In 1914 a ship embarked on the treacherous seas with a crew of eight and twenty adventurous souls to the most remote places on the face of the earth. Antarctica. The crew lead by exhibition leader, the incomparable Ernest Shackleton, set out on the ship Endurance, to make the first overland journey to South Pole on behalf of England. Instead, their failed trip and succeeding rescue, ended up as one of the most harrowing survival stories ever told. Written by Alfred Lansing, Endurance: Shackleton’s incredible voyage, recounts the every detail of the two year ordeal with riveting clarity and heart-pounding suspense.
I chose this book for the Library’s Literati Book Club’s Season Finale. The library staff spent the previous week cutting out snowflakes to create the blizzard. Two co-workers donated their time and assisted me for two hours the night before hanging up all the snow flakes. Members of the club donated a dozen white sheets for our ice floes and bergs, as well, as hundred yards of string lights. One person brought a stuffed seal and another a plush penguin; the general source of food for the men on board the Endurance. Although, after looking over our iceberg/vignette, a male Literati member made the comment we should have put a pick-ax through the seal’s head to make it more accurate and true to the book. Such snark.
A local restaurant donated trail mix, cinnamon biscuits, and two gallons of ice cream for our event. One couple bought six dozen powered donut holes, that resembled snowballs. Another lady and her friend spent hours making candied penguins from marshmallows the size of my fist.
Our local historical society and Literati partner this year, talked briefly about a citizen from our dusky Arizona town who visited Antarctica back in the 1920s and brought a few pictures to show off.
For our Finale, I tracked down Mr. Robert Shane Murphy, a National Geographic affiliate and a biographer of the Endurance’s photographer, Frank Hurley, to speak with us about Shackleton’s voyage. He was wonderful, not only share his wealth of information on the subject, but sharing anecdotes of his own 22+ trips to Antarctica. After his presentation, he sat in our book discussion, stating it was Alfred Lansing’s book that spurred him to become an biographer and explorer. Mr. Shane Murphy, commented, while the book initially did not get much press when it was first published in 1959, it has never been out of print.
Our discussion was lovely, each of us talking about the gamut of emotions we felt reading the book. Many people, men included, choked up and were in a constant state of disbelief of not only what the crew had to overcome, but how they surmounted those obstacles. One retired man, who listened to the audiobook version, voiced by Simon Prebble, told how he had to pull-over to the side of the road, because he could not see, he was crying so much. It took him about five minutes to compose himself, in order to drive back to house just a few miles down the road. We discussed the power of the positive thinking, a survivor mentality, mind over matter, and how most of us would have died in the early days of the ordeal. I shared my personal account of the reading. “When I finished the book, I had full body chills, and my heart was beating out of my chest, and I was trying not to cry. I jumped off the sofa and walked briskly around my cottage for a few minutes in a state of hyper-like disbelief. I texted My Fiancé, exclaiming as much. He replied back, “Uh . . . the book?” Which I replied in turn, “OMG! Yes! The book! I am having a coronary over here!”
It is one of those books that makes you think. It makes you wonder at the marvel that is the human spirit and resiliency. And it is all true. There is a reason for this survival story is the stuff of legend. Truly un-believable. I can’t even . . .
Needless to say it is a VERY strong contender for the best book of the season. The other favorites include Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and Cloud of Sparrows by Takashi Matusoka.
Following the Literati Finale, Mr. Shane, gave an hour and a half “magic lantern” presentation, focusing on Frank Hurley and the photographs of the Endurance exhibition which was well attended.
Amazing, amazing stuff. It is times like this, where I absolutely love my work.