In three voyages Cook sailed thousands of miles across largely uncharted areas of the globe. He disproved the existence of a great southern continent, completed the outlines of Australia and New Zealand, charted the Society Islands, the New Hebrides, New Caledonia, and the Hawaiian Islands, and depicted accurately for the first time the north-west coast of America, leaving no major discoveries for his successors. His first voyage in the Endeavour was the first circumnavigation to be completed without losing any of his crew to scurvy.
By the 20th century there was one last great journey—the crossing of the Antarctic continent—and Shackleton resolved to attempt it. But his expedition was beset by difficulties. His ship, Endurance, was crushed in pack ice and sunk. Shackleton’s men escaped to desolate Elephant Island. Leaving his men behind with only upturned boats for shelter, Shackleton went for help. He led a handful of men in a 22 foot boat across the Southern Ocean in some of the stormiest seas in the world, landing in South Georgia—only to find himself on the wrong side of the island. To reach the whaling stations on the far side, Shackleton and his men crossed the unclimbed and unsurveyed Allardyce Range, with a length of rope and a carpenter’s adze, before finally returning to rescue the marooned party from Elephant Island nearly five months after he had left them. South tells the astonishing story of that expedition.
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