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978-0-943955-50-6 / 0943955505

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About the book:

It's all so British. Which polar explorer do we all know and revere? Captain Scott. Which polar explorer had a fixation for Naval class distinctions and refused to contemplate the idea of sledge-dog travel, thereby condemning himself and his companions to an icy death? Captain Scott. If we're looking for heroics, we've been looking in the wrong place. Ernest Shackleton has not received a quarter of Scott's plaudits but he is infinitely more deserving. Having got within 100 miles of the South Pole in 1908, pioneering the route up the Beardmore Glacier on to the polar icecap in the process, Shackleton was left to watch Amundsen and Scott slug it out for the big prize. Looking for a different challenge, he set sail for the Antarctic in the Endurance in the summer of 1914 in the hope of making the first trans-Antarctic crossing. The Endurance was crushed in the pack ice and Shackleton successfully led his 27 men to the edge of the ice. From there he made a sea crossing in three open boats to Elephant Island. After several months he realised there was no hope of rescue, so he set sail with four others on a 600-mile crossing to South Georgia. He was eventually shipwrecked on the uninhabited side of the island and forced into making the first-ever winter crossing. Two days later he strolled into the whaling station at Stromness, having been long since given up for dead and proceeded to personally oversee the rescue of those still stranded on Elephant Island. Not a single person in Shackleton's expedition party was lost. South is Shackleton's own account of this expedition. It tries hard--in the way latter-day Edwardians did--to play up the scientific discoveries but there's no disguising this is basically a classic tale of derring-do. As such it's a wonderful, if understated read, with an unexpected poignancy in the epilogue. When Shackleton returned to Europe, the First World War had been going on for two years. The political and psychological map of Britain had changed for ever and many of the returning explorers found it hard to adjust. This book has been reprinted many times since it was first published in 1919. This edition comes with a workman-like introduction from Peter King, who bizzarely manages to refer to Roland Huntford, author of the brilliant definitive biography of Shackleton, as James Huntford. Where it does score, though, is in the assembly of James Hurley's fantastic photographs of the expedition which are liberally sprinkled throughout the text. If the words don't get you, the pictures will. --John Crace

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