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South: The Story of Shackleton's Last Expedition, 1914-17 by Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton

South: The Story of Shackleton's Last Expedition, 1914-17

Biography / Autobiography   History   Travel   

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April 2012 Guest Editor Paul Torday on South...

I read this book only the other day. I can’t believe I’ve overlooked it until now. The story of Shackleton’s expedition to the Antarctic in 1914 just before war broke out is absolutely compelling. You can imagine yourself with Shackleton and his team, out on the sea ice with their ship being slowly crushed to death by pressure ridges. What amazing heroism, in circumstances that few people could have survived. An object lesson in how to write simply, yet produce powerful prose.


South: The Story of Shackleton's Last Expedition, 1914-17 by Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton

Shackleton's South is one of the great books of exploration. written by a national hero, about what he called 'the last great journey on earth' - his Antarctic expedition in which then Endurance was crushed by the ice, and he and his men made a 600-mile trek across ice and ocean to solid land, and then a 700-mile journey in an open boat to South Georgia, followed by an epic crossing of the uncharted mountains of that island. His account is superbly written, and the book has never ceased to enthral readers since it was first published in 1919. Since that time, however, Shackleton's life - and his account of the expedition - have been dramatically revalued by scholars and biographers, and it emerges that South conceals much of the truth about his great feat. In this edition Peter King, who has examined the latest research on the entire episode, presents in his additional notes a much more detailed picture of what really occurred. In addition, the book contains over a hundred beautifully produced photographs by Frank Hurley, the official photographer of the expedition as well as other contemporary illustrations.

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'A finely designed and produced paperback edition of Shackleton's own account of his trans-Antarctic expedition of 1914, the book is liberally illustrated with well reproduced photographs by the expedition's photographer, Frank Hurley. It is these vivid images that bring to lfie the personalities mentioned in the story - here is wonderful photo-journalism before the name had been coined. The pictures show the pastimes, the small pleasures and great hardships of life aboard the ship and on the ice floes, the sledge-dogs and the men at work and at play. They illustrate, more vividly than any words can, the atmosphere of schoolboy adventure with which the expedition began, developing later into a harsh and desperate fight for survival. Shackleton's ambitious aim was to cross antarctica from sea to sea via the Pole. Even had their ship Endeavour not been crushed by ice before the expedition party could land, it is thought unlikely that the journey, finally accomplished as recently as 1958 by Sir Vivian Fuchs, could have succeeded in Shackleton's day. Like that of his contemporary, Captain R F Scott, Shackleton's heroic reputation is, ironically, founded upon an adventure that failed in its objective. Opinions have swayed back and forth in rather futile discussion as to which was the greater hero so that any book about one inevitably involved the other in a partisan dispute. In South, Shackleton gives no encouragement to this, writing with generosity about Scott and his fate, even though the men had been on terms of enmity. As leaders their styles were very different, Scott maintaining naval discipline where Shackleton relied upon his natural authority. The one attribute they seem to have shared was a carefree attitude towards training nad supplies. These and many other matters that have recently come to light are discussed by Peter King in this excellent introduction and in illuminating notes on the original text. South was always an exciting, engrossing story which in this edition, thansk to the editor's comments, also reveals Shackleton as a flawed but thoroughly human hero and all the greater as a result.' (Kirkus UK)

About the Author

Sir Ernest Shackleton, who was born in Ireland, became one of the great explorers of his day, itself a golden age for British Exploration. He was a member of Robert Falcom Scott's Antarctic expedition of 1901-04, and in 1907-9 he commanded an expedition that came within a hundred miles of the South Pole (first reached by Amundsen in 1911), located near the magnetic pole, and climbed Mount Erebus. His attempt in 1914-16 to cross the Antarctic is described in this book. He died on board the Quest, on his fourth exhibition to the area in 1922.

Peter King has edited a number of travel books, principally those of George Nathaniel Curzon, whose writing included the classic Persia. Together with Maria Aitken, he has also written about Lady Travellers. His biographies include a study of Curzon and Kitchener in India.

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Book Info

Publication date

4th November 1999


Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton

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Author 'Like for Like'


Pimlico an imprint of Vintage


208 pages


Biography / Autobiography

Biography: general
Geographical discovery & exploration



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