Shackleton book: the modern replay


Glacier image courtesy of mettem, Morguefile.

Back in December 2013, I reviewed Frank Worsley’s book, Endurance, about the epic journey made by Sir Ernest Shackleton and the members of The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. To recap: The expedition traveled to the Antarctic in 1914, their ship was crushed by polar ice and they made a long journey to a distant island. Shackleton and some of the others made a second journey to get help on the James Caird (a smaller boat), landed on South Georgia Island, hiked across a mountain range and ice crevasses without the benefit of decent climbing gear and eventually reached a whaling station. Despite all that happened to the members of the Expedition, they survived.

I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but modern explorer and environmental scientist Tim Jarvis recreated this epic journey in 2013 with a small crew. His book, Chasing Shackleton: Re-Creating The World’s Greatest Journey Of Survival, documents how he raised the necessary funds, selected a capable crew, got government permits, had a replica of the James Caird built (it was christened the Alexandra Shackleton after Shackleton’s granddaughter) and made the same trip.

Jarvis and his crew sought to be as historically accurate as possible. They used the same type of clothing, gear, and food as the Shackleton expedition. (Note: some food differed slightly, since some animals that the Shackleton expedition used for food are now protected species.) There were also some small modern additions for safety, such as a transponder, a radio and a camera to document the expedition.

It’s an good adventure book because making that type of trip is just as dangerous now as it was in 1914. Jarvis and his crew dealt with the cramped conditions of the boat and were subjected to seasickness, constant cold and other hazards.

Others had tried to recreate Shackleton’s journey, but they failed. However, Jarvis and his crew made the journey successfully.

Like Worsley (captain of the Endurance), Jarvis attributes the successful survival of Shackleton and his crew to Shackleton’s outstanding leadership. To quote Jarvis:  “That success is testament to Shackleton’s ability to take constant problems in his stride; the ease with which he adapted to changed circumstances; and his determination, selflessness and irrepressible optimism — in short, his leadership.”

I find both books to be inspiring. A story like Shackleton’s epic journey puts life’s events into proper perspective. There’s comfort in knowing that when life’s less pleasant happenings get to you, others have endured much worse and survived.

For fun, I’ve added a 2012 video I found about the Antarctic expedition headed by Tim Jarvis. You’ll understand the physical difficulties of both expeditions after you watch it.



Filed under Writing

8 responses to “Shackleton book: the modern replay

  1. This is cool!

    I have been fascinated for quite a while with the Shackleton expedition and have read several books about it. I became so enamored of the qualities exhibited by those on the voyage, I made it required reading for my children. They will love that someone actually made the journey successfully.

  2. I used Kenneth Branagh’s movie of Shackleton to complement our sophomore novel unit Lord of the Flies. The correlation was demonstrating true leadership. They got it.

  3. I actually bought the Shackleton book on your recommendation. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s up there on my list 🙂 Thanks again!

  4. I love the Shackleton story. It is an impressive tale of survival. What is doubly amazing is that Shackleton showed foresight and wisdom in preserving the cumbersome glass photo negatives, which now serve as an incredible record of the crew’s epic struggle. What treasures those photos are!

    • There’s quite a funny scene in the Kenneth Branagh version of Shackleton where they’re sorting through what negatives they can take and what they leave behind. A bit sad but funny as well in how it’s written.


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