Shackleton’s Forgotten Men
The Untold Tragedy of the Endurance Epic
by Lennard Bickel
This situation was especially hard on Ernest Joyce. More than six months on the ice, usually in the lead trace, staring day after day at the white wastes, with frequent bouts of snow blindness, had affected his vision. He could not see well enough to read the few books they had carried with them–books that were read over and over again in the months of seclusion. Among these, notably, was For the Term of his Natural Life, and with Wild or Richards reading passages to him, Joyce solved one of their shortages. He heard how a character–a convict in Australia–had made salt from sea water. They had run out of salt at the hut, and without it the seal meat “was very unpalatable.” They filled a cooker with sea ice and kept it boiling on the blubber stove. Joyce recorded the result: “. . . extracted a pound and a half of salt.”
Shackleton’s Forgotten Men was my favorite non-fiction read in 2015. What a thriller! Unlike when I read the story of Shackleton’s ordeal, or that of Theodore Roosevelt in the Amazon, I hadn’t heard of these men before and didn’t know the outcome. For me it read much more like a thriller than a true story. Bickel related facts gleaned from journals, personal interviews and other sources so vividly that I almost still crave vitamin C to ward off scurvy.
The book which enabled them to obtain salt, For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke, is a novel which I read several years ago. Thanks go to Lisa for suggesting this excellent book which is available free from Project Gutenberg.
We’ve all heard of Desert Island books, it appears that the men of this expedition took along a great Frozen Wilderness book.