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Monday, April 08, 2002

Sir Ernest Shackleton

No, the university isn't bringing in Sir Ernest Shackleton to give any speeches (see previous two entries). Shackleton is best known for what I consider to be the greatest survival epic of all time. On December 5th, 1914, Shackleton and his crew of 28 men left South Georgia Island and headed for Antarctica. They would not set foot in civilization for another 497 days. Forced to sit out an Antarctic winter while stuck in the sea ice, Shackleton and his men eventually abandoned ship and pushed their lifeboats across the ice and into the water and headed for the nearest land. From Elephant Island, Shackleton and 5 of his best men took one of the boats and headed across nearly 800 miles of stormy ocean for South Georgia Island. The trip took 17 days and was followed by a grueling 36-hour march across the island to the whaling station. From there it was another three months before a ship could be secured and the weather was suitable to return to Elephant Island for the remainder of the crew. Not a single man died during the entire ordeal.

I read Caroline Alexander's book about Shackleton and the Endurance a couple years ago and I've since been fascinated with the story. Last night and tonight, cable station A&E is showing a movie about Shackleton and his failed expedition to the South Pole. It stars Academy Award nominee Kenneth Branagh as Shackleton and so far I am quite impressed. I recommend the movie and just about any other book or video about the expedition, as it's a truly amazing feat of courage and survival. If you missed the movie, don't worry - A&E is acting fast and releasing it on both DVD and VHS tomorrow (Tuesday). This set will include the movie, a behind-the-scenes documentary (they filmed in the Greenland ice pack), a 2-hour History Channel special about Antarctic exploration, and the A&E Shackleton biography. I'm picking mine up tomorrow at Best Buy, of course.

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