Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Food stress

Food is such a unifying component of our culture, and I thought it was effective how Lansing incorporated food into the narrative because for me it was easier to understand how the group was coming together under such conditions and I could more easily relate to how quickly the group came together. Meals are a time for groups to come together and share a common experience. So even though people may be in a different state in one way or another, meal time is when everyone is at least on some level of an equal playing field. That constancy of something familiar - eating dinner - helps build the bonds that create a form of group identity. The constant reminders that the rations were getting smaller and the contrasting descriptions of Christmas dinners helped emphasize not only the severity of their situation (I have to remind myself that they're in Antarctica and temperatures are below freezing while I'm reading in the sunshine). The fact that there is only one instance in the narrative in which people complain about a decision Shackleton makes regarding hunting seals despite such meager rations helps emphasize the solidarity within the group. When Shackleton decides to leave the seals behind and not hunt for a while. Greenstreet writes that he considered the decision to be "'rather foolish.'" I thought it was interesting that Lansing choses this particular incident, when disagreement arises over food, to be the moment where he analyzes Shackleton's leadership in a bit more detail. It seems odd to me that there is not more disagreement about when and if rations are cut in other instances when Shackleton limits the food supply, although now that I think about it, adding more to a supply differs greatly from taking away food.

Also, I was amused by the conversations that Lansing depicted regarding the thoughts of food from back home. The conversations about "good bread and butter, Munich beer, Coromandel rock oysters, apple pie and Devonshire cream are pleasant reminiscences rather than longings” (103) reminded me of times on trail when my thoughts traveled back to foods that I did not have on trail but that I was looking forward to upon arriving back home. At points in my journals I've written lists of food that I couldn't get on trail but I was so bored with trail food that I started thinking about alternatives.


  1. I agree with food being a unifying object for the group. Food is so obviously integral to survival that people for the most part put aside differences to acquire it. I was fascinated with the use of hunting in both this book and Albanov's? How much license do we have to kill to survive? Regardless, it shows how much we really take food for granted. When we are removed from it, we start dreaming up all the ideal scenarios of food back home. We really are a privileged culture. Shackleton's experience is actually not that far off the troubles people face in third world countries. Dreaming about adventure in our cases is a luxury. Some people are forced to live this life whether they want to or not. Shackleton's story, like Albanov's, is not an adventure but survival, and the focus on food proves that.

  2. When I think of the basics of survival, along with food, the other most important is shelter. In this narrative, it seems like the other main focus of the men is where they sleep. As much as they speak of what they eat, they seem to equally discuss where they sleep. After all, eating and sleeping are the bare necessities of survival. In a situation like this, it is not difficult to tell why the men are focused on eating and sleeping. Especially when they are just in camp waiting for the ice to break up, they need something to break up the monotony. Meal time and night time are two routine events that keep the men sane.

  3. The issue of food once again brings up the question of morality that we've brought up so many time this semester--this time morality on the ice instead of on the mountain. Once food supplies began running low, the men resorted to brutal hunting techniques and to killing their dogs, something they would not have considered before their expedition began, while they were on the ship, or even when they first left the Endurance. "In the beginning a few of the men...were squeamish about this seemingly cold-blooded method of hunting. But not for long. The will to survive soon dispelled any hesitancy to obtain food by any means" (81). If they hadn't been in a life or death situation, it would be easy for an outsider to judge their behavior as brutal and barbaric. However, as painful as it was for me to read about them killing their dogs, I understand the necessity of survival guiding their decisions. I do think that morals change on the ice, and that the overarching fight to survive leaves room for otherwise awful behavior.