“Shackleton” by Ranulph Fiennes, published by Michael Joseph (Penguin, Random House NZ) Price $38. Reviewed by Tony Orman
Let me say at the outset, “Shackleton”- a biography on the great polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton – should appeal to virtually anyone but especially those with a love of the outdoors and a sense of adventure.
Shackleton was undoubtedly an extraordinary man.
Shackleton had exceptional ability to motivate men. He was unselfish and put the interests of the group above all else no matter what the challenge.
His extraordinary character has since been studied far and wide. Shackleton modules are taught at Harvard Business School while one book “Shackleton’s way; Leadership lessons from the Great Antarctica Explorer” labels Shackleton as “the greatest leader that ever came on God’s earth, bar none.”
He battled extreme odds such as in 1915 when his party’s attempt to traverse the Antarctic came to a cold, abrupt end when their ship was trapped by ice. It was then that Shackleton and his Kiwi captain Frank Worsley – an exceptional man himself – made a dramatic and dangerous lifeboat journey to South Georgia, to get help for the remainder of the party left behind on ice. That was a miraculous journey against all odds.
But that was just another chapter in the extraordinary life of Shackleton one of the world’s great polar adventures and explorers.
Author Ranulph Fiennes is also a polar explorer and therefore impeccably qualified to understand the challenges, the hardships and the rigours of polar adventures and thereby give his own unique insights to the reader. Shackleton’s image still lives on over a century later. In 2019 BBC viewers voted Sir Ernest Shackleton as the nation’s favourite polar icon, despite the fact that he never reached the pole.
Despite his attributes, Shackleton had some flaws which impacted deeply on his family life. The author adeptly probes into Shackleton’s motivation and character. To many, he failed in reaching his expedition goals, in handling money and in being an attentive husband and father.
Author Fiennes writes despite these failings, Shackleton possessed “extraordinary leadership under the most intense pressure” and — showed strength of leadership and astute decision making which over a century on, continue to impress.”
This book is excellently priced and an extremely engaging read about a great man. Highly recommended.