War In the Closed World 20: Mooresville and Music
Why Obama Won

The Endurance

I'm embarrassed to say that I knew almost nothing about Ernest Shackleton until tonight. I knew that he was one of the explorers of one of the poles, but I didn't even know which one, and I didn't know whether he succeeded or failed, lived or died. Well, now I know, thanks to this excellent documentary, which I recommend highly. If you've complained about the weather or some other physical discomfort or inconvenience lately, or been impatient with some tiresome task, this will put it in perspective for you, although perhaps at the cost of making you feel a bit ashamed. What Shackleton and his men went through on their failed attempt to reach the South Pole is almost inconceivable. 

The film, narrated by Liam Neeson, includes both still and moving pictures taken on the voyage, liberal quotations from the diaries of members of the expedition, contemporary photography of the Antarctic (beautiful and, in this context, somewhat frightening), and interviews with historians and descendants of some of the crew. Very very much worth the hour and forty minutes invested in watching it.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I haven't seen this documentary, but I am interested in Shackleton's expedition. I have a couple of books on the topic (The Worst Journey in the World, written by one of the crew, and Alfred Lansing's book Endurance). I meant to read them last winter when it was really cold, but I didn't manage it. I am renewing my resolve for this winter. Perhaps I will sit in the backyard in a snow drift while I read.

I think Kenneth Branagh made a TV movie about the expedition a few years ago, but I've not seen it.

I've had Endurance sitting in my living room for a couple of years and Bill has read it. I was looking at it just this week when I was moving books around. So when, after having just finished my last Phillip Marlowe novel and thinking that I had reached my absolute limit for the time being, I saw this entry this morning, I stuck the book in my purse and read it on the way to work.


I believe Endurance is the book on which this documentary is based.

Sitting in a snowdrift would certainly create the proper atmosphere for reading those books, Craig.

Well see, I couldn't possibly read this book in winter, which might be why I didn't read it when I got it. I want to read it now to cool off.


Reading to cool off is reasonable, I suppose, especially considering how hot you have it down there, but for me it's just too incongruous. It is cold in the Antarctic, and one really should be cold when reading about it.

The same idea generalizes: one should read Heart of Darkness only when travelling in a hot climate; likewise On the Road is suitable while travelling through the central US; Bradbury's Mars Trilogy -- well, I haven't read it, have you? And so on.

A couple of years ago I bought a beautiful coffee table book for my sister that consisted of photographs from the Shackleton expedition. It was an amazing book, and I have often lamented that I didn't also buy one for myself. I've since been unable to find it (at least at a price that I can afford).

I hate to tell you but I read the Martian Chronicles right here on earth--more than once. And, if I can only read Heart of Darkness while travelling in a hot climate, I can scratch it off my reading list right now.

So, where should I have read Dante's Inferno?


It was great reading Martian Chronicles while looking out of the dome at those red sands.

Long time ago I read an old book about Shackleton's journey - I thought it was by a survivor, if there was one.

As far as this documentary is concerned, it's more effective if you don't know how the expedition turned out. So if you don't know and think you might want to see this, avoid reading anything about it in the meantime. Those who do know should refrain from giving it away. I admit asking people not to give spoilers about a famous event that happened almost a hundred years ago is pretty funny. And I'm glad there's someone else who doesn't know.

I really feel like I gain some understanding of what Shackleton & his men went through when I find two licorice Neccos in a row, and then a third one very soon after.

Clearly another indication of encroaching Socialism.

Do you get these out of a machine? Surely if you bought them at the store you could examine the package to prevent such a tragedy.


I once embarrassed myself by talking about the frozen remains of one of Shackleton's crewmen being found in the Arctic. I meant Franklin, not Shackleton, and did feel foolish when I realized what I'd said.

Lord Franklin is a great song. Pentangle has a version that I really love. Basically like this but harmonized differently somehow...at any rate a little more mysterious sounding.

I'm not sure I could do that accurately, Janet--the paper is only half-transparent. And I'd be afraid of being accosted by a store employee.

Here's the Pentangle one, mislabelled as "The Cruel Sister". I'd forgotten about the concertina & the electric guitar. Possibly my favorite Pentangle song.

I think the lyrics given there are off here and there. I thought it was "Through cruel hardship they made a stroke/ The ship on mountains of ice was broke".

Oh wait, I see, the YouTuber meant that this is a track from the Cruel Sister album.

Shackleton's book South makes for compelling reading. Among much, much else it reveals a particular advantage to dogsleds, one which modern machinery cannot match. Hint: as the expedition proceeds, and the supplies are consumed, fewer dogs are needed. This provides a new source of, ahem, food.

There are some poignant things along that line in the movie.

There is a beautiful essay about Polar explorers in Anne Fadiman's book Ex Libris. Also one about reading books "on location," as it were.

Our eldest acted in a locally produced stage version. Truly, an amazing story.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)