Cover image for The Endurance : Shackleton's legendary Antarctic expedition
The Endurance : Shackleton's legendary Antarctic expedition
Alexander, Caroline, 1956-
Personal Author:
[Large print edition].
Publication Information:
Thorndike, ME : G.K. Hall, 1998.
Physical Description:
386 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
Originally published: 1st ed. New York : Knopf, c1998.

"In association with the American Museum of Natural History."
Corporate Subject:
Added Corporate Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library G 850 1914 .S53 A55 1998B Adult Large Print - Floating collection Floating Collection - Large Print

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Reviews 4

Booklist Review

A glorious failure, Ernest Shackleton's attempt to become the first transcontinental trekker of Antarctica turned into one of the all-time survival stories in the annals of adventure. Shackleton, an imperturbable leader, was also a savvy promoter who before embarking sold publishing rights and signed on a skilled photographer. Unfortunately for commercial aspirations, World War I deadened contemporary interest in Shackleton's story of being marooned on ice floes and islands for two years. But with the distance of time and an excellent narrator in Alexander, the epic achieves its stature. It developed after Shackleton, who came within 100 miles of being the first man to reach the South Pole in 1909, organized his new quest for glory. Instead of landing as planned, his ship Endurance became icebound in the Weddell Sea; the photographs of that predicament depict a beautiful tragedy--the ship, a doomed maiden, slowly crushed and sunk by the ice. Thus began the precarious retreat to civilization, which Alexander extols, citing the fortitude, resourcefulness, and luck of the crew, highlighted by Shackleton's 800-mile voyage to South Georgia, crossing the world's stormiest seas in an open lifeboat. An exhilarating retelling of a most popular saga in polar exploration. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

The unparalleled adventure and ordeal of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew, stranded on the Antarctic ice for 20 months beginning January 20, 1915, then forced to row a 22-foot boat 850 miles across storm-ravaged seas, has inspired at least three marvelous books: Shackleton's own memoir, South; Alfred Lansing's bestselling Endurance; and this stirring account by Alexander (The Way to Xanadu). In 1914, Shackleton sailed to Antarctica with 27 men in hopes of being the first human to transverse the continent. But his ship, the Endurance, was trapped, then crushed, by ice in the Weddell Sea, propelling the party into a nightmare of cold and near starvation. Alexander, relying extensively on journals by crew members, some never published, as well as on myriad other sources, delivers a spellbinding story of human courage (and occasional venality) in the face of daunting odds. She succinctly and boldly captures the character of the men and of the terrible land- and seascape they crossed toward salvation. What makes this book especially exciting, however, are the 170 previously unpublished photos by the expedition's photographer, Frank Hurley: stark, artfully composed tributes to the savage beauty of the ice and to the fortitude of the men and their dogs. Not one of the men died during their sojourn in a freezing hell; as Alexander makes clear in her gripping, emotionally resonant book, this incredible fact bears witness not only to Shackleton's leadership but to the strength of the human spirit. Agent, Anthony Sheil. Author tour. (Nov.) FYI: The Endurance is being published in association with the American Museum of Natural History, which in March 1999 will open an exhibit, curated by Alexander, chronicling Shackleton's voyage. A feature-length IMAX film on the subject will be released then, as well. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

During Shackleton's 1914 expedition to Antarctica, he and his crew were trapped on ice floes for 20 months. Alexander is curating a forthcoming exhibition on their plight. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

In the annals of polar exploration, Sir Ernest Shackleton is remembered more for his failures than for his successes. Roald Amundsen deprived him of the honor of being the first to reach the South Pole; he then sought to become the first to cross Antarctica on foot. Even as the storm clouds of war began to gather in 1914, Shackleton and a crew of 27 set forth on the Endurance to accomplish this task. Published to accompany the American Museum of Natural History's exhibition on Shackleton's journey, this handsome and meticulously illustrated work chronicles his failure to accomplish this goal and describes in detail the trapping and crushing of the Endurance in the pack ice and the crew's dangerous and painful experiences on the drift ice. There is no question of Shackleton's strength as a leader, and Alexander poignantly portrays the suffering of the crew, their perilous journey in small open boats to Elephant Island, and Shackleton's epic voyage in an open 22-foot boat to South Georgia to obtain aid from the whaling station for his party. Frank Hurley's historic photographs have been brilliantly reproduced; this book may contain the most attractive photographs ever published on Antarctic exploration. General readers; undergraduates; graduates. P. D. Thomas; Wichita State University



The captain of the ship, Frank Worsley, would remember the day vividly ever afterward. It was July, midwinter in Antarctica, and the darkness of the long polar night had been upon them for many weeks. The temperature was -30° Fahrenheit, and around the ship, extending to the horizon in all directions, was a sea of ice, white and mysterious under the clear, hard stars. From time to time, the shriek of the wind outside broke all conversation. Away in the distance, the ice would groan, and Worsley and his two companions would listen to its ominous voice as it travelled to them across the frozen miles. Sometimes, the little ship would quiver and groan in response, her wooden timbers straining as the pressure from millions of tons of ice, set in motion by some faraway disturbance, at last reached her resting place and nipped at her resilient sides. One of the three men spoke. "She's pretty near her end. . . . The ship can't live in this, Skipper. You had better make up your mind that it is only a matter of time. It may be a few months, and it may be only a question of weeks, or even days . . . but what the ice gets, the ice keeps." The year was 1915. The speaker was Sir Ernest Shackleton, one of the most renowned polar explorers of his day, and the third man was Frank Wild, his second-in-command. Their ship, Endurance , was trapped at latitude 74° south, deep in the frozen waters of Antarctica's Weddell Sea. Shackleton had been intent on an ambitious mission: He and his men had travelled to the south to claim one of the last remaining prizes in exploration, the crossing on foot of the Antarctic continent. Since December 1914, the Endurance had battled unusually heavy ice conditions, travelling more than 1,000 miles from the remote whaling stations on the island of South Georgia, at the gateway to the Antarctic Circle. One hundred miles short of her intended harbor, new ice conditions brought the Endurance to a halt. A northeast gale blowing on and off for six straight days compressed the pack against the Antarctic ice shelf, trapping the ship fast within it. Days later, the temperature plummeted to 9°, as good as cementing the loose pack for the winter. Meanwhile, the leisurely, unrelenting northerly drift of the Weddell Sea carried the Endurance within the pack farther and farther from the land it had come so close to reaching. When Shackleton embarked upon his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, he was already a national hero with two polar expeditions behind him, including one that had taken him to within 100 miles of the South Pole, the farthest south anyone had travelled at that time. Yet for all the heroism of these earlier efforts, neither had accomplished what it had set out to do. By the time Shackleton headed south again in 1914, the prize of the South Pole, which he had twice sought, had been claimed by others. Undaunted, he had turned his sights upon a last great venture--the crossing of the Antarctic continent from the Weddell to the Ross Sea. The preparations for the Endurance expedition had been all-consuming; not the least of Shackleton's tasks had been raising the funds to make it possible. He was forty years of age, and he had summoned all his experience as explorer and organizer to bear on this ambitious undertaking. Shackleton could not yet know it, but the trans-Antarctic expedition would amount to another unsuccessful venture. Yet ultimately it would be for this, the failed Endurance expedition, that he would be most remembered. Antarctic exploration of the early twentieth century was unlike exploration of anywhere else on earth. No dangerous beasts or savage natives barred the pioneering explorer's way. Here, with wind speeds up to nearly 200 miles an hour and temperatures as extreme as -100° Fahrenheit, the essential competitions were pure and uncomplicated, being between man and the unfettered force of raw Nature, and man and the limits of his own endurance. Antarctica was also unique in being a place that was genuinely discovered by its explorers. No indigenous peoples had been living there all along, and the men who set foot on the continent during this age could authentically claim to have been where no member of humankind had ever cast a shadow. Beginning in 1914 and ending in 1917, straddling the First World War, the Endurance expedition is often said to have been the last in the Heroic Age of polar exploration. The significance and ambition of Shackleton's proposed trans-Antarctic crossing is best appreciated within a context of the ordeals of heroism--and egotism--that had played out before. Indeed, Shackleton's greatness as a leader on the Endurance owes much to the sometimes insane suffering of his earlier Antarctic experiences. The Heroic Age began when the ship Discovery , under the command of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, set out for Antarctica's McMurdo Sound in August 1901. Despite public talk of scientific advancement, the real objective of this first inland expedition, as of subsequent ones, was to reach the as yet unclaimed South Pole and win it for Britain. Scott chose two men to accompany him on this first bid for the pole--Dr. Edward Wilson, a physician, zoologist, and close friend; and Lieutenant Ernest Shackleton, a twenty-eight-year-old merchant service officer, whose commissions had taken him to Africa and the East. On November 2, the three men set out with nineteen sledging dogs and five loaded sledges. They faced an unspeakably daunting challenge, a round-trip journey of more than 1,600 miles, hard sledging all the way, through an entirely unknown and uncharted environment. By day, the three man-hauled their loads with or without the aid of the dogs, ferrying their supplies in time-consuming relays. By night they meticulously divided their meager food into three equal portions and read Darwin to one another before retiring to their frozen sleeping bags. They starved, they suffered from scurvy. The dogs sickened and dropped, and were butchered to feed the survivors. Scott pushed his band on to 82°17' south, 745 miles north of the pole, before acknowledging their desperate situation and reluctantly giving the order to turn back. By this time, Shackleton was spitting blood, undone by scurvy, and sometimes had to be carried on the sledge. On February 3, 1903, three months after setting out, they arrived back at their ship. The last leg of this terrible journey had been a race for their very lives. This first Antarctic trek established the pattern of heroic suffering that would characterize subsequent British expeditions. Yet even a casual perusal of the explorers' diaries suggests this suffering was unnecessary. Less than three weeks into their journey Wilson notes: "Dogs getting very tired and very slow (19 November). . . . The dogs made terribly heavy weather of it today, and the dog driving has become the most exasperating work (21 November). . . . Dogs very weary indeed and terribly slack and the driving of them has become a perfectly beastly business (24 November)." Day after day, one follows the downward spiral of these wretched, exhausted animals. It is unpleasant reading. Scott's own diary sounds more alarms: "On the whole our ski so far have been of little value. . . . [T]he dogs, which have now become only a hindrance, were hitched on behind the sledges," Scott wrote on January 6, 1903. The following day he notes that they "dropped all the dogs out of the traces and pulled steadily ourselves for seven hours, covering ten good miles by sledge-meter. . . . [T]he animals walked pretty steadily alongside the sledges." It is a stunningly improbable image: Three men walking across Antarctica at about a mile an hour with their skis securely strapped to the sledges, accompanied by a pack of dogs. Scott and his companions had not taken the time to become proficient on skis, nor did they have any knowledge of driving dogs. Their prodigious difficulties, therefore, were the result of almost inconceivable incompetence, not necessity. And the men were starving--not because unforeseen disaster had taken their supplies, but because they had not rationed sufficient food. Shackleton, the biggest of the men, suffered the most because he required more fuel than did the others. And they had quarrelled. Scott and Shackleton could not have been temperamentally more dissimilar and had virtually no rapport. As a product of the navy, Scott established a rigid order predicated upon rank and rules; on the Discovery , in the middle of the Antarctic, he put a man in irons for disobedience. Shackleton, an Anglo-Irishman from the ranks of the merchant marine, was charismatic, mixing easily with both crew and officers. He had been chosen to accompany Scott on account of his physical strength. The long days of white silence, the unrelenting tedium and hardship, the unrelieved close quarters--all these factors must have shredded the men's nerves. Wilson appears to have been forced to act as peacemaker on more than one occasion. Years later, Scott's second-in-command told the story that after breakfast one day Scott had called to the other men, "Come here, you bloody fools." Wilson asked if he was speaking to him, and Scott replied no. "Then it must have been me," said Shackleton. "Right, you're the worst bloody fool of the lot, and every time you dare to speak to me like that, you'll get it back." It is a surreal encounter, a piece of absurd theater--three men alone at the ends of the earth in a virtual whiteout, hissing at one another. On their return to the Discovery , Scott invalided Shackleton home. Though mortified by his early return to England, Shackleton arrived home as a hero who had gone farther south than anyone before. And as the lone available authority on the expedition, he received more attention than would otherwise have been the case. This recognition, he must have known, would prove valuable should he one day wish to stage his own expedition. In any case, he would never again submit to the leadership of another man. From the Hardcover edition. Excerpted from The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition by Caroline Alexander All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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