Analysis of Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage
Since he finished college, Alfred Lansing was allured by the world of navigation and travel. Lansing spent the majority of his years researching famous explorers and their historical journeys. However before he went to college, Alfred Lansing was a member of the US Navy. After serving for 6 years, he attended North Park College and Northwestern University and got a degree in journalism. He became a journalist for a newspaper for a couple of years before he abandoned his job. He decided to become an author to pass down the information he learned. His most famous work is Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage, where he chronicles the failed arctic expedition of Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage is a novel that takes the reader along with Sir Ernest Shackelton and details the hardship he and his crew faced during their attempted excursion to the arctic. The book is divided into 7 main sections, with both a preface and an epilogue. The first three sections mainly explained the motivations behind the attempted voyage and how their plans went awry. Shackleton and his crew originally sought to traverse Antarctica by dog sled, help cartographers map the country, and also establish the foundations for a future base of the Weddell coast. Unfortunately, the boat Shackleton’s crew was using, got stuck in a flow of ice, and was slowly crushed. The members of the crew quickly salvaged anything they could and camped out in a nearby area. They lived in these tents with little food and immense boredom for almost the next half a year. Parts 4 and 5 covers how the crew managed to escape the frozen arctic and set up more permanent shelters. By late 1915, Shackleton and his crew established a bigger camp and prepared to be stuck in Antarctica for more than a year. In addition, Lansing characterizes the crew members and how the excursion has affected them mentally. He details how some men walk aimlessly, in shock of the current state of their lives. Finally, section 6, describes their rescue attempts, and how they ended up surviving with not a single casualty. With all their free time, Shackleton and his crew manage to create a makeshift boat, called the Caird. Though not nearly as well-built as the Endurance, the Caird was capable of transporting the crew through Antarctica. They set sail for South Georgia island, and begin their journey. However, a mere few weeks into the voyage, the crew ran out of almost all of their fresh drinking water. Shackleton deduces that rations would have to be cut in order to survive and that three of the men must make a treacherous on-foot journey to the harbor. Finally, in part 7 of the book, Shackleton and two of his crew members complete arrive on the shore of the island, and are helped by fellow sailors. Shackleton then goes back to retrieve the rest of his crew, and bring them back to civilization. After the ending, the book’s main themes of the book are evident. Lansing’s thesis is to always bounce back from a loss, and persevere through hardships. This idea is prominently reflected in the book, as it demonstrates the crew’s morale after being stranded in the Arctic. Lansing portrays Shackleton and his crew’s mental state, and how they fight through adversity for their eventual rescue.
One section of the book that was particularly interesting was the first part of the book, which serves as the hook. This portion of the book takes readers straight into the harsh reality of the expedition, by detailing the destruction of the boat. This abrupt start does a great job of drawing readers in and setting the scene for the novel. This is shown in the text as Lansing writes, “She was being crushed. Not all at once, but slowly, a little at a time. The pressure of ten million tons of ice was driving in against her sides.”(Part 1, Chapter 1, pg.1) This passage from the text exemplifies Lansing’s intriguing writing style. Unlike the majority of historical books, Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage creates a fascinating premise right off the bat.
Throughout the book, Lansing does a great job conveying facts and details through his very informative writing style. At times, this style of writing can be seen as uneventful or mundane, but Lansing’s use of sensory details and vivid imagery help allure the reader. When Shackleton and his crew go through an extreme challenge or hardship, Lansing adds extensive detail to make the event even more exciting and memorable. One example can be seen as Lansing writes, “The compulsive craving of their bodies for more fuel to burn to ward off the cold caused a gnawing, ceaseless hunger. And the weather was becoming increasingly bitter, with nighttime temperatures frequently dropping as low as 10 below.”(Part III, Chapter 4, pg.190) This passage from the text exemplifies Lansing’s use of lively vocabulary, which allows the story to be interesting throughout. Even still, he manages to make it informative at the same time, allowing for a very pleasant experience for the reader. For example, his style is shown as he states, “But more than simple ruggedness was incorporated into the Endurance. She was built in Sandefjord, Norway, by the Framnaes shipyard, the famous polar shipbuilding firm which for years had been constructing vessels for whaling and sealing in the Arctic and Antarctic.”(Part I, Chapter 2, pg.44) This quote from the text illustrates how Lansing incorporates facts into his writing, without sacrificing the flow of the essay. Beyond that, the essay is well-structured, with 7 main parts, that are all ordered chronologically. Lansing also adds helpful anecdotes throughout the essay to make the novel easier to understand for the reader.
One aspect of Lansing’s writing that could have been improved upon is his overall lack of emotions in his writing. Throughout the book, Lansing focuses more on the crew as a collective and does not dive deeper into the progression of the crew’s emotions. He briefly mentioned the crew’s anxiety about the situation, and this was one of the most alluring sections of the book. If Lansing added more details describing how the crew’s motivation deteriorated, the book would be more enjoyable to a variety of readers. However, one thing that Lansing did extremely well, was his accuracy when describing certain scenes and events. Prior to writing the book, Lansing met with 8 members of the actual crew, thoroughly questioning them about their experiences. The introduction of the book expounds on this stating, “He [Lansing] also visited the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, where he consulted several logbooks from the expedition. In the preface to Endurance, Lansing speaks of how important the examination of the physical diaries was to his research process.” (Introduction, pg. 9) This quote from the introduction explains how Lansing conducted his research, and where he got his information from. In addition, this also speaks to Lansing’s motivation while writing this book. He traveled to London and met with the actual members of the expedition, all to create an accurate depiction of the excursion. While reading, the extent of Lansing’s dedication is shown, as he makes readers feel like they were on the voyage with Sir Ernest Shackleton.
To conclude, Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage is a novel that accomplishes its goal of educating readers on the failed expedition of Sir Ernest Shackleton. Lansing takes the reader with Shackleton and his crew, vividly describing the adversity they faced. He details exactly the hardships the crew faced, struggling to survive in the cold tundra. The book fulfills its intentions of educating its reader on Shackleton’s journey. It does this in a tasteful way while incorporating a surplus of facts and historical context. What’s more, is the book is extremely accurate historically, as Lansing spoke with members of the actual crew. This allows the book to serve as an informative resource for anyone wanting to learn more about Shackleton’s failed arctic expedition. All in all, Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage is an informational book that chronicles the failed polar expedition of Sir Ernest Shackleton, and his long-lasting impact on arctic exploration.
Lansing, Alfred. Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage. Hodder and Stoughton, 1961.