Tag Archives: Antarctic exploration

Keeping cool

5 Jun

We are having a heat wave. It was almost 100°F yesterday and will be so again today. What better way to pass the time, locked in the only room with air conditioning, than by reading about the Arctic.


The title tells you what the book, by Peggy Caravantes, is all about: Marooned in the Arctic:The True Story of Ada Blackjack, the Female Robinson Crusoe.

Goodreads Summary:In 1921, four men ventured into the Arctic for a top-secret expedition: an attempt to claim uninhabited Wrangel Island in northern Siberia for Great Britain. With the men was a young Inuit woman named Ada Blackjack, who had signed on as cook and seamstress to earn money to care for her sick son. Conditions soon turned dire for the team when they were unable to kill enough game to survive. Three of the men tried to cross the frozen Chukchi Sea for help but were never seen again, leaving Ada with one remaining team member who soon died of scurvy. Determined to be reunited with her son, Ada learned to survive alone in the icy world by trapping foxes, catching seals, and avoiding polar bears. After she was finally rescued in August 1923, after two years total on the island, Ada became a celebrity, with newspapers calling her a real “female Robinson Crusoe.” The first young adult book about Blackjack’s remarkable story, Marooned in the Arctic includes sidebars on relevant topics of interest to teens, including the use cats on ships, the phenomenon known as Arctic hysteria, and aspects of Inuit culture and beliefs. With excerpts from diaries, letters, and telegrams; historic photos; a map; source notes; and a bibliography, this is an indispensable resource for any young adventure lover, classroom, or library.

Fortunately for those of us in the Pacific Northwest, we won’t have wait as long as Ada for relief. We will be back to normal May temperatures by Wednesday.

Heat Wave Reading

10 Jul

We are in the midst of a heat wave. By many standards, this is nothing and I am being a weenie.

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I know it is hotter in many parts of the world. And yes, this is a dry heat, not a humid one, but I do not enjoy hot weather.

Right  now, it is winter in Antarctica. Here’s the forecast for McMurdo Station, Antarctica

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I don’t really want to be there either, but I can read about it and think cool thoughts, curled up with Nick Bertozzi’s  Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey.


This is a short graphic novel which compresses the narrative, but provides a good introduction to the Antarctic adventure on the Endurance.  Bertozzi’s pen & ink drawings capture the bleakness of the environment and the situation, while portraying the camaraderie among the men. The book includes an Afterword and a variety of sources for readers who want to learn more.

Another really good book I read about surviving disasters in antarctica was  Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration by David Roberts.


This story is about an Antarctic expedition you’ve never heard of, but it is way more dramatic than Shackleton’s. And it has a less happy ending. Here is the Goodreads summary:

On January 17, 1913, alone and near starvation, Douglas Mawson, leader of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, was hauling a sledge to get back to base camp. The dogs were gone. Now Mawson himself plunged through a snow bridge, dangling over an abyss by the sledge harness. A line of poetry gave him the will to haul himself back to the surface.

Mawson was sometimes reduced to crawling, and one night he discovered that the soles of his feet had completely detached from the flesh beneath. On February 8, when he staggered back to base, his features unrecognizably skeletal, the first teammate to reach him blurted out, “Which one are you?”

This thrilling and almost unbelievable account establishes Mawson in his rightful place as one of the greatest polar explorers and expedition leaders. It is illustrated by a trove of Frank Hurley’s famous Antarctic photographs, many never before published in the United States.

This book is written for an adult audience but good middle and high school readers could manage it. If you enjoy reading about Shackleton, I highly recommend this book. You will be in awe of Douglas Mawson’s will to survive.

And, maybe, you will feel a little cooler in the heat of the summer.

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