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Ernest Shackleton was the quintessential Edwardian hero. A contemporary - and adversary - of Scott, he sailed on the 'Discovery' expedition of 1900, and went on to mount three expeditions of his own. Like Scott, he was a social adventurer; snow and ice held no particular attraction, but the pursuit of wealth, fame and power did. Yet Shackleton, and Anglo-Irishman who left school at 16, needed status to raise money for his own expeditions. At various times he was involved in journalism, politics, manufacturing and City fortune-hunting - none of them very effectively. A frustrated poet, he was never to be successful with money, but he did succeed in marrying it. At his height he was feted as a national hero, knighted by Edward VII, and granted GBP20,000 by the government for achievements which were, and remain, the very stuff of legend. But the world to which he returned in 1917 after the sensational 'Endurance' expedition did not seem to welcome surviving heroes. Poverty-stricken by the end of the war, he had to pay off his debts through writing and endless lecturing. He finally obtained funds for another expedition, but dies of a heart attack, aged only 47, at it reached South more

Product details

  • Paperback | 800 pages
  • 122 x 196 x 52mm | 662.24g
  • Little, Brown Book Group
  • Abacus
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Section: 16, B&W
  • 0349107440
  • 9780349107448
  • 96,973

Review quote

This is an utterly absorbing biography ... moves one to tears of relief, joy and blind wonder Allan Massie Expertly handled and written ... makes extensive uncensored use of the diaries written at the time ECONOMIST Unlikely to be superseded Robert Fox, LISTENER Magnificent ... Huntford has done justice to this great and complex man. That, in itself, is a triumph SUNDAY TIMESshow more

Review Text

The author of Scott and Amundsen now turns his attention to Robert Scott's junior officer Ernest Shackleton. After being invalided out of Scott's first polar expedition, Shackleton went on to become his former superior's chief rival in British Antarctic exploration. His story is filled with seething jealousies, unimaginable ineptitude, chicanery and, as Huntford notes, a kind of "witless valour." With its larger-than-life protagonist, globe-straddling action and colorful cast of subsidiary' characters, this reads like a splendid Victorian novel. Shackleton himself was a curious blend of bravery, bellicosity and bunkum. If he was a rogue, as Scott insisted, Shackelton's expedition of 1907-09 turned him into a national hero. (He and three companions came within 97 miles of the South Pole, closer than anyone had come before.) He was knighted by Edward VII, adored by the British public. When Amundsen finally achieved the Pole in 1912, however, it seemed that Shackleton's days as an Antarctic explorer were over; the ultimate goal had been reached. But graceful retirement and obscurity held no charm for the man. At 40, he set off on an abortive attempt to cross Antarctica by sledge. Self-promotion? Probably. Whatever its purpose, the project ended in tragedy and Shackleton was never taken quite so seriously again. There followed a diplomatic mission to Buenos Aires during which "Shack" contrived to offend everyone in sight. Then, a bit of wheeling and dealing in Murmansk during the Bolshevik Revolution - another fiasco; Lenin and Trotsky had other plans, it seems. Back in England, a book of reminiscences, lecture dates, a failing marriage, too many drinks and too-often-told anecdotes filled his days. In 1921, in one last lunge for glory, Shackleton announced plans "to circumnavigate the Antarctic continent." He died en route - of heart failure. He was 47 years old. One of the book's pervasive themes is the arrogance and insularity of British thought during the Edwardian era. If these qualifies were responsible, as Huntford contends, for Scott's death and the debacle of the Titanic, they also lend an ironic air of sadness to Shackleton's exploits. On nearly every page of this spellbinding narrative, the reader is aware of the great shadows gathering in the twilight of an empire. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

About Roland Huntford

Roland Huntford is the author of SCOTT AND AMUNDSEN, which was televised as THE LAST PLACE ON EARTH and republished under that name. For many years he was the OBSERVER's correspondent in Scandinavia, a job that he doubled with being their winter sports correspondent both in Scandinavia and the Alps. He lives in more

Our customer reviews

Shackleton is a name I was familiar with for most of my early adulthood. He is one of , if not THE most recognized explorer of the 20th century. This book makes excellent reading with every story being backed up diary accounts from the men involved in the expedition to letters from political leaders and hierarchy at the time to Shackletons own personal letters to his family. Shackleton led a truly remarkable way of life and this book captures every detail of the preparation for expeditions, difficulties of domestic life, the burning ambition of a man who wished to succeed at the highest level at whatever he turned his hand to and surviving the wrath of nature's most difficult condition. Lessons are to be learned from his leadership skills and approach towards problem solving. I found most interesting about the book was the return to civilization after the Endurance expedition. Upon leaving the World on the brink of World War 1 and the upon returning home with Europe and the world in complete chaos. These accounts are very interesting and arouse mindfulness and thought. Possibly the down side of the book is the rivalry between Scott and Shackleton. Maybe the authors writing was blown a little out of proportion although I feel the rivalry was tense and competitive the authors point of view was extreme and a little biased with very little accounts of the bitterness between the two in which he described. A must more
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