Endurance Book Summary - Endurance Book explained in key points
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Endurance summary

Alfred Lansing

Shackleton's Incredible Voyage

4.7 (245 ratings)
22 mins
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    Into the ice world

    Before embarking upon the Endurance voyage, Sir Ernest Shackleton was already famous for attempting to be the first person to reach the South Pole for the British Empire. With just three companions in his team, they had to turn back a mere 100 miles from their destination when a lack of food became life-threatening. Their return journey became a race against death itself.

    Beating the odds, Shackleton’s return to England met with a hero’s welcome. He wrote a book and went on popular speaking tours. But by 1911 he was already planning a new expedition – this time to cross the Antarctic continent overland on the Endurance.

    The plan was as sophisticated as it was audacious. He would set off by ship with a carefully selected crew to the treacherous Weddell Sea, and land a party of six men who would trek overland with sled dog teams. At the same time, a second ship would set off from the Ross Sea almost directly across the continent from Shackleton. This team would lay provisions for the overland team on the far side of the continent, resupplying them for the journey past the pole.

    The Endurance set sail from Buenos Aires the morning of October 26, 1914 for its last port of call – a remote whaling station on South Georgia Island off the southern coast of South America. The local whalers were curious about the expedition’s plans, knowing the conditions in the Weddell Sea were the worst they’d seen in years. 

    They knew that the ice which formed in the sea was held in place by land on three sides: Antarctica itself, the Palmer Peninsula, and South Sandwich Island. Ice floes in the Weddell Sea churned in a circle following the current, endlessly grinding against one another. Sometimes they joined up to create a massive shelf of ice that no ship could navigate. New ice formed even in the summer, and the light but relentless winds weren’t strong enough to break them up.

    Despite this bleak news, Shackleton gave the order to sail on the morning of December 5, 1914 – just a few weeks before the start of the Antarctic summer. By December 7, they were passing remote Saunders Island in the South Sandwich group and navigating through large clusters of ice. For nearly two weeks, the Endurance sailed around icebergs a mile wide. At times, the boat crashed right through enormous ice packs, but it managed to remain undamaged.

    The plan was to reach the Antarctic shore by the end of December, but in two weeks they’d barely moved. The Endurance averaged just 30 miles a day – not the expected 200 – and some days, the ice was just too thick to move at all. And any progress meant even more churning, swelling, and crushing ice around them. 

    There was ice everywhere – as far as the eye could see. But instead of a desolate landscape, they found it teeming with life.

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    What is Endurance about?

    Endurance (1959) is the epic saga of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expedition across the Antarctic continent on foot – a journey that became a race against time, the elements, and the harshest climate on earth to rescue his crew.

    Who should read Endurance?

    • Leaders longing for real-world examples of extraordinary ability
    • History buffs craving a front-row seat to the action
    • Adventure lovers seeking their next armchair thrill ride

    About the Author

    Alfred Lansing was a Chicago-born journalist and author who is best known for Endurance.

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