The untold story of the last odyssey of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration
Sir Ernest Shackleton's 1914 Antarctic endeavor is legend, but for sheer heroism and tragic nobility, nothing compares to the saga of the Ross Sea party. This crew of explorers landed on the opposite side of Antarctica from the Endurance with a mission to build supply depots for Shackleton's planned crossing of the continent. But their ship disappeared in a gale, leaving ten inexperienced, ill-equipped men to trek 1,356 miles in the harshest environment on earth. Drawing on the men's own journals and photographs, The Lost Men is a masterpiece of historical adventure, a book destined to be a classic in the vein of Into Thin Air.
While the story of Ernest Shackleton's crew of the Endurance is well known, the fate of Shackleton's Ross Sea support party has largely been forgotten--until now. Charged with laying supply depots for Shackleton's aborted 1914-1916 trans-Antarctic trek, the Ross Sea party became stranded when its ship tore free of her moorings and disappeared in a gale. Cambridge historian Tyler-Lewis's account of the 10-man party's plight relies heavily on the men's journals, which are amazingly detailed, considering the physical (snow blindness, scurvy, frostbite) and mental (depression, paranoia) problems they faced. The men's decision to lay the depots despite the obstacles demonstrates their courage, but Tyler-Lewis's narrative doesn't focus solely on heroics. Instead, the heart of the book lies in Tyler-Lewis's dissection of the men's relationships with one another. As friends are made, alliances formed and resentment festers, humanity is never lost, even amid inhumane conditions. Given the collection of military, civilian, scientific and blue-collar personnel that made up the expedition, it's compelling to see how each man deals with his fate. Add in the party's adventures of sledding in subzero temperatures with the sociological aspects of being stranded for nearly two years in such an inhospitable place, and the result is a gripping work. Maps, illus. (Apr. 24)
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March 26, 2007
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