Some years ago, I used to work in London and, as I lived on the South Coast, I spent a lot of time on trains. Which was very annoying. On the plus side, it did mean that I had a lot of time for reading.
One morning, having got my bottom on to ‘my seat’ (and yes, the price I paid for that season ticket every year meant that it was my seat, my carriage and my train, in fact), I opened up the newspaper and came across something which changed my perspective on life.
The article in question was a review of South, Sir Ernest Shackleton’s account of his 1914-1917 Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition. Written right at the end of what is often termed the Golden Age of Polar Exploration, the book details an amazing story of victory snatched from the jaws of defeat, as expedition objectives are abandoned and the fight for survival begins.
The book is concerned with the events which befell the Weddell Sea party who suffered the loss of the expedition ship and a long stay on the inhospitable Elephant Island, whilst Shackleton led a small team on an epic journey to South Georgia, to get help.
Fortunately, many of the expedition photographs survived the events described in the book and, whilst the bulk of Frank Hurley’s pictures are intended to be a record of ship and shore life, there are many beautiful images of the Endurance taken at night as she lies, loaded with ice, in the grip of the pack.
Best read in one sitting, South provides an interesting perspective on leadership, psychology and the impact of isolation, as well as being a rollocking good tale.
Want to find out more?
Scott Polar Research Institute
Antarctic Heritage Trust