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  • Topic: Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, Ernest Shackleton, Frank Worsley
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  • Published : March 25, 2013
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BookRags Literature Study Guide

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing

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Plot Summary

In 1914 Sir Ernest Shackleton leads twenty-seven men on the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. The expedition intends to transverse the Antarctic continent by dog sledge. In December, 1914, the expedition, aboard the purpose-built polar exploration ship Endurance, enters the pack ice of the Weddell Sea off the coast of Antarctica some 1,100 nautical miles east of the Palmer Peninsula. By January, 1915, Endurance is a scant 60 nautical miles from its intended landfall--but it is also frozen immobile in pack ice that extends to all horizons. Endurance drifts with the pack ice for several months, eventually losing sight of land as the typical Weddell Sea current spins the vast pack ice floe in a slow clockwise direction.

As the pack ice transcribes its giant clockwise rotation, so ends the Antarctic summer. By late October, 1915, Endurance drifts some 500 nautical miles to the north-east, frozen fast in apparently limitless pack ice. In the intervening months the crew leads a generally optimistic life of boredom and intense cold even as the gradual realization sets that the trans-Antarctic nature of the expedition has failed. As the weather turns ever colder, the pack ice thickens and winter storms drive the floes together with increasing pressure and violence. At the end of October, 1915, the Endurance finally succumbs to the intense pressure and is slowly crushed. The crew, led by Shackleton, abandons ship and makes camp on a huge floe of pack ice. They salvage as much food and material as possible, and the expedition's dogs, sledges, and boats, are stockpiled on the floe. The crew establishes a makeshift home and names the drifting place Ocean Camp. Over the next few weeks the crew continues salvage operations as Endurance is slowly but entirely crushed. In late November, 1915, Endurance finally slips entirely beneath the sea; meanwhile the initial floe has crumbled under pressure and the crew has relocated to a larger, sturdier floe and established...
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