Email this review


A young stowaway becomes an integral part of Shackleton’s 1914 attempt to cross the South Pole.

With the help of some friends on board, 17-year-old Merce Blackboro sneaks aboard Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance, bound for Antarctica during the early days of World War I, as it re-supplies in Argentina. Shackleton intends to become the first to cross the continent from sea to sea, via the pole. Soon after Endurance sets sail, Merce is discovered hiding in a supply locker. Despite giving him a vicious tongue-lashing, Shackleton is impressed by young Blackboro's verve and gives him a job helping in Endurance's galley, as well as making him his personal steward. However, spots on Shackleton’s ship were highly sought after, so there are those aboard who might begrudge Blackboro’s place among the crew, especially when Sir Ernest assigns him the relatively labor-free task of organizing his library while reading accounts of previous polar expeditions. Unfortunately for Shackleton and his crew, they make their attempt during a particularly chilly winter, and the Endurance is trapped by pack ice before ever reaching the continent. After being lost for 635 days, Shackleton must use all of his skills as a seasoned explorer—and as a leader—to get his crew safely home. Bonné (Wie Wir Verschwinden, 2009) has crafted a compelling adventure novel drawn from actual events. His characters live and breathe, as does the book's desolate setting, which draws the reader deep into Shackleton's frigid world. There is a stunning level of technical detail—of the ship, the crew, Shackleton's place in the history of Antarctic exploration, etc.—all of which does nothing to clutter or detract from the gripping narrative. Nor does the rather dreamlike language, which helps conjure the icily surreal world of the Antarctic. Even readers familiar with the historical events on which the book is based will find themselves turning pages to find out what happens next.  

A compulsively readable adventure yarn, all the more so for being based on real events.

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-59020-140-4
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Overlook
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2013


ChildrenSHACKLETON’S STOWAWAY by Victoria McKernan
by Victoria McKernan
NonfictionAN EMPIRE OF ICE by Edward J. Larson
by Edward J. Larson