Caroline Alexander's book, The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition
Sir Ernest Shackleton - The cover of the award-winning documentary based on the book
Frank Hurley's biography by Alasdair McGregor - Hurley's photography was phenomenal
18 of the 27 crew members of the Endurance - not one man was lost
The route of the Endurance in 1914 - The Endurance trapped in ice
Two of the crew members who endured 635 days under the most horrendous conditions imaginable
Some of the 69 sled dogs that accompanied the men
The ship, once it had been fully abandoned - One of the crew members with the ship's cat
One of Frank Hurley's photographs, which were shot on glass negatives
Six-man crew of James Caird setting sail for South Georgia - Their mates remain behind on Elephant Island
Kenneth Branah as Shackleton in A&E movie of same name, with crew member
Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition
Best Documentary, Best Story, Best Example of Leadership
by Waitsel Smith
5-Star Masterpiece - Best Documentary, 2000
Newspaper ad: "Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success." Sir Ernest Shackleton, 1900.
That was the ad run by explorer Sir Earnest Shackleton in order to man his ship, The Endurance, for an historic expedition across Antarctica in 1914-16. He received over 5,000 applications.
I was attracted to this documentary by the cover on the DVD, which is an engaging and eerie photograph of the ship, Endurance, frozen in the ice with the men grouped in front of it. The documentary turned out to be even more engaging and eerie. I'm not a big fan of documentaries, but this one enthralled me. I still can't get over the fact that this story really happened, or that Shackleton was the leader that he was.
As is pointed out in the documentary, and by Caroline Alexander - the author of the book on which it is based - Shackleton had his finger on the pulse of each of his 27 men to such a degree that he could pull each one back from the brink of depression or despair before he went over the edge. No polar expedition that had ever run amuck before theirs had ever survived; and in most cases, insanity had preceded death. So when Shackleton realized he wasn't going to make it across Antarctica, he changed his goal to that of saving all his men. And, miraculously, he accomplished it - he didn't lose one.
Every expert says that every leg of their journey back was impossible; yet they did it. And even though the drama with Kenneth Branagh (Shackleton - The Greatest Survival Story Of All Time) is good, it doesn't do as much justice to the real story as this documentary by George Butler.
Liam Neeson does an excellent job narrating. Included in the film are the extraordinary photographs of expedition photographer Frank Hurley, who performed a major miracle just saving his glass negatives. The extra features are as engrossing as the movie itself, especially comments made by author Caroline Alexander.
The ship was well-named: Endurance. The men endured for 635 days under the most horrendous conditions imaginable, and survived to tell the greatest tale ever. There is even a mystery involved in how Shackleton and two of his men made the last leg of their journey across a mountain range with the help of a "fourth man," which they believed was an angel. It is clear that God was with these men throughout.
This is one documentary, one story and one man you'll never forget.
Waitsel Smith, August 19, 2005
The Endurance Resources
Here is a selection of products that will help you enjoy The Endurance even more:
Own the DVDs of 1) The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition, 2) Shackleton: The Greatest Survival Story of All Time and 3) Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure:
featured in this article
starring Kenneth Branagh
starring Kevin Spacey
Own Caroline Alexander's book, The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition:
Own Alfred Lansing's book, Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage:
Text © 2005 Waitsel Smith. Images © 1916 Frank Hurley, 1998 Knopf Publishers, 2000 Sony Pictures, 2002 A&E. All rights reserved.