By F.A. Worsley
On 1 August 1914, on the eve of World War I, Sir Ernest Shackleton and his hand-picked crew embarked in HMS Endurance from London’s West India Dock, for an expedition to the Antarctic. It was to turn into one of the most breathtaking survival stories of all time.
Even as they coasted down the channel, Shackleton wired back to London to offer his ship to the war effort. The reply came from the First Lord of the Admiralty, one Winston Churchill: “Proceed.” And proceed they did. When the Endurance was trapped and finally crushed to splinters by pack ice in late 1915, they drifted on an ice floe for five months, before getting to open sea and launching three tiny boats as far as the inhospitable, storm-lashed Elephant Island. They drank seal oil and ate baby albatross (delicious, apparently). From there Shackleton himself and seven others – the author among them – went on, in a 22-foot open boat, for an unbelievable 800 miles, through the Antarctic seas in winter, to South Georgia and rescue.
Worsley’s account, first published in 1940, is gripping and moving.