The Adventure Library - Outward Journeys of Heroic Exploration are Metaphors for the Inner Quest for Spritual Truth - Both Require Great Endurance and Strength - Natural Wilderness

"The Adventure Library" is a series of finely crafted books that detail the heroic expeditions of dozens of explorers.

Outward journeys of great heroic exploration are metaphors for the inner quest for spiritual truth that lies within our minds and hearts. Both journeys -- the inward and the outward -- require great endurance and strength.

Access to pristine expanses of natural wilderness enables human beings -- and all living things -- to achieve the physical and spiritual greatness that is their birth right.

Includes images and reviews of Endurance and Anapurna (two Adventure Library titles) from Amazon.

Cultural Criticism: December 24, 1998



I've decided to subscribe to a series of books called the Adventure Library. There will always be a market for well-made volumes of inspiring literature. No matter how far technology takes us, there will always be an indescribable, irreproducible pleasure associated with holding a fine volume of printed matter in your hands.

The Adventure Library promotes itself as being among the finest crafted series on the market. I was salivating as I read the physical characteristics of the books. Each section of the book is Smythe-sewn together -- the finest binding available. The endsheets, which hold the book's pages to its cover -- rather than being the blank, non-descript pages found in most hardcovers -- are richly illustrated with maps or artwork. The cover boards exceed the American Library Association's recommendation of 88 points thickness (.088 inches) for durability, using covers that are stiffer and stronger 98-point high-density binder's board. Board coverings are of the finest grade woven buckram, accented by elegantly printed and laminated covers, with unique artwork for each title. Paper stock is printed on fine grade acid-free paper that conforms to national standards for permanence of paper, never turning yellow or brittle, and guaranteed to last for generations. The typography, binding, and artwork are created and designed by Elton Robinson, one of America's most accomplished graphic designers.

Having described the books' physical characteristics, I must state that there is a relationship between the quality of a book's manufacture, and the emotional and intellectual response that the information contained within the pages elicits. A well-made book, on some level, is simply more meaningful. Someone once said that the medium is the message: That is, the manner or the means by which information is presented is fundamental to the message itself. Though this assertion may appear to be an oversimplification, it is nevertheless much the case with "The Adventure Library:" the enduring quality of the books' manufacture reflect the timeless importance of their content. The books -- there are sixteen in all at the present time, each one chronicling a particular feat of heroic land-based or oceanic exploration -- are of eternal interest.

I view these outward journeys -- journeys that not all of us are capable of taking, journeys that demand every ounce of endurance and valor a person has -- as metaphors for the inner, spiritual journey that is available to any person, at any time. Climbing Mount Everest is to external attainment what following the course of Kundalini's unfoldment is to inner attainment. Both are equally challenging, physically and emotionally. The inner, spiritual journey is every bit as demanding of perseverance, strength, and equanimity.

These various outward and inward journeys do have another thing in common: a context of extreme physical beauty. Nature of awesome and inspirational quality is a requisite for the highest levels of physical and spiritual growth. Which isn't to say that no growth at all can occur amidst the decay and sterility of modern life; but such an unnatural context presents limitations -- regardless of the human endeavor in question.

Beautiful physical environments -- the kinds that are quickly disappearing from the face of our planet -- do provide a context, a referent, a basis in fact for our physical and spiritual journeys.

Thus, well after the time that all mountains have been summitted and all oceanic abysses plumbed, we will still have the need for these great spaces. We will always need great spaces -- and great spaces will always beckon great hearts.

Regarding the greatness of human heart and aspiration, let me close with a quote by Walter Lippmann, found in The Adventure Library sales literature that I received:

"The world is a better place to live in because it contains human beings who will give up ease and security in order to do what they themselves think worth doing. They do the useless, brave, noble, divinely foolish, and the very wisest things that are done by Man. And what they prove to themselves and to others is that Man is no mere creature of his habits, no automaton in his routine, but that in the dust of which he is made there is also fire, lighted now and then by great winds from the sky".

Amen, Brother Walter.

May the explorations of our inner and outer spaces continue forever; and may we recognize the fundamental relationship between vast, untarnished stretches of wilderness and the great expanse of spiritual presence that lies within us.

Note from 12/2/2005

I couldn't find the complete Adventure Library online. Here are Amazon links for a paperback version of Alfred Lansing's amazing story Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage (for which the Adventure Library edition is out of print) and the Adventure Library's hardcover version of Annapurna (the recounting of Maurice Herzog's summiting of the first 8,000 meter peak).

Image and reviews of Endurance from (Review)

In the summer of 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton set off aboard the Endurance bound for the South Atlantic. The goal of his expedition was to cross the Antarctic overland, but more than a year later, and still half a continent away from the intended base, the Endurance was trapped in ice and eventually was crushed. For five months Shackleton and his crew survived on drifting ice packs in one of the most savage regions of the world before they were finally able to set sail again in one of the ship's lifeboats. Alfred Lansing's Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage is a white-knuckle account of this astounding odyssey.

Through the diaries of team members and interviews with survivors, Lansing reconstructs the months of terror and hardship the Endurance crew suffered. In October of 1915, there "were no helicopters, no Weasels, no Sno-Cats, no suitable planes. Thus their plight was naked and terrifying in its simplicity. If they were to get out--they had to get themselves out." How Shackleton did indeed get them out without the loss of a single life is at the heart of Lansing's magnificent true-life adventure


This is the awesome tale of British explorer Ernest Shackleton's abortive 1914 attempt to reach the South Pole. His ship, Endurance, was trapped and then crushed by sea ice, leaving Shackleton and 27 men adrift on ice floes. The story of how Shackleton saved all of them and reached South Georgia Island is one of the epics in the history of survival. The publishers couldn't have found a better reader than Tim Pigott-Smith. His accent and low-key approach vibrate with subtle emotional strain as he takes us through the week-by-week, month-by-month ordeal, exuding an intensity that keeps the listener on the edge of the seat.

Nathan Blumenfeld

This is an absolutely amazing and true accounting of the 1914 Antarctic expedition gone to hell. It is clear that the author did an incredible amount of research, and though this book doesn't read like a novel, its presentation is much more powerful this way, giving a panoramic view of the whole terrible and desperate situation of these men.

I don't have any experience even comparable to what these men went through, the closest I've ever come is rowing down the coast of Maine in the summer in a 30 foot pulling boat, and I'll tell you, this guy gets every detail.

Anyway, an absolutely incredible look at human endurance, at what a person will go through if he must. I definitely recommend this book to everyone.

One note...make sure the version you buy or get at the library has expedition photographer Hurley's photographs in it. Some paperback editions don't, and you're really missing part of the experience without them.

A. Woodley

This book is one of the few exceptional - absolutely execptional- tales of survival and it proves the maxim that nothing is so bad that it can't get worse. But also it proves that you can know the end of a story - it is a well known fact that Shackleton brought all his men through this arduous trial and all survived - and it doesn't spoil the story at all. Truth is not only stranger than fiction, but it is a good deal harder.

The bare-bones of the story are that Shackleton and his team left civillisation in 1914 in the Endurance to travel to attempt to reach the South Pole - a trip he had tried and failed by only a couple of hundred miles or so to achive in 1908. Amundsen had already reached the pole first but for Shackleton it was unfinished business. The Endurance had been built to push through the pack ice, but conditions proved too much and it was trapped in pack ice. Summer wore on and there was no escape - the winds were in the wrong direction - then winter hit and they were trapped in their boat. They settled in to a routine until the ice went against them and cracked the Endurance. Shackleton realised the only way out was on their own, so they abandoned the boat and made for the pack ice at first dragging the boats, then relying on a floe to carry them north where they might find more supplies, or be rescued.

In the end they had to rescue themselves and this is the story of their indomitable courage and strength to survive under incredibly harsh conditions and in grave discomfort. We are talking about camping out in Antartica - in less than adequate shelter, with essentially starvation rations, no heating, and barely adequate clothing.

Lansing tells this story in a sparing style and it really works. He has had access to (I think) all the diaries available from men who kept them on the trip and they are very revealing of both personalities and foibles of the various characters who made up the trip - and these aren't all a bunch of saintly characters pulling together for the sake of their team and mutual survival - they fight, some are occassionally selfish, they love their dogs but have almost no compunction of putting them down when they have to - and they are very real and human.

Lansing also brings to light some of the things you wouldn't think about it - the incredible boredom that they all felt, that they were generally alternatvely wracked by either gripping hunger or desparate need for survival and how to escape - the one emotion replacing the other depending on conditions. He also explains some of the things you wouldn't even think to ask - how they went to the toilet for instance, the conditions inside the huts and the tents and so on. It brings a very vivd picture of life as it must have been for the group.

And really, nothing isn't so bad that it can't get worse. Each time you think that Shackleton is about to win there is a small disaster, or the elements go against them - they are constantly battling for their lives with decreasing odds of their survival. Even once they make it off the floe and onto land they have to move again to a safer landing place - and then they must work out how to get help. The nearest land is Chile some 500 miles away but it is almost impossible to get to because of wind and current, so they must try to South Georgia, over 800 miles away and a tiny speck of an island 25 miles across and the only thing in their way between Antartica and South Africa. Hardly an easy thing find in an open 22 foot boat. I know recently they tried to re-enact the voyage of Shackleton in his tiny boat - the James Caird - but without success as storms forced them to abandon the attempt. And that was a luxury trip compared to Shackleton's - the conditions on board were appalling - with stones for ballast - very little room and the ever present rotting reindeer hair from their sleeping bags. It is all credit to their navigator Frank Worsley that they reached South Georgia at all....but then they had had to land on the wrong side of the island due to conditions......but read the book - definitely read it.....

This book would make a great adventure book to introduce Antarctic exploration for younger children or teenagers as it is so vivid and so exciting. They are chased by killer whales and leopard seals, they are constantly fighting the elements and they are if nothing else a very human group of people. This is one of the best books of survival I have ever read and is highly recommended.


Endurance by Alfred Lansing was first published in 1959. The copy I have is a 26th printing which indicates how popular this book has been. It is an adventure story that is entirely historical. It covers the 1914/15 attempt of explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 27 to be the first to cross the Antarctic continent overland west to east. This goal was interrupted for good when their ship, the Endurance, became trapped in ice in the Weddell Sea. The call for adventure soon became a constant struggle for survival that lasted ten months. The crew set up camp on various ice floes only to be forced to move when the dreaded cracks appeared. Their progress towards land is controlled by the direction and force of the gales. Conditions change almost daily in the chaotic and brutal Antarctic climate. When the ice floes were no longer an option, the crew set out in three small boats taken on the voyage hoping to find land. Once land was found, the crew split up as six members took one of the small boats into the dreaded Drake Passage in the hopes of finding help. Both groups were in danger of not surviving the unforgiving environment.

Lansing bases his work on interviews with survivors and the waterlogged diaries several of them kept. He is thus able to provide the reader with details of the crew's day-to-day life. Everything from the personalities of various members to their diets, clothing, attempts at building shelters, etc. are described. I do not have knowledge of seafaring vocabulary or conditions, but Lansing is able to describe such things as the pressure caused by broken floes of ice (p.47) in a clear manner. As an historical event, this story needs no poetic license. It is one of the most suspenseful history books I have read. Just when things looked good for the crew, the tide turned and vice versa. After reading what all these 28 men went through, the ending, although surprisingly brief, was very moving.

The only part of the book that disappointed me was the ending. I wanted to know what happened to some of the main characters after their ordeal. The epilogue just covers the attempt to rescue the 22 members left on Elephant Island and goes no further. It seemed unfair to leave the story like that. Despite this shortcoming, I definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in historical adventure. It is one of the best books of that ilk one will read. One interesting note: Shackleton's goal was not achieved until 1958, 40 years after Shackleton set out on the Endurance and a year before this book was first published. It is 282 pages and includes a short section of b&w photos and illustrations.


This is an amazing story of leadership, and man's ability to persevere under extraordinary circumstances. It is really unbelievable. I was staggered by the odds these men overcame and their determination to press on. The book is well written and easy to read.

James A. Adkinson Jr.

This is a great book that will make you feel as though any hardship you have ever encountered is really not so bad when you think about what these men endured. Imagine being cold, wet, hungry, tired for basically 2 years while in the back of your mind you know that the chances of ever seeing the civilized world is remote at best. These men handled it well. Very good historical account written based on interviews, historical accounts, and actual diaries of the men on the journey.


I am working my way through the top 100 Adventure Books of all time. This one is, so far, the best. It is the concatenation of several adventure books, since almost every type of mishap and obstacle is encountered. Shackleton must go down as a true hero, as well as his crew. The version of the book with the glossies in the middle was captivating... I spent a good bit of time staring at the remarkable pictures. The story of how those film plates survived this oddysey is, in itself, remarkable.

A good adventure would be ruined by poor writing. Lansing is superb and does credit to this story.

This story could never be made into the movie because it would be considered too "far-fetched" to be believable. Note that there is a documentary DVD that (in a nutshell) describes some of the story, as well as lets you see an interesting reunion of the Endurance crew's children. Try to get this video right after you read the book.

Two reviews of Annapurna at Amazon



This book is a romanticized, sanitized account of the 1950 French expedition to the Himalayas by its so called leader, Maurice Herzog. It is a book that is reflective of the times in which it was written. Still, it should be a must read for anyone who is interested in high altitude climbing.

I first read this book in the early 1960s as a young teenager. I recall being enthralled by it and amazed at the hardships the climbers endured to bring glory to France. In reading it again as an adult, I find myself still enthralled, but more attuned to the fact that it is written in a somewhat self-serving style.

The book itself chronicles the attempt by the French to climb an 8,000 meter peak in the Himalayas. They had two alternatives: Dhaulagiri and Annapurna. In those days, the Himalayas were largely uncharted and any topographical maps which existed at the time proved to be largely incorrect. So, the French expedition spent a large portion of their time in reconnaissance. Not only were they there to climb the mountain, they first had to find a way to get to it and then map out a route on the unknown terrain to the summit. Ultimately, they chose to climb Annapurna.

In reading this book, one must remember that the climb took place without the sophisticated equipment or protective clothing available today. This was before gortex and freeze-dried foods. This climb was made before Nepal or climbing the Himalayas became a major tourist attraction. The conditions for travellers were extremely primitive and difficult under the best of circumstances.

When the expedition finally finds a route to Annapurna, the reader almost feels like cheering for them. When they start to climb, one senses that, in comparison to latter day expeditions, they were not so well equipped or savvy about the dangers one can encounter during a high altitude climb or the risks in doing it without supplemental oxygen, as they did. Then one realizes that they were pioneers. They were paving the way for others.

The climb to the summit by Maurice Herzog and his partner, Louis Lachenal, is interesting, but it is their harrowing descent and return to civilization which is riveting. The two summiteers began their descent inauspiciously enough but soon ran into difficulties. They were fortunate enough to encounter two of their fellow climbers, Lionel Terray and Gaston Rebuffat, who were contemplating their own summit assault but, instead, chose to aid their comrades in their descent, foregoing their own quest for the summit.

The travails which the climbers encountered on the descent would have finished off less hardy souls. Maurice Herzog lost his gloves during the descent and had no spare pair. One of climbers fell into a crevasse which, believe it or not, turned out to be a good thing. They were caught in an avalanche. They got lost in a storm. They became frostbitten and two of them were, ultimately, forced to endure amputations.

The medical treatment they received by the expedition doctor was unbelievable and almost primitive. Employing treatments for frostbite that have since fallen onto disrepute (excruciatingly painful arterial injections, for example), the doctor was almost frightening, at times. The reader cannot help but feel pity for the suffering the injured climbers endured: maggot ridden flesh, amputations without anaesthesia, and lack of proper medical care for a protracted period of time.

The heroics of some of the sherpas, as on most expeditions, went largely unsung. One must pause to reflect on the fact that as this all took place before airlifts were available, the injured climbers had to be carried. Their exodus back to the frontier took about five weeks. Who do you think carried them down the mountain, over the moraines, on makeshifts bridges over flooded, raging rivers, through dense jungle? Who else but the sherpas. What thanks did they get? None, as usual.

Anyway, when the expedition finally returned to France, Maurice Herzog was lauded as a national hero by the French. He became the media darling. The other three climbers, as were the rest of the climbers on the expedition, were largely ignored and forgotten. Therein lies the tale. If you want to know how this polarization came about, I highly recommend that one also read 'True Summit' by David Roberts. It gives one the inside scoop about the expedition and how things really were.

Notwithstanding its idealization, romanticism, and everything is hunky-dory routine, Herzog's book is still a must read for all climbing enthusiasts.

David Butterfield

Parallel to the challenge of the external mountain is an internal one. Maurice Herzog takes every chance to win the top of Annapurna, but, giddy with altitude, he stays a moment too long after the others have gone down. He loses his gloves. Getting down somehow he is carried off the mountain with suppurating limbs, screaming and crying the whole way. From his hospital bed he reveals "the deep significance of existence": "It was better to be true than to be strong." The government of Nepal understood and agreed, conferring on him their highest honor, the Gurkha Right Hand. The book tells the story, with maps and pictures. On the inside cover is color photo of Annapurna, set like a cold, white jewel in the deep purple of space.

Comment from 2015.10.10.

Nothing to add here. Presently I am hiking Joshua Tree National Park 3-5 times per week. Mostly it's to be away from cellular towers, although the effort may be nullified by the global wi-fi in the sky that is planned, with the current 1000 satellites in orbit set to quadruple by 2018 in order to provide a seamless internet connection to the entire surface of planet Earth. That the ozone layer and all DNA on the planet are being thrown under the bus for this I suppose is of no consequence to the fascist security apparatus.

I find that I enjoy the solitude in remote areas. It's not that I am a misanthrope; I just find it easier to cohere and find clarity when I am not distracted by other self consciousnesses. I recall my long runs along busy boulevards when I was in high school. There was a constant din of traffic. It took some effort to ignore it. There is no such effort when in Nature. Sadly, I am extremely frustrated when, having arrived at my distant hike location, I often find the sky artificially dimmed with heavy metal particulates that fall down as nano-sized chaff around me. It's a violation on every level. I'd rather be hiking among a thousand other people than be inhaling these potent toxins.

I have several hiking and sailing nonfiction books stored in digital form on my Amazon Kindle device. I did this mostly for the convenience of being able to carry a 1000-book library in a few-ounce tablet held in one hand. But there are a few downsides to this. One is that content can be removed or rewritten without you knowing it, which is eerily analogous to Orwell's Ministry of Truth where information that was deemed a threat to the establishment would be destroyed and forgotten with the stroke of a pen. The proprietors of digital content can also keep track of what you read, what you highlight, and what notes you take. There is a dark side to the accumulation of that kind of knowledge. Lastly, at least at the present stage of development, in order to reduce the size of the book files, the photographs and illustrations are of an inferior and unnacceptable resolution -- especially on the handheld devices like the Kindle. It was just that, after buying certain titles 2-3 times due to yellowing, water damage, or loss -- and having to relocate 10-20 large apple boxes full of books over distances of several hundred miles or more at least 10 times in the past 30 years -- I decided to make the leap to digital. Also, unless you own your own home and have a 12 foot wide by 8 foot tall book case like I did briefly in Hawaii, space will be a limiting factor in one's development of a large library. Digitizing content solves many of these problems.



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