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This biography of Shackleton follows his career, from his work on the "Discovery" expedition in 1900 and his erratic relationship with Scott, to his being knighted and given a pension of $20,000 and his greatest expedition on the "Endurance".show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 774 pages
  • 129 x 198mm | 530g
  • Little, Brown Book Group
  • Abacus
  • London, United Kingdom
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • Illustrations, maps,ports.
  • 0747405557
  • 9780747405559

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