This book review is from the Sunday Star Times, by Liz Porter.
When John Geiger read Sir Ernest Shackleton’s memoir of his 1914-1917 Antarctic expedition, he was transfixed by the legendary polar explorer’s tale of his battle for survival after the team’s ship, Endurance, became trapped in ice.
In the final weeks of the expedition, Shackleton and two companions had made a heroic, last-ditch attempt to reach a British whaling station, so they could get help to the other members of the expedition who were sick, exhausted and waiting 1100 kilometres away at Elephant Island. Filthy, ragged, dehydrated and ill-equipped, the trio trekked 38 kilometres across glaciers and icy mountain ranges on the island of South Georgia, reaching the British settlement 36 hours later.
The Toronto-based writer was in awe of Shackleton’s powers of physical endurance. But it was the metaphysical aspect of the story that stayed with him — the “unseen presence” that, according to the explorer, had accompanied the three men on the last harrowing stage of their journey.
“It seemed to me often that we were four not three,” Shackleton wrote in his memoir, South. Later, in his public lectures about the expedition, he referred to this presence as his “divine companion”.