Wednesday, February 25, 2015

ENDURANCE, Shackleton's Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing

Endurance Shackleton's Incredible Voyage ENDURANCE is an historical account of an attempted trek across Antarctica in the great era when men of astounding adventurous spirits wanted to be the "first". Sir Ernest Shackleton wanted to be the first man to step onto the South Pole, but when Roald Amundsen of Norway achieved that in 1911, Ernest planned his third expedition to Antarctica, changing his goal to be the the "first" to sledge across Antarctica via the South Pole.

Well, things didn't go as planned. The ship Endurance, carrying 28 men (one an unlucky stowaway), 70 sled dogs and plenty of supplies, was first trapped in the ice, and then crushed in January 1915. This incredible story begins with the whole crew, selected supplies, a few lifeboats, and the dogs stuck on an ice floe (that is drift ice with no attachment to land) in the Weddell Sea. They never had a chance to start their journey over the Antarctic, but instead had a more challenging journey to return home.

Their days were spent in hoping that the drift (the movement of the sea) would take the unstable floe closer to land. Shackleton proved to be an extraordinary leader that was able to make split second decisions that saved lives and knew how to team people to keep arguments at bay and moral at the highest level possible in such harsh circumstances. He was driven to rescue each and every crew member (except for the poor canines).

This has been my favorite read of the year, a book that was almost impossible to put down. Parts of the book would bog down in details regarding the weather, locations, and the navigation, others would pull me into dangerous ocean crossings in life boats, or the horrors of being prey to a hungry sea lion.

The amazing thing is that everyone survived. God did not leave these men.  Though not emphasized in the book, the men read the bible.  I am sure that they felt forsaken, but they weren't, and we also are not.

The fact that they survived could be attributed to Shackleton's fantastic abilities AND a huge amount of luck, or it could be attributed to divine providence. For those of us that believe in God, we believe God was with them even if all men perished, attributing this event to God's will. Personally, I don't think that anyone could possible have as much luck as these men. I believe that they were saved to share this experience with others. Today this story is a powerful and effective testimony to the endurance of man and the faithfulness of God.

Into Thin Air Enough of my proselytizing.   Let's get down to another good read. If you like true adventure stories, a very excellent book is Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. Mr. Krakauer, a journalist and a mountain climber, experienced first hand the events of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster where an angry mountain and bad judgment took the lives of many climbers.  This was also one of my favorite reads some years ago.