Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage

Around the World in 52 Books Challenge:  4/52 (Antarctica)

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing

My Goodread's Review is here

Is the great age of exploration over?  Is there any place left on earth that is unexplored or uncharted that is waiting for some soul with enough courage and curiosity (and perhaps a bit of stupidity) to discover it?

What's left?  We've already explored all the land masses, the oceans and even caves.  I guess space is what is left.  So much for grand adventurer who doesn't have the means to go space travelling.

I remember exploring as a kid with the neighborhood kids.  One summer we decided to hike into the woods and build a tree house.  The first step was to pack food.  Into my bag went boxes of jell-o.  We were into sticking our fingers into our mouths to get them wet and then into the jell-o crystals.  By the time we were done, our tongues and fingers had changed colour.  If the jell-o was lime, we'd be green.  Grape jell-o would turn us purple.  Of course, the obligatory peanut butter and jam sandwiches were included.  Perhaps even an apple or two found its way into the bag.  Some of the kids were required to scavange hammers, nails, rope, and all things necessary for our journey.

We gathered at the end of the street.  When the last straggler arrived we set off down Lover's Lane.  There was a lane at the end of the street that was lined with trees.  Very soon after the entrance, it curved out of sight.  On one side was an undeveloped area.  On the other, a park.  It was perfect for the local teenagers to go for a bit of smooching and...  I do believe that I may have walked down that lane with boyfriend or two when I got older, but I'm not telling tales.

With high spirits, we marched down the lane, swinging the bags clutched in our hands and keeping in step as we sang,

The ants go marching one by one, ahum, ahum.
The ants go marching one by one.
The littlest one stops to scratch his bum
And they all go marching
To the earth
To get out of the rain
Boom, boom, boom.....

At some point, we left the lane and headed into the trees, looking for the best place to build our tree house.  We discovered the ruins of an old house.  All that was left was the earthen cellar. We sat on what may have been benches carved into the wall to hold vegetables from the garden.  It didn't matter what it was used for, our imaginations filled in the blanks.  Somebody found an old jawbone.  Was it human?  It had to have been.

When we sated our curiosities of the old house, we continued on.  Finally, we found a grouping a trees that would be perfect for our construction.  The sound of hammers banging on wood and shouted orders mixed in with giggling and laughing rang through the trees.

That night, all through the neighborhood, kids slept soundly from fresh air and exercise, dreaming of their adventures in the woods.

These days, kids don't seem to go outside to play with dirt and twigs or whatever else they find at their disposal.  My family is planning a holiday this coming summer in celebration of our parents' 60th wedding anniversary.  They all want to go on a Disney cruise to Alaska because of all the activities planned for kids.  I suggested that we go to the mountains and rent a few cabins.  My brother nixed the idea because there is nothing for the kids to do.

Seriously!  Don't you remember all the holdiays we spent in the mountains as kids?  We always managed to find something to do even if it was herding the slugs through the pine needles.  That simple exercise occupied us for hours.

I remember one camping trip that involved exploration and near death. We camped alongside a creek filled with rocks.  My brother and I decided they were stepping stones and away we went to see where the creek led.  It led to the roiling boiling Frazer River in British Columbia, Canada.  The creek opened up into a wide clear area.  People were wading in the water.  We advanced forward further and further.  I took one more step and there was nothing there.  There was a drop off with a current pulling me towards the river.  As I went down, I reached up and grabbed onto my brother.  I pulled myself up and backwards to safety.  He looked at me.  I looked at him.  We turned around and made a beeline back to the safety of our parents.

Oh oh!  Memories have come flooding back!

Another camping trip in the Rocky Mountains of BC found us at a tourist viewing spot of a spectacular waterfall.  There was a safety bar installed to keep people back from the wet rock cliff.  My parents were admiring the view when my father noticed me.  I was edging along on the wrong side of the barrier.  In a voice that brooked no disobedience, he demanded, "Janice, get back here right now!"  They held their breath as I capably found my way back.

Yes, I was a little daredevil.  I think I've tempered my desire for life threatening situations, but I still like to go exploring.  I still want a grand adventure!


  1. I love your memories, Jan. Give me nature, the wilderness, books any day of the week....Most kids are missing out on a lot of fun. I bet your grandson isn't one of them. :-)

    1. Both grandkids love to be outside and are able to amuse themselves. This summer, they convinced Grandpa to build a small zip line in our yard and had great fun on it.