Friday, March 22, 2013

We Unleashed Shackleton on Them

Isn't it just the best fun when you've been waiting and waiting and you finally get to share one of your passions with your kids?  

Over ten years ago, I went with a friend (hello, dear Maria Tortilla, if you ever read this!) to the IMAX theater in Cincinnati to see the documentary, Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure, about the 1914 Antarctic Expedition of Ernest Shackleton.   ***  Ultra short  expedition overview: Shortly after the start of WWI, explorer Ernest Shackleton led 27 men to Antarctica to be the first to walk across the continent.  Before reaching the continent, his ship, Endurance, got trapped in ice and was eventually destroyed.  They were completely cut off from the world (it was just a few years before cell phones and satellite signals...right?) - no one knew where they were, no one knew they were in trouble, no one was coming to rescue them.  The men spent over a year trapped, floating on the ice, in three life boats, and on a small rocky island, living through the harshest conditions and surviving despite the fact that nobody could really survive that. Just when you thought it couldn't get much worse, it does, and even when Shackleton finally reached an island with other human life on it he still had to hike over previously uncharted mountains to reach help.  And then when you think everyone will finally be rescued, they really aren't... and there I will leave you in suspense.  ***

Ernest Shackleton
So I saw the movie and I was hooked.  Hooked, I tell you.  From that point on, I think I saw the IMAX movie a few more times, and I listened to the book Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing, as I commuted twice a week to graduate school.  Some time after my husband and I were married we were on a watching documentaries kick and I remembered Shackleton.  A documentary later, my husband was on board with my obsession.  Now between one of the many documentaries or the dramatization with Kenneth Branagh, we watch something Shackleton-related at least once a year.  Because it doesn't matter how well you know the story, it is still unbelievable, and yet it really happened.   It's one of the most phenomenal tributes to the capacity of the human will and the triumph of the human spirit - I sound like the back of a DVD, but you read and watch for yourself and see if you can talk about it without sounding similar!  I mean it - I callenge you!

It soon became obvious to me that our boys were old enough to appreciate the story and you couldn't hold us back anymore.  We unleashed Shackleton on them and as Aaron said the other day, "this is the most exciting story ever, Mom!  I can't wait until we get to the end."  Can't wait, indeed.  I'm thrilled that they are enthralled as my husband and  I (but honestly, I don't see how any human being could hear this story and not be utterly spellbound.)  I can't wait to continue our Endurance education and I anticipate many years of Shackleton-related enjoyment for our family - because it's just the best when you've been waiting and waiting and finally they're old enough, and you get to share one of your passions with your kids!

I feel so strongly that this is a fabulous story for people everywhere to know about that I am gifting you this list of resources for you to check out.  Did all the work for you, that I did.

Here's what we used for our Shackleton study:  
(note, our boys are 5 and 6 1/ 2 now, so I chose books that I thought were "good" and also were appropriate for their age level.  There is tons of literature on Shackleton's expedition; this obviously isn't all there is out there, and there very well may be better choices for other age groups.)

* I started with a very brief into to the story and we mapped out England to Buenos Aires to South Georgia Island on the globe.  We chatted about what Antarctica is like, what animals live there, and we checked out the trans-continental route that Shackleton was hoping to take. 

Spirit of Endurance by Jennifer Armstrong 

This was the first book we read.  I thought it was a good choice because it combines artfully done illustrations with photographs from the expedition photographer, Frank Hurley.  
(children's book)

*The Endurance: Shackleton's Perilous Expedition in Antarctica
by Meredith Hooper

This book has some nice maps in the front cover and in the back of the book there is a fine timeline - hits all the expedition highlights and is enhanced with some of Hurley's photographs.
(children's book)

Trapped by the Ice by Michael McCurdy

Another good picture book for children.
Although it is not written as a journal, it has that feel - nearly each page is dated for an easy at-a-glace assessment of the passage of time during the expedition.
(children's book)

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage  by Alfred Lansing

My oldest son is listening to this book on CD.
The author himself, interviewed surviving members of the expedition to complete this book in the 50's.

While listening, Aaron's enjoyed looking through, South with Endurance - the complete photographs of Frank Hurley.  This is an amazing collection!

*Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure (the IMAX movie narrated by Kevin Spacey)
I guess this is the movie to look for if you've got littler kids.  It's the only one ours have watched so far.  I think it might be the better option for littles because it has more "video" footage - some of  Hurley's actual "moving pictures" and some respectably done re-enactments.  The film maker also seemed sensitive to the fact that young families would be seeing this in theaters, so the movie takes it easy on some of the hardships that were faced (like it skips mentioning that they had to kill their dogs and avoids the description of surgeries performed in the rugged wilderness)  The movie also has an interesting bit at the end about three present-day world-class climbers who traced Shackleton's hike across South Georgia Island.  It's a pretty engaging "extra."

********  The Endurance (narrated by Liam Neeson) - THIS IS OUR FAVORITE MOVIE and the one that I recommend for adults and older children who can sit through the type of documentary with historian-sitting-in-upholstered-chair-with-books-behind-him interviews and the like.  (I am planning on letting the boys watch this, just haven't gotten to it yet.)   It's so well done, and no doubt, will leave you interested in learning more.  See this movie.  ok?

If you're into primary sources....

There are published memoirs from Shackleton and some of the other men on the expedition.  I just ordered Shackleton's memoir, Southfor my Kindle for ZERO dollars.
Also check out the book of Hurley's photographs I mentioned above, as well as the 1919 movie South: Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance Expeditionwhich I guess I would consider a primary source because it was directed by Hurley.  (Got it from the library, but haven't watched it yet.)

Here are some other resources that I have not seen but am interested in:

Shackleton's Voyage of Endurance  (a 2 hour NOVA documentary, but expensive to buy and our library only has it on VHS.  The reviews are great, though.)
On-line NOVA resource
Shackleton's Frozen Hell - a show airing on the Smithsonian Chanel at random days and times (next one is this Sunday!!)  (we don't have cable, but this might be reason to splurge!)  You can watch two clips at the site; looks good  - heavy on dramatic recreations.
These two readers (easy chapter books for kids?) -
 Ice Wreck
 Escape From the Ice

That should be enough to hold anyone over for a while.  We've been pretty busy lately, so we didn't do too much "enrichment" to go with all our reading.  The little things we did were use a measuring tape to visualize the size of the life boats and the kids drew their own pictures of the Endurance stuck in the ice.  If I was a  homeschool super-mom we probably would have done things like sleep outside on a snowy night using only ice cubes as blankets and wake up early to smoke our penguin meat over the open fire.  But I'm only a mediocre homeschool mom, so we read the books in our warm house while we ate pretzels (possibly the chocolate-covered variety, but you didn't hear it from me...)

*note* Ernest Shackleton, a man of ambition, adventure, and wanderlust, was (not surprisingly, but still not excusably) somewhat of an absent husband and father (kind of don't blame her for staying behind...).  Most of the resources I've mentioned don't dwell on it, but it is a fact, and you may want to preview materials before you hand them over to your kids.  However, I write with confidence that none of the children's books I mentioned address this so you can hand those over without reservation!  (If I recall, the Branagh movie has more of this storyline in it, and maybe something about a possible extramarital affair???  I haven't seen it in ages, and honesty, I don't even recommend it that highly when there are so many other fabulous resources out there.)


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