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Having reviewed over 1100 books on this blog, I have now written one myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. It is available on Kindle through Amazon. Read it and find out whether this critic can write. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Sunday, 24 May 2009

"Escape from the Antarctic" by Sir Ernest Shackleton

This tiny book tells a fraction of the story of The Endurance commanded by Shackleton which was attempting to land men for a trans-Antarctic expedition when it was caught in pack ice; after some months drifting the ship was crushed and the men had to camp on the drifting ice floe; they then got into two small boats and headed for Elephant Island where they camped. This book completes their adventures from this point.

Shackleton and five others sailed a small boat through mountainous seas 800 miles to South Georgia. Just sighting the sun through a sextant in a pitching boat in the middle of a hurricane when there was precious little sun made the navigation difficult, almost impossible. They endured days of hurricane and gale. When they reached South Georgia they had to stand away from the shore because the seas were driving the boat inland and threatened to smash it on the rocks. Finally they made landfall and captured baby albatross chicks to stew.

Then Shackleton and two others trekked across the South Georgia mountains which had never been crossed, or even explored, before. Finally they reached the whaling station and obtained relief for their crew mates. Even then it was weeks before they could charter a ship which could penetrate the newly forming pack ice and rescue the 22 men abandoned on Elephant Island.

Sometimes Shackleton gets bogged down in the details and this story is marred by only being a fraction of the full adventure but it was a delightful little read.

Two favourite moments:

  • "At midnight I was at the tiller and suddenly noticed a line of clear sky between the south and southwest .... a moment later I realized that what I had seen was not a rift in the clouds but the white crest of an enormous wave. During twenty-six years' experience of the ocean in all its moods I had not encountered a wave so gigantic. It was a mighty upheaval of the ocean, a thing quite apart from the big white-capped seas that had been our tireless enemies for many days."

  • "I know that during the long and racking march of thirty-six hours over the unnamed mountains and glaciers of South Georgia it seemed to me often that we were four, not three. I said nothing to my companions on the point, but afterwards Worsley said to me, 'Boss, I had a curious feeling on the march that there was another person with us.'" It is this paragraph that led T. S. Eliot to write in The Waste Land:
"Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you"
May 2009, 90 pages

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