* Psst....don’t mention this to my wife as she thinks she took care of this years ago.
Stranded for over a year in the most inhospitable climate on the face of the Earth, literally one tiny step away from complete disaster due to starvation, extreme weather or the ice flows on which they lived deciding to crack and deposit into the freezing depths below.
Holy persevering manliness Batman, I was wincing, shuddering and cringing just reading about this ordeal from the creaturey comfort of my toasty, warm bed while maintaining a glass of wine within reaching distance. Now I’m not a non-fiction, survival story expert, but this has to be pretty close to the absolute limit of human endurance, both physically and psychologically. This is one of the stories that will reset your perspective on what the human animal is capable of and I highly recommend you avail yourself of the opportunity to reboot your mind-set.
It will make your daily grind seem like a daily paradise.
HIGHLIGHTS AND PHOTOS:
The story tells of the amazing, nut-shrinking, bowel-tightening, faith-testing, life-affirming expedition of Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 27 as they were stranded while trying to make the first trans-antarctic crossing in 1914. There’e no way I can convey to you in this review the sense of astonishment and awe that you’ll get from being witness to 300 pages of constant, relentless, extreme hardship and danger and the ceaseless intrepidity and unmitigated strength of will exhibited in by these men.
Therefore, here are some highlights and photos that offer just a taste of what these men went through:
**Saltwater Boils (aka pips or pigeons)...a condition where grit and dirt from clothing (usually around the wrists) create small abrasions that become infected and cause severe pain if not treated. These things were mentioned as a casual, passing comment and all I could think was “they had to suffer through those for months with no medical attention and only making them worse.” [No photos of this. A little too gross]
**Using packed snow as toilet paper...not just once mind you, but for almost a year. Not trying to be overly graphic here, but can you imagine the soreness and chafing that this led to in a part of the body that does not abide chafing. Add to that the diet that these men had to endure and the increased strain it placed on the bowels and my privileged mind was aching with imagined pain. [Again, photos withheld
**Anemomainia (aka “wind madness”)...are you fucking kidding me? I had never heard of this before but this is a condition whereby normal people go bat-shitty bonkers when exposed to constant severe winds that simply...do...not...stop. Leave it to Mother Nature to come up with this unusual form of torture...nasty bitch. And while I’m not showing photos of ice-wiping or grit boils here is a shot that gives you some idea of the winds these men were facing (up to 100+ mph):
** 80 hours without sleep. At one point, a group of men with Shackleton survived for over 3 full days without sleep. I may not sleep as much as most people, but you take away my shut eye for 24 hours and I'm apt to go on a 3 state killing-spree. At most, these guys got a bit cranky.
** Dogs, Penguins and Sea Leopards...oh my. The only diet these men had for over a year consisted of penguins, one sea leopard and, eventually, their own dogs. This last part was incredibly moving because the men, for all of their hunger, were reluctant to resort to these brave animals that had been their stout companions throughout the ordeal. In the end, they did what they had to and the animal lover in me had zero issue with it. Respectful, sad and necessary.
** Removal of gangrenous appendages. Nuff said I think except for the almost preternatural courage and good humor with which the enterprise was conducted.
These were a group of rare individuals.
Lansing’s prose is wonderfully balanced. He tells the story without hyperbole or excess melodrama and lets the reality of the tale provide all of the drama and tension. It is more than enough to keep you white-knuckled and awed. The journal entries and notes from the men involved, to which Lansing had unprecedented access, provide essential flavor to the story and increase the sense of intimacy.
Throughout the hellish ordeal endured by these men, the two things that struck me more than anything else were: (1) the unfailing sense of good will and camaraderie that persisted between the men and (2) that NO ONE DIED. I’m not sure which fact was more astounding to me but they are both truly worthy of an eye-bulging jaw-drop.
A truly inspirational saga of men prevailing over seemingly impossible odds and nightmarish conditions and making this sacrifice at the alter of the human need for exploration and the conquering of the unknown.
5.0 stars. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!
eBook Endurance And Shackleton's Way