Friday, October 11, 2013

Book review: "Shipwreck at the bottom of the world: The extraordinary true story of Shackleton and the Endurance"

If you ever think your job is hard, or you feel like complaining about the traffic or the weather or that your Internet connection is slow, just stop. Stop and consider the ordeal of  the 28 men on Ernest Shackleton's 1914-16 Antarctic expedition.

Nothing will seem so bad then.

The Shackleton expedition is probably the greatest survival story ever. After their ship became trapped in ice, the men were forced to spend a winter aboard in the cold and darkness of Antarctic winter. Then their ship was crushed by the ice, and they were forced to drag their belongings across a frozen landscape by foot. Then things got bad.

They tried to pull their lifeboats across the ice to open water, but found it impossible. Food supplies dwindled and they survived by eating penguins and seals. The ice floes split beneath their feet. They were constantly cold and wet. Then things got worse.

They finally reached the ocean and survived a torturous six-day ride across raging seas, with little sleep or drinking water, reaching a barren island with their throats parched with thirst. One man had frostbite on his toes. Then, six of them took an even more impossible voyage, a 16-day sail to reach help on South Georgia Island. But even when they got there, they weren't done they still had to climb a mountain range to reach help.

The Shackleton story has been told many times. This version, by Jennifer Armstrong, is aimed at youth readers, but anyone would enjoy it. The story here is enhanced by nice use of pictures. If you like this, you can move on to the longer, more detailed, books on the expedition.


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