Monday, May 05, 2014

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the Sea (1998)

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance. Jennifer Armstrong. 1998. Random House. 144 pages. [Source: Library]

Just imagine yourself in the most hostile place on earth. It's not the Sahara or the Gobi Desert. It's not the Arctic. The most hostile place on earth is the Antarctic, the location of the South Pole--what's the difference? The Arctic is mostly water--with ice on top, of course--and that ice is never more than a few feet thick. But under the South Pole lies a continent that supports glaciers up to two miles in depth. Almost the entire southern continent is covered by ice. The mammoth icecap presses down so heavily that it actually distorts the shape of the earth. The ice never melts; it clings to the bottom of the world, spawning winds, storms, and weather that affect the whole planet.

I have read Jennifer Armstrong's Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World three or four times now. The narrative is so strong and compelling, and, yes, even inspiring. It is definitely one of my favorite nonfiction books. And nonfiction isn't something I usually take the time to reread.

Originally published in 1998, Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World won the Orbis Pictus Award in 1999. The book follows "the extraordinary true story of Shackleton and the Endurance." If you are unfamiliar with this story, then you really SHOULD read this one. It is a great introduction to the subject. Chapter by chapter, the book follows Shackleton and his men on their journey to Antarctica. Almost from the start, there are indicators that their goal, their quest, will not be an easy one to achieve. After a series of mishaps--thanks to nature--it becomes a long fight to survive. 


 The story is simple and yet dramatic. I think the story would be gripping no matter who told it. But I do think that Jennifer Armstrong did a wonderful job in painting a very human picture of Shackleton and his crew. I think the ending was beautiful--very moving! This one is a book I think everyone should read.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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