I don’t generally read nonfiction—it’s not a genre I’ve ever had much interest in—so I probably never would have picked this book up on my own, but boy, am I glad to have read it. Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World is an incredible story, made all the more amazing by the fact that it’s true. Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.
In 1914 Ernest Shackleton set out with a crew of 27 men to be the first to travel across the entire continent of Antarctica. They never even made it to land, but instead were trapped on the thick ice surrounding the continent for 2 years. Their ship, the Endurance, was crushed in the ice and the men stranded with only three small lifeboats and the supplies they managed to salvage from the wreck before it sunk. They were miles from any form of civilization and had no method of contacting anyone for help. Even after they made it to land—a small island off the coast—they weren’t any closer to rescue, so Shackleton took five men and one of the life boats and headed for South Georgia Island. Against all odds, they reached the island but still had to cross to the other side, over mountains, to reach civilization and hire a boat to rescue the rest of the men. They suffered frostbite, hunger, exhaustion and impossible odds but they survived. Every single one of them survived.
I was utterly fascinated by this book. Some of the stories about the dangers and how the men survived are nothing short of miraculous and I constantly had to remind myself that this is all true. Jennifer Armstrong does a great job of keeping up the story’s momentum while also including facts about the journey and about other relevant topics like all the different varieties of ice and the movement of the tides and waves around Antarctica. I had no knowledge of anything about this story before reading this book, so I learned a lot, and I was interested enough to look for further information and portrayals of the story afterward. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone with an interest in adventure and survival stories, fiction and nonfiction alike.