Required reading for explorers (part 2)

I’m trying to rediscover the habit of reading for fun. Too many books with footnotes makes Jack a dull boy.

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Last night I finished F. A. Worsley’s 1931 publication of Endurance: An Epic of Polar Adventure (Norton, 2000) (available from Amazon here). It was terrific! The author, Frank Worsley, was a New Zealand sea captain who saw action in WW1, did merchant work around Iceland, but most famously, skippered the Endurance. The Endurance was the ill-fated ship used by Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914–1916. It is also a fitting theme for this book.

The Shackleton Expedition is the centerpiece of Worsley’s narrative. Caught in the ice, the men of the Endurance were forced to survive months of life under the cruelest conditions. When their ship was finally crushed and disappeared beneath the floes, 28 men were set adrift in the Weddell Sea with little more than three tiny lifeboats, a minimum of supples, and Shackleton’s unflappable leadership. The mission to traverse Antarctica was abandoned in the teeth of the challenge to stay alive.*

Not exactly the craft of choice to cross the Screaming Sixties and the Furious Fifties. Image from    here.

Not exactly the craft of choice to cross the Screaming Sixties and the Furious Fifties. Image from here.

In the end, Worsley, Shackleton, and two others attempted a suicidal mission for help. A 20-foot open boat (modified with pieces from the Endurance) was launched in the effort to locate a whaling station on a tiny island 800 miles distant. That sea-voyage, captured in the voice of the skipper, is the climax of the story. Imagine the task of navigating by celestial observation with primitive instruments under an impenetrable sky. It has been dubbed “the greatest boat journey ever made."** The reader can’t help but shiver with the men as they are pitched about in the wildest water on earth.

Worsley’s relationship with Sir Ernest Shackleton ties these tales together. Indeed, the book is a tribute to the man considered one of the heroes of the 20th century. At the same time, Worsley humanizes Shackleton to a degree and demonstrates the symbiotic relationship between these two friends. Shackleton needed Worsley’s knowledge of the sea as much as Worsley needed Shackleton’s unsinkable vision.

Frank Worsley (left) and Sir Ernest Shackleton (right). Images found    here    and    here   .

Frank Worsley (left) and Sir Ernest Shackleton (right). Images found here and here.

I won’t tell you how the book concludes; you really must read it for yourself. However, it is worth noting that this epic tale continues down to our own day. A 2019 expedition hopes to locate the Endurance in icy waters nearly 10,000 feet deep. See here and here for more on this ongoing search.


*For a summary and excellent photographs of a part of the Shackleton story, see the link here.

**See The Maritime Executive (2016-04-22) link here.


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The mules of Santorini Island (Greece) await their riders.

We have several travel experiences to Bible Lands planned for 2019 (see list here). These are often organized on behalf of educational institutions or for church groups. If you are a leader who is interested in crafting a unique travel opportunity for your organization or if you are an individual who would like to join a group, shoot me an email at markziese@gmail.com.