Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey, by Nick Bertozzi; First Second Books, $16.99, 128 pages, ages 12-18. (Publication date: June 17, 2014)
Amateur and professional explorers worldwide will mark the centennial of Ernest Shackelton’s ill-fated yet miraculous voyage to the Antarctic this year. Entire documentaries and symposiums are devoted to understanding how the entire crew survived in polar conditions after their ship became trapped and ultimately crushed in pack ice. There’s even a cruise called the Shackelton 100 that will recreate the route of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.
For adventurers staying close to home, Nick Bertozzi’s graphic novel replicates the voyage through a riveting and wholly original approach to telling this story of survival. Historians have meticulously documented the expedition, but in this account Bertozzi changes the point of view by inviting the reader onto the Endurance alongside the captain and his crew. Each panel illustrates the minutiae of life aboard a sea vessel – from chronicling Mr. Orde-Lee riding a bicycle across the ice, to a chapter called “Last Dog” which delicately handles the issue of starvation and self-preservation.
Bertozzi’s black and white illustrations overflow with visual detail while creating a solid and engaging story. Ships, men and various polar creatures are at once grand and familiar. While the author is quite deft depicting each man in the story, Shackelton stands out from his crew; a tall, dark-haired commander determined to bring all twenty-eight crewmen home after almost two years lost at sea.
Writing and illustrating stories of great explorers seems second-nature to Bertozzi, whose previous work includes Lewis and Clark, an equally inventive examination of two great explorers. Could Amelia Earhart or Thor Heyerdahl be next?