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Mariner's Library

Endurance

By Alfred Lansing

Published by: Hodder & Stoughton (1959)

The subtitle is quite a claim, but one that still stands, decades after Lansing wrote it. The fact that it continues to be in print, by various publishers, says it all.

But perhaps the reason this particular adventure is more of a ripping yarn than most is because it was photographed by a lensman at the top of his game.

Frank Hurley’s monochrome images are simply stunning: a black sailing ship mounted in white ice; men dressed in frost-covered furs; the great sledge dogs which would eventually be slaughtered to save on food rations.

For me, the most chilling few lines come when Shackleton, at the helm of the lifeboat James Caird on route to South Georgia, brings a cheer to his men as he describes the storm they are riding beginning to break with a long line of light beneath the grey cloud astern. A cheer that doesn’t last long as the crew realise it’s not a clearing sky, but a breaking comber.

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