Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Endurance

The Endurance, Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition, Caroline Alexander

Although it is somewhat immoral to read a book the title of which is subtly intended to inspire my wife to stay extra unpaid hours at work, I enjoyed this.

It traces the voyage of the British explorer Ernest Shackleton, in his failure to complete his most famous expedition, and the miraculous endurance that he and his crew had to suffer as a result of that failure. The conditions of navigation and trekking in the antarctic are spectacular, and while the word "chilling" is appropriate literally, here it is its figurative sense that is the more haunting.

The book has two main parts: in the first, the narrative of life on the ice is slow, and the categoric descriptions of all the men involved often ponderous, but it is rescued by the mountains of stunning photographs of Frank Hurley, taken with the professional aim of paying for the expedition; in the second part, with camera equipment no longer available, the story itself, which describes why the camera equipment is no longer available, is incredible. Which, in sum, means that this is a good book.

The Endurance was a year-end gift to all employees in my wife's company, and I am seriously convinced that its point was to alleviate the guilt of the management for keeping everyone late hours at work.

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