgotten Men: The Untold Tale Of An Antarctic Tragedy [Hardcover]

Lennard Bickel
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 1 2000 Adrenaline Classics
The drama of Shackleton's Antarctic survival story overshadowed the other expedition. Launched by the famous explorer (and led by Captain Aeneas Mackintosh), its purpose was to lay supply depots across the Great Ross Ice Shelf in preparation for the Endurance expedition. Despite completing the longest sledge journey in polar history (199 days) and enduring near unimaginable deprivation, this heroic band accomplished much of their mission, laying the way for men who never came. All suffered; some died.

Now Australian writer Lennard Bickel remembers these forgotten heroes in a gripping account that fills in a little-known and ironic piece of the Shackleton puzzle. Largely drawn from the author's interviews with team member Dick Richards, this retelling underscores the capacity of ordinary men for endurance and noble action.


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Ernest Shackleton, an undeniably brave explorer, labored under a terrible ambition for nearly two decades: the desire to be the first man to reach the South Pole. Repeatedly thwarted by the elements, then finally beaten by the Norwegian adventurer Roald Amundsen, Shackleton revised his objective in 1912. He would be the first, he decided, to complete "the crossing of the South Polar Continent, from sea to sea."

Shackleton planned to take his ship, Endurance, to the Weddell Sea and from there set out on foot across the polar plateau; he and his party would be supplied at depots set out by another exploring party. Shackleton never arrived at those depots; Endurance was crushed by sea ice, its sailors marooned for months of endless winter. Unaware of Endurance's fate, the 10-man supply party set out on the other side of the continent and discharged their duties without complaint. In the process, three of them died after crossing hundreds of miles of unforgiving, storm-blasted ice.

"Their sacrifice," writes Lennard Bickel, "became a footnote in history and was forgotten, even though Shackleton himself summed up their long agony by saying that 'no more remarkable story of human endeavour has been revealed than the tale of that long march'." Bickel's thoughtful history gives these courageous explorers their due, and it provides a valuable addition to the library of Antarctic travel. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

Ernest Shackleton's 1915 attempt to cross the Antarctic continent and his dramatic 800-mile open boat journey to find help when his ship was crushed by pack ice in the Weddell Sea, have been thoroughly chronicled (e.g., by Shackleton himself in South and by Roland Huntford in Shackleton). But Shackleton's fame has overshadowed the efforts of men who risked, and even gave, their lives to help him attain it. Drawing on research and reporting, Bickel (Mawson's Will) tells of the small party that set out from the other side of Antarctica that year to lay invaluable food depots for the explorers who would never come. Marooned when their ship was ripped from its moorings by a fierce polar gale, the group had to haul hundreds of pounds of food for themselves and the six members of Shackleton's party across 2,000 miles of frozen wasteland without proper equipment or any idea if they would be rescued. Bickel draws on the men's personal diaries and on lengthy interviews recorded in the late 1970s with the only survivingmember of the group in order to infuse the book with staggering details of the party's fight with scurvy and subzero cold. The characters, ranging from the prudent Ernest Joyce to the group's impetuous one-eyed captain, Aeneas Mackintosh, are surprisingly well developed, and Bickel graphically paints their plight, describing "haggard, dirty men, faces black from weeks of hugging the blubber stove, beards matted, here and there the scars of recent frostbite, and their clothes reeking of the smelly fat of the seals that had saved their lives." Balanced, vivid and informative, Bickel's work ensures that the duress endured by these men will not soon be forgotten. (Feb.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An engaging retelling of a tragic event Oct. 28 2002
Format:Hardcover
This is the story of the less well known tragedy of the other ship involved in Shackleton's Antarctic expedition.
I could not put this book down, the stories of the men were so amazing, and even though just about everything that could have gone wrong did, these men struggled on, because they knew that Shackleton was counting on them, and they did not want to fail.
Hero is a word that could certainly apply here.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Amazing other half of the Shackleton story April 3 2002
By Garth
Format:Hardcover
Having read about Shackleton several years ago I am glad to see more interest in this amazing story and people looking at Shackleton's leadership which was incredible.
I am troubled by one thing though, in almost everything I have seen and read (such as the Nova special, Caroline Alexander's Book, and Alfred Lansing's book) there is almost no mention about the crew on the other side of the Antarctica. In Shackleton's South, he wrote about checking on the men, but never went into the hardship they faced. I was disturbed that the Nova special did not even mention there was a crew laying supplies on the other side.
In some ways, I actually think their story is more amazing the story of the crew of the Endurance. The crew was to lay supplies almost to the pole and then one night a storm came in a blew the ship back out to sea and then the men on shore had a very small fraction of the supplies from the ship. They still had to lay depots for Shackleton as they did not know there were not going to make it. At one point in the book, the men start out on a sledging journey that to this day holds, the record for the longest trip in both miles and time.
If you are really into Shackleton, you MUST read about the other half of the story in this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Cold even for a North Dakotan Dec 9 2001
Format:Hardcover
I had read of Scott and Amundson but, I confess, I was not well-versed on Shackleton. I enjoyed this account of his other crew, the ones who were there to set up supply bases for the second half of his journey accross Antarctica. This book was based on the personal accounts of the participants, some recently discovered. It is a good overview of the Shacklton quest and it leaves the reader with a chill and an appreciation of the sacrifices these men suffered through. It seems incomprehensible that some of these men survived at all. Their ship disappeared in a storm leaving them with less than adequate provisions and no contact with the outside world. I was surprized that Scott's shelters, built some years earlier, were still is satisfactory condition. I discovered that it is best not to be in the same room where seal blubber is being fried. I was impressed with the story of these men's determination to get the job done even though they surely knew that their names were not going to go down in history. Of course, the reader is struck with the irony of knowing that their work was all to support a journey that would never take place. I thought this story was well-told with imagery that gave us a sense of the privations of the men.
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4.0 out of 5 stars It answered the rest of my curiosity Aug. 2 2001
Format:Hardcover
I read "Shakletons Way" and "Endurance". They were both essential to get all of my questions answered about what happened to that party, however I remained uncomfortably curious about what happened to the Ross Sea Party because they were only alluded to. "Shakletons Forgotten Men" was awesome because it showed how what happened to the Ross Sea Party was as strenuous and heroic as the Endurance experience. It also portrayed the perfect contrast to great leadership by the aweful domino effect of what happens when people are under poor leadership (not hideous leadership, just typical). I learned some great things about myself and my motivations and my will from reading this book. The book also totally explains why it could only be written now and not decades ago. I was very satisfied with the answer and felt like I could trust the authors portrayl of the experience of the Ross Sea Party. I give it only 4 stars because the writer was a little hard to follow at times (I eventually put some things together later). It didn't interefere too much with the story though, which I highly reccomend!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best true tale of hardship and futility June 21 2001
Format:Hardcover
"Mawson's Will" is the harrowing tale of one man's endurance despite the appearance of futility. Among Antarctic tales, it is second behind this one. Mawson was one man struggling for a few weeks to survive or at least leave his notes for others. This is the story of a group struggling a full year to accomplish a mission in support of others who may (and did) never come. The odds against both were high, although it is amazing how few Antarctic explorers died. Mawson finally succeeded; Shackleton's men accomplished a misson that proved futile. This book is a better study for manned Mars missions.
One aspect of this book, not shared by the Mawson story, is reminiscent of Scott's polar attempt; disaster due to poor orders from the leader. If Shackleton (who was not there) had not made one blunder (vs. Scott's N blunders), this expedition would have been much less interesting.
In a story this good, it is impossible for me to critique the writing. I was thoroughly engrossed in both books. Excuse me, I'm just going outside. I may be some time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Tribute to Courage, Endurance, and Commitment March 13 2001
Format:Hardcover
Rather than rehash what previous reviewers have already said, this book for me was very difficult to put down. Bickel does a great job of pulling the reader into the harshest environment on the planet by recounting the incredible physical and psychological barriers Shackleton's depot team had to endure to lay stores and supplies for Shackleton's ill-fated attempt to cross the continent.
The book is a chronicle to not only the incredible courage, loyalty, and physical stamina exhibited by these brave explorers, but to a lesser degree that glorious era of exploration and the final throes of the British Empire.
As a former research oceanographer, I identified with detailed descriptions of the journey over hostile waters. In the mid-80s while working on my MS degree in geochemistry, I was on the waiting list to work in Antaractica for six months to retrieve recently discovered Martian meteorites embedded in ice fields. I probably would have changed my mind had I read this book if it was available then.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
"Shackleton's Forgotten Men..." was an awesome book about a true group of heroes. The trials and tribulations that the group of men on the Endurance undertook to merely... Read more
Published on March 14 2001 by Jay Weisenberger
4.0 out of 5 stars you can just about smell the burning seal blubber
I guess this is Polar exploration week for me since I just read this volume right after the American Museum book on the Shackleton side of the expedition. Read more
Published on Feb. 27 2001 by M. H. Bayliss
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Polar tale of tragedy...and heroism
Why did men travel to the Polar regions and pit themselves against the elements? I just don't underrstand these folks, mainly British and Commonwealth country citizens, who risked... Read more
Published on Jan. 22 2001 by Frank J. Konopka
4.0 out of 5 stars A gripping story of endurance and courage wasted
Although modern writers discussing the events of the Endurance expedition have indeed pretty much forgotten this side of the expedition, it should be pointed out that Sir Ernest... Read more
Published on June 9 2000 by Susan Paxton
5.0 out of 5 stars The Other Chilling Tale of the Endurance Saga
A well written work that reads like a novel about the members of Shackleton's Ross Sea Party whose mission it was to lay food and supply depots for Shackleton's crossing of... Read more
Published on April 24 2000 by Steve C
5.0 out of 5 stars A most remarkable story of survival
If you are a Shackleton fan, then this book is sure to delight you. The epic of Endurance has been given the most publicity but this story is every bit as captivating. Read more
Published on April 20 2000 by Robert R. Briggs
5.0 out of 5 stars Just as powerful as Endurance
I have read many Artic and Antartic books and this is very high on my list. Bickel's style is compelling without being overly technical. Read more
Published on March 17 2000 by Robert P. Klawans
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