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Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackeleton and the Endurance Hardcover – November 17, 1998

4.6 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The harrowing survival story of English explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and the ill-fated Endurance has intrigued people since the 1914 expedition--spurring astounding books such as Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage and The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition. As Shackleton and 27 sailors attempted to cross the frozen Antarctic continent from one side to the other, they were trapped in an ice pack, lost their ship to the icy depths, survived an Antarctic winter, escaped attacks from sea lions, and traversed 600 treacherous miles to the uninhabited Elephant Island. Leaving 22 men behind, Shackleton and five others sailed 800 miles across the southern Atlantic Ocean in a 20-foot open boat to tiny South George Island, where they hiked across unmapped mountains to a whaling station. In 1916, 19 months after the Endurance became icebound, Shackleton led a rescue party back to retrieve his men. Remarkably, every crew member survived.

Jennifer Armstrong, the award-winning author of Black-Eyed Susan and The Dreams of Mairhe Mehan, brings the unbelievable journey to life with delicious details: how a handsome young stowaway was discovered too late to cast him off; how the ship itself would become frost-white, looking like "another species of sparkling white iceberg as it nosed its way through the pack;" and how the ice-pack-dwelling Emperor penguins seemed to enjoy the banjo music of crew member Leonard Hussey. The true-to-life story is as thrilling as they come, and Armstrong's lively, crystal-clear writing style is just as compelling. More than 40 photographs of the expedition populate this inspiring nonfiction adventure story that young readers will devour from cover to cover. (Ages 10 to 14) --Karin Snelson

From School Library Journal

Grade 6 Up-Filled with intriguing details and written with dramatic style, this riveting account of the ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition reads like an adventure novel. In 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton attempted to be the first explorer to cross Antarctica by foot "from sea to sea." On the eve of World War I, he set out with a crew of scientists and sailors on a specially designed ship, Endurance, but he and his team never reached their objective. The ship became entrapped in ice, and the men were forced to abandon their mission and try to survive in the brutally harsh Antarctic wasteland for 19 months. Thanks to Shackleton's leadership, the bravery of his crew, and a lot of luck, everyone survived. The astonishing circumstances of their ordeal include a treacherous hike across miles of frozen wasteland, an 800-mile open-boat journey through savage seas, and a perilous trek across the uncharted mountain ranges of South Georgia Island. Armstrong brings all of these experiences vividly to life, frequently using quotes from members of the expedition. Excellent black-and-white photographs taken during the journey document the entire adventure story. Elizabeth Cody Kimmel's Ice Story (Clarion, 1999) has larger and more plentiful photographs but Armstrong's text is far more engaging. Kimmel relates all of the facts skillfully, but Armstrong crafts them into an unforgettable story of true heroism and the triumph of the human spirit. A book that will capture the attention and imagination of any reader.
Edward Sullivan, New York Public Library
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 13 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 8
  • Lexile Measure: 1090L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers; 1st edition (November 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0517800136
  • ISBN-13: 978-0517800133
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 8.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,856,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
There was a spate of Shackleton books, documentaries, and films not too long ago following the events of September 11, 2001. During that time, people couldn't get enough of the story of a man facing ridiculously insurmountable odds to save his men and return home from the Antarctic. Preceeding this surge in Shackleton love, this book appeared in 1998 and tells the story perfectly. I must admit that I fell in love with this book. Armstrong is a master here, breaking the monotony of the months the men spent waiting for the Endurance to be free from the ice flows by telling about the crew's practical jokes and games. The author is careful to include photographs only as they occur in the text. At the beginning of the trip, the ship's photographer takes a great many shots of life with the crew. Towards the end, photos are few and far between. In some books for children, this might be a huge drawback. Here, it works exceedingly well. The text grows more and more interesting as the photos diminish. I belive that if the author did not say right from the beginning that Shackleton and every single member of this crew survived, this book might be impossible to continue reading. The notes in the back are of some help, and the photos of the crew members are useful. What makes this book stands out is that it captures a group of people doing work that they are exceedingly good at. It is very satisfying to read about accomplished individuals. This book might or might not read well to children. I don't know how well it would do. Still, I would recommend it to anyone and pair it with books of fiction and non-fiction that deal with the Antarctic or exploration. The fact that this book wasn't given so much as a Newberry honor is an appalling fact.
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Format: Hardcover
The tale of Ernest Shackleton and crew and their ill-fated South Pole expedition is an incredible one indeed. This version of that journey is spell-binding and certainly piques interest and anticipation. While Armstrong's "Shipwreck..." is basically an older children's book, it is great for adults as well. [Reviewer's note: The book "Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage" by Alfred Lansing provides a much more detailed version of this journey.] The photographs are bountiful and certainly contribute to the eerie realism of the challenges faced by this crew, vividly relaying the desperation of their predicament.
I was disturbed, however, by the author's commentary in one of the photo captions (see page 38 of the September 2000 paperback edition) where she takes extreme journalistic liberty regarding the early-century comedy practice, "blackface". Armstrong's thinly-veiled 'mini' "civil rights" commentary there is totally unnecessary and unprofessional. Her assertion does, however, illustrate the ease at which historical revisionism exerts itself. Such journalistic hubris reminds me of what Wrangler (Jean Company)did a few years ago in a sales advertisement when they air-brushed the cigarettes from the mouths of cowboys in a well-known, c. 1800's historical portrait. While it benefited them (Wrangler)to use the rugged "realism" of these cowboys, the "realism" of the current times (ie., anti-smoking) was not allowed---selective "truth", if you will (a Stalinesque technique). Only the politically correct version of history allowed here!
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Format: Hardcover
The book Shipwreck at the bottom of the world is a very good book because it tells about the hardships Ernest Shackleton and his crew had to go through. This book tells their story in vivid detail and is very well written. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes adventure and travel.
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Format: School & Library Binding Verified Purchase
This 1999 winner of the Orbis Pictus Award (given for outstanding nonfiction for children) is a detailed and well-researched account of Sir Ernest Shackleton's incredible 1914-1916 voyage to Antarctica. Jennifer Armstrong does an excellent job of creating interest all through the book, sharing interesting details about what the men ate, and the games and activities they use to passed the time. The book includes many photographs taken by the photographer on the expedition, giving a sense of realism and immediacy.
The author follows Shackleton's trip from England to South Georgia Island, then the failed attempt to get to the Antarctic continent. The ship becomes stuck in ice, but the ice migrates, moving the Endurance further north, toward the open ocean. Before they reach the sea the ice crushes the ship, forcing the men to abandon it. It is after the sinking of the Endurance that the narrative gets so exciting that the book is impossible to put down. The reader reads with growing horror of the crew's travail across the ice and out to tiny, barren Elephant Island.
When it seems that the men can't possibly have anything worse ahead of them, Shackleton and five men sail a small lifeboat eight hundred miles back to South Georgia Island. Armstrong's description of the harrowing fifteen days spent in the lifeboat holds the reader in a vise-like grip. She winds down the tension with a very satisfying epilogue relating what the crewmembers did with the rest of their lives. The captioned photograph at the end of the book showing the entire crew shortly after their return to civilization is a perfect touch.
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