Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Trial by Ice: A Photobiography of Sir Ernest Shackleton (Rdg Prgm 08/09/10 Wt)

Trial by Ice: A Photobiography of Sir Ernest Shackleton (Rdg Prgm 08/09/10 Wt)

K.M. Kostyal
for ages 8 to 10
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006   ISBN: 978-0153566196

Ernest Shackleton was the son of an Irish doctor who went to England to build a new life for himself and his family. His eldest son, Ernest, was a bookish boy who like to spend time alone reading. Though his father wanted Ernest to follow in his footsteps and become a doctor, he agreed to let Ernest go to sea. When he was only sixteen, Ernest signed on to a commercial sailing ship, and he “loved the life of a merchant marine.” By the time he was twenty-four, he was “qualified to command a British ship anywhere in the world.”
On one of his visits home, Ernest heard that the Royal Geographical Society was sending an expedition to Antarctica, a region of the world that few people had seen, and fewer still had explored. Eager to travel to such a remote and interesting part of the world, Ernest applied to join the expedition, and in the summer of 1901 he sailed south on the Discovery.

Led by a Robert Falcon Scott, a young naval officer, the explorers sailed along the coastline of Antarctica, charting what they saw as they went. Eventually, the Antarctic winter made it impossible for the Discovery to go any further, and they found a sheltered harbor where they could spend the winter.

The plan was that a team of explorers would try to get to the South Pole as soon as possible, and Ernest was chosen to join a three man team, which included Scott. The team members were at a disadvantage because they, unlike Norwegian polar explorers, did not know how to ski or how to use sled dogs. They walked, dragging sleds loaded down with supplies, and as a result, their progress was painfully slow. Eventually, at eighty degrees and seventeen minutes south, they gave up and made their way back to the ship. Ernest almost died during the trip, and Scott ordered that he should travel back to England on a relief ship. The two men were openly hostile to one another by this point, and Ernest had no choice but to leave.

When he got back to England, Ernest married his long-time sweetheart and he tried to find a line of work that suited him, but the call of Antarctica was too strong. By 1908, Ernest was back in Antarctica, and this time he was in charge of the expedition. He was determined that this time he would get to the South Pole.

In this fascinating biography, young readers will get to meet one of the world’s most courageous explorers. Though Ernest Shackleton did not achieve all his goals, he proved to the world that he was a great leader who was willing to do what it took to take care of the men who depended on him.

With annotated period photos to break up the text, this is a title that will give readers a real feel for what it must have been like to be a polar explorer in the early 1900’s.