Last week, I read on Matt Astle's blog about the Endurance, a ship that was destroyed in the Antartic. Ernest Shackleton was in charge of an expedition, a daring attempt to cross the South Pole. Unfortunately, the ship was destroyed in the ice. The 26 people were faced with the daunting task of getting home. They first camped on the ice, then managed to sail in life rafts to uninhabited Elephant Island. Then Shackleton and five others got in the life raft and sailed an additional 600 miles across open ocean to South Georgia Island, a whaling station. When they made it to South Georgia, they landed on the uninhabited side of the island. Shackleton and two others crossed the unexplored, glacier covered interior of the island to get help. All 26 people survived.
It is that last part, that all survived, that really gets me. So many polar expeditions ended in death. For the men to have all survived and actually been in fairly good spirits through out is a testament to human determination and the hand of providence.
I read South written by Shackleton since it available for free on Project Gutenberg. I later checked out Endurance, by Caroline Alexander from the library. I loved Alexander's book because of the pictures taken by Hurley during the expedition and subsequent adventure. I also liked the bigger picture she was able to present since she was able to draw from many different sources.
One thing South brings out that Alexander doesn't is what happened to the other ship in the expedition. The idea behind the expedition was to cross the South Pole, to do that, they needed someone to cache provisions for them since it was impossible for them to carry all they needed themselves. The second ship, the Ross, broke loose from its anchor and stranded a large number of people. It took months for help to come. The party from that ship wasn't so lucky, losing three members, including the captain, before rescue.