Shackleton's Forgotten Men: The Untold Tale Of An Antarctic Tragedy Hardcover – Feb 1 2000
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
"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 morePublished on March 14 2001 by Jay Weisenberger
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 morePublished on Feb. 27 2001 by M. H. Bayliss
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 morePublished on Jan. 22 2001 by Frank J. Konopka
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 morePublished on June 9 2000 by Susan Paxton
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 morePublished on April 24 2000 by Steve C
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 morePublished on April 20 2000 by Robert R. Briggs