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Ernest Henry Shackleford was born in 1874 in the green hills of Ireland’s County Kildare. When he was six, his landowner father decided to become a doctor and eventually moved the family to the London, England, suburb of Sydenham. Ernest longed to go to sea, so when he was sixteen, his father arranged for him to sign with a commercial sailing ship. He spent ten years as a merchant marine and by age 24 was qualified to command a British ship anywhere in the world. Then in 1901, he joined the National Antarctic Expedition led by Robert Falcon Scott on the Discovery. They failed to reach the South Pole, and when Shackleton returned to England, he married, settled in Edinburgh, Scotland, and worked with the Royal Scottish Geographic Society.
Then in 1907 and 1908, Shackleton led his own expedition to the Antarctic on the Nimrod but failed again to reach the Pole. After Roald Amundsen did make it to the Pole in 1911, Shackleton led still another expedition from 1914 to 1916 on the Endurance intending to sled all the way across Antarctica. That mission also failed to achieve its goal, but after a long series of harrowing experiences, he managed to bring his entire crew to safety. Well, it’s another book on Ernest Shackleton. In the recent past I have read Endurance by Alfred Lansing, Mrs. Chippy’s Last Expedition by Caroline Alexander, and Trapped by the Ice! by Michael McCurdy. However, those books focus primarily on the 1914-1916 Endurance expedition, whereas Trial by Ice is a more general biography focusing on the man rather than on the one expedition.
This book does cover the Endurance expedition, but it also discusses Shackleton’s life before and after his most famous trip, although there is not too much afterwards, since Shackleton died and was buried on South Georgia Island just six years later, in 1922, while leading yet another Antarctic expedition on the Quest. The biggest complaint is that it would have been a better read if it had been broken up into chapters or had more obvious places to pause in the reading. However, generously illustrated with stunning, archival black-and-white photographs and accompanied by Shackleton’s quotes to introduce sections, it is a great photo biography for older children that tells the incredible story of one man drawn southward to the icy continent of Antarctica.