Stuff & Nonsense: Shackleton: Antarctic Journey


20 July 2014

Shackleton: Antarctic Journey


Shackleton: Antarctic Journey was an excellent, albeit slim, introduction to Sir Ernest Shackleton's 1914-1917 trans-Antarctica expedition. Rather than telling the story step-by-step over hundreds of pages, Bertozzi has chosen to tell the story through a series of short scenes which stress not the patriotic majesty of the expedition but rather the smaller, more intimate personal stories -- forced to abandon ship, they discard their scientific equipment (too heavy to carry), but keep a banjo; one of the crew members goes bicycling among the penguins; they kvetch about rations, etc -- that create a sympathy for and interest in the crew, that a broader story might not.

What I still find fascinating was that, despite the hardships and travails, no-one from the Endurance was lost on the expedition! Yes, the expedition utterly failed to attain its goal of traversing Antarctica, but everyone came back alive. That is no small thing. And, it was quite depressing, upon reading the afterward, to then discover that several of the men returned home only to be killed in World War I. (Also, I now require a companion graphic for the relief ship, the Aurora, because Shackleton barely touches on them but the Afterward suggests they had a wretched time of it, too).

If you're looking for a meaty work full of biography and background, Shackleton isn't it. And that's fine, because there are already lots of Big Books on Shackleton to choose from. It's an excellent introduction and will, no doubt, lead many curious readers on to larger works. Certainly, if I'd read this when I was twelve, I would probably have cleaned my school library out of books on Shackleton and Antarctic explorations.

Shackleton: Antarctic Journey written & illus. by Nick Bertozzi (First Second, 2014)

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