By Ben Wheeler
FASCINATING IMAGES from a new book have helped shed light on the Antarctic expeditions undertaken by the ship Endurance and her crew over one-hundred years ago.
The photographs show the Endurance, which was led by Sir Ernest Shackleton, in a number of tight spots over the course of its voyage, including one where the ship is virtually laid on its side after being caught in a pressure crack on 19 October 1915.
Other more intimate snaps reveal members of the crew acting as night watchmen as they huddle round a fire, whilst an additional picture shows Second Officer, Tom Crean, also known as the Irish giant, cuddling four puppies who were to make up 69 Canadian sledging dogs on-board the ship.
‘The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition’ is authored by Caroline Alexander who opened up about her interest in the story of the Endurance and how she came to write the book.
“I read Shackleton’s own account, South, and was transfixed,” she recalled.
“I then read all the first-hand accounts I could find, including memoirs by Hurley the photographer, Hussey the meteorologist and the better-known works of Worsley, the captain and navigator.
“During this time, I became aware of the quality and number of world class images that Frank Hurley had taken and was determined to have them displayed in an exhibition in the US.
“Through some contacts at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, I was able to co-curate an exhibit dedicated to the images and included a number of artefacts that had survived the exhibition.
“However, at the outset I was told by the museum it was their custom to have a publication accompany an exhibition – so that became my mandate to write the book.”
Caroline also recounted some of the more interesting things she learned whilst writing the book as well as what readers can expect from her take on the story.
“I knew nothing of Shackleton before reading his first-hand accounts other than having heard his name spoken about reverently,” she said.
“However, my favourite source for this story is the logbook of Chippy McNish, the only member of the non-officer, wardroom class who kept a log.
“His account of the voyage is dogged, dour, sceptical and often bluntly moving. I had ordered some newspaper clippings about his death in New Zealand and when I opened the package I was shocked to learn that McNish had died a pauper on the docks of Wellington.
“I knew him from reading his logs and all the additional research I had done including meeting with his grandson, so when I read the clippings I broke down. It was as if I had received a telegram with breaking news, not events of 70 years ago.
“I think that what my book shows is how a very flawed man could, if you will, find redemption in the one extraordinary, indeed almost inexplicable, act of leading all his men to survival.
“Shackleton wrote that ‘optimism is true moral courage’ and his ability to turn instantly from shattered dreams and disaster, the utter failure of his actual expedition, and move forward with confident determination is remarkable and the mark of a great leader.”
‘The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition’ is published by Seaforth Publishing and is available via: https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Endurance/p/14033?utm_source=seaforthpublishing.com&utm_medium=subsite