The Lost Men by Kelly Tyler-Lewis Bloomsbury, HK$202 In The Times of 20 March, 1916, buried among news about the state of Europe and the millions of casualties on the Western Front, was a short article relating to the largely forgotten Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition: 'News of the expedition is expected to reach England at any moment ... the expedition left for the Antarctic in 1914. Nothing has since been heard ...' Ernest Shackleton's failed attempt to achieve one of the last 'firsts' of polar exploration - to cross the Antarctic on foot - is one of the greatest survival stories of all time. His efforts to lead his men back to safety after their ship became stuck in ice are well documented, both in print and film. Shackleton himself has been hailed as a hero in many accounts of the journey. There is, however, another side to his story. American author Kelly Tyler-Lewis' The Lost Men tells of a group whose job was to lay down a lifeline of food depots on the opposite side of the continent. The Ross Sea Party, as they were known, undertook an adventure just as harrowing, and ultimately more tragic than that of their colleagues on the other side of the continent. From the outset, Tyler-Lewis' painstaking research is apparent. Piecing together diary excerpts and personal accounts of the expedition, she gives an insight into the characters involved, and a clear idea of the apprehensions and aspirations they held. The author spent two months in the Antarctic, an experience that has helped her bring vividly to the page the landscape and natural dangers the Ross Sea Party faced. The detail Tyler-Lewis has uncovered from the men's diaries unbalances the pedestal on which Shackleton is so often placed. On arriving in Hobart, the party is shocked at the state of the ship he has bought for them. They fight for days via telegram to secure funds from London for improvements. The #2,000 Shackleton promises will be in Hobart when they arrive turns out to be only #1,000. Senior crew members have been appointed in such haste some have never met. Diary entries reveal unhappiness with the situation but, in line with British attitudes of the time, members of the expedition prefer to lay the blame on the situation in Europe, rather than at the feet of Shackleton. Tyler-Lewis outlines accidents and mishaps that could have been avoided had Shackleton spent more time and care preparing the expedition, detailing often childish in-fighting. As the group's situation worsens, some of the men begin to blame him for their dire situation. Tyler-Lewis doesn't blame Shackleton, but leaves no doubt about who some of the team hold responsible: 'Joyce felt no qualms about lashing out at Shackleton [and] accuses him of 'playing of chances in equipping the ship in Australia', and recruiting men 'only fit for drawing room parties ... Where were [Shackleton's] eyes when he engaged them?'' The Ross Sea Party did successfully lay the depots Shackleton required, at great cost in terms of injuries and lives. Tyler-Lewis marries diary entries and narrative to bring to life miles of sledging through sludge and months spent in isolation. Even four men stuck in a freezing hut for three months becomes a compelling read. The efforts of the Ross Sea Party to lay the depots were ultimately in vain - Shackleton never made it close to the first. It's difficult to avoid the conclusion that the expedition was undertaken to gratify one man's ego.