Shackleton’s Endurance: An Antarctic Survival Story

Written by Joanna Grochowicz
Review by Pamela Schoenewaldt

Most explorers’ fame rests on routes charted or new lands found—regardless of the human cost. Sir Ernest Shackleton, a towering figure of Antarctic exploration, failed in his goal to cross the icy continent. His fame rests on a different, astounding achievement: bringing every crew member home alive after two years of unimaginable hardship stretching from August 1914 to August 1916. A testament to his leadership, charisma, compassion and uncanny judge of character is the absence of factions between suffering men or any serious challenge to “the boss.”

Joanna Grochowicz draws on exhaustive research to build a vivid, multi-sensory chronicle of that harrowing adventure. We hear ice cracking the ship’s timbers and feel the agonizing struggle to move supplies across torturous terrain, the unending cold, and the challenges of finding food and shelter in a land of ice and rock while enduring endless months of doubt, fear, and boredom. We’re with Shackleton in an unequaled feat of navigation in an open boat on stormy Antarctic seas to a tiny inhabited island where he marshals a rescue effort. Grochowicz’s accounting of these trials is so vivid that the reader must constantly remember that the men did survive.

The narrative is supplemented by a list of crew members and functions, charming sketches of each man, a chronology, maps, and Frank Hurley’s evocative photographs. Outdoor enthusiasts and armchair explorers, YA and adult audiences will find Shackleton’s Endurance an engrossing read and convincing proof of “the boss’s” characteristically modest observation, “What a lot a man can endure! In the right company!”