Monday, December 19, 2011

Baby, it's cold outside!

In the nearly 9 years I've been living in Southern California I've become a wimp when it comes to cold weather. I grew up in Salt Lake City and saw plenty of cold winters and enjoyed sledding and playing in the snow as a kid, and skiing when I got older. But it got to the point where I began dreading the cold earlier and earlier each fall. At the slightest hint of the end of summer I began to shiver. After we moved here I found it amusing that some people wore jackets (or even heavy winter coats) during the "cooler" months of the year, but now I've become one of them. And if I'm not mistaken, this year has been unusually cool. Of course, things could always be worse.

In 1914 the British ship Endurance set out for the Antarctic. Sir Ernest Shackleton's expedition planned to be the first to cross the continent of Antarctica. Instead, he and his men found themselves trapped in the frozen sea and eventually had to abandon the ship as it was crushed by the ice. They spent well over a year drifting on ice flows and braving the rigors of the Weddell Sea and Drake Passage, surviving some of the most inhospitable and savage places in the world. Amazingly, not a single member of Shackleton's crew was lost.

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing is a absorbing look at the conditions and hardships faced by the crew: sub-zero temperatures, starvation, frightful storms, unstable ice and hostile seas. And in the end they had to rescue themselves as there was no way to alert the outside world of their plight and they'd been assumed lost. But it's not all doom and gloom as the best part of the story is the amazing fortitude of the men and their will to survive. Excerpts from the diaries the men kept tell of times of intense suffing and intense boredom. They may not have made their destination or accomplished their goal but their survival was an incredible achievement by itself and makes for a fascinating story.

As for me, I think I'll put on a jacket.

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