This full-scale biography of Shackleton, though not terribly well written is a well-balanced combination of adulation and judicious criticism of Shackleton the man, his psychological difficulties always moderated during times of crisis. The book often lacks the drama of the best Shackleton narratives and yet is well worth reading.
p. 16-17, traces influence of Shacketon’s father on his taste in books, literature, and poetry.
p. 41: Longstaff was also a prominent member of the Freemasons. Within 12 months of their first meeting, Shackleton was also initiated into the shadowy domain of Freemasonry. Without hesitation Longstaff agreed to help in getting Shackleton to Antarctica.
p.53, King Edward and Shackleton were both Masons.
p. 82, on Scott’s first Southern journey: On occasion they read aloud from Darwins On the Origin of Species, an appropriate choice when the survival of the fittest was so apposite. At times they skipped a midday meal to save food. A laconic Shackleton wrote: ‘Read some Darwin for lunch.’
p. 90, Shackleton and Tennyson’s Ulysses while under duress.
p.138, on Nimrod voyage: Another feature was a complete printing press on which he planned to produce a magazine during the winter. Discovery’s South Polar Times—edited by Shackleton in the first year—was a simple typed paper document, illustrated with drawings. Shackleton intended to go a significant step further by writing, editing and printing a bound volume and to use discarded Venesta cases and sealskins as the book’s cover. [see also p. 171-72 for more on Aurora Australis]
p. 171: Shackleton could always be relied upon to break up the long nights by reciting poetry at length. Although poetry was often the emotional anchor for Shackleton, his love of the written word also reflected his egalitarian nature. His tastes were wide and varied, extending from the philosophical Browning to the realism of Robert Service to the classics of Shakespeare and Milton and the popular storytelling of Kipling.
p. 177, on South Pole journey in 1908: Appalling weather descended next day and they were marooned in their tents for 48 hours, falling even further behind schedule. The long and frustrating hours of inactivity were passed reading, chatting and making sure not to plunder too much of the food supplies. Shackleton was buried in Shakespeare’s comedies, starting with the amusing tale of reluctant lovers, Much Ado about Nothing. Adams carried Arthur Young’s Travels in France and Marshall took George Borrow’s The Bible in Spain. Wild’s Choice was Dickens’ Sketches by Boz.
p. 221, quote of Browning’s Paracelsus.
p. 230, ghostwriting of The Heart of the Antarctic by Saunders, who also did South.
p. 247, a bit on Shackleton and Masons.
p. 277, Shackleton quotes St. John Lucas from Ship of Fools.
p. 345, on the James Caird Worsley had a “sodden navigation book.”
p. 404, as part of the Quest Voyage at the end of his life, Shackleton had an interest in the lost treasure of Captain William Kidd: Among his possessions was The Cruise of the Alerte, a little-known book by an eccentric character called Edward Knight which gave intricate details of his own personal search for Kidd’s long-lost booty.