Publisher's Note:  

The harrowing story of the ill-fated Endurance, now in paperback.

In August 1914, Ernest Shackleton and 27 men sailed from England in an attempt to become the first team of explorers to cross Antarctica from one side to the other. Five months later and still 100 miles from land, their ship, Endurance, became trapped in ice. The expedition survived another five months camping on ice floes, followed by a perilous journey through stormy seas to remote and unvisited Elephant Island. In a dramatic climax to this amazing survival story, Shackleton and five others navigated 800 miles of treacherous open ocean in a 20-foot boat to fetch a rescue ship.

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World vividly re-creates one of the most extraordinary adventure stories in history. Jennifer Armstrong narrates this unbelievable story with vigor, an eye for detail, and an appreciation of the marvelous leadership of Shackleton, who brought home every one of his men alive.

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World

by Jennifer Armstrong

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Overall Review:  

      On August 8, 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton set off from England for Antarctica on the ship Endurance with a total of twenty-six men. His goal: be the first to cross Antarctica from one side to the other.
    He didn't succeed, but he'll always be remembered as the leader who, against terrible odds, brought all his men safely home.
    First, his specially constructed ship became locked in the ice, and just over 10 months later, it sank. Now stranded with his men on the pack ice, Shackleton had to deal with mutiny, boredom, dwindling supplies, deadly weather problems, melting ice floes, and attacks by leopard seals.
    Shackleton managed to get his men to the safety of an island, traveled over 500 miles further in an open boat with a small rescue team, crossed an uncharted island with mountains that were 4,000 feet above sea level to return to a whaling settlement where he could get help.
    It’s a gripping story, and Armstrong tells it well, making even the long, tedious months interesting. She intersperses Shackleton’s story with brief information about navigation before GPS, weather in the Antarctic, and ocean currents. It’s not surprising that the book's a prize winner.
Reading Level: 8.5 (range 6.4-9.5).
Also good for reluctant readers
Of interest to boys and girls
Awards: ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 2000; ALA Notable Children's Book, 1999; NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children, 1999.

This review has been acquired and adapted from

Content Analysis:  

This review was acquired from on May 15, 2014 and was not completed using Compass Book Ratings’ standardized checklist.  Nevertheless, it contains useful content information which is included here.  The overall number ratings have been approximated based on this information.


2 G*d; h*ll; men called Elephant Island "H*ll-ephan Island"

Mention of explorer Scott’s death in Antarctica, of man who found "Scott’s lifeless body"; mention of whaling industry and photo of whale being "flensed"—blubber stripped from it, mention of "bloody whale meat" brought on board to feed sled dogs; mention that killer whales might attack men on ice floes; mention that seals "had no fear of anything on land," so men could walk up and "club them to death"; dogs fighting and dogs biting humans were common; dog fights broken up by man hitting them in head with his "mittened fist," also used "whip, or feet" to part fighting dogs; dogs chased penguins and caught them; fourteen dogs died from worms; ship crushed by ice—detailed description, later sank; ship’s cat and puppies shot; mention of men hunting seals and penguins; mention that "leopard seals and killer whales could easily surface . . . and make quick work of the men" on small floe; mention that "execution was a legal punishment for mutiny"; detailed description of leopard seal attempting to catch man on ice floe, "shot again and again"; mention of "hungry beasts that looked upon men as a new variety of food cruising through the dark waters just below them"; more dogs killed; some men fear killer whale will "crash upward through their dwindling floe . . . and pick them off one by one"; mention of eating penguin; men killed more than 600 penguins in two days, afterwards, "ice around [the camp] was streaked with blood"; another leopard seal tried to attack, shot; last of dogs killed; mention of Sir Francis Drake losing four ships going through Drake’s Passage; crew members kicked navigator in head to rouse him from faint; mention of hurricane that sunk a "500-ton steamer . . . , sending it to the bottom with all hands"; description of amputation of gangreneous toes; on another voyage to Antarctica, Shackleton suffered two heart attacks, died and was buried on South Georgia Island.

Mature Subject Matter:  

Animal cruelty/hunting

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

Mention of liquor being loaded on ship; mention of a few crew members discharged for drunkenness; ration of grog given to men every week; mention of "tins of tobacco" and that Shackleton allowed men to keep their tobacco; mention that men "smoked away the hunger"; Shackleton lit cigarette as iceberg plowed toward camp on ice floe; crew member sad he lost his tobacco; men joked about bringing plenty of beer back with rescue mission; men waiting to be rescued smoked cigarettes made of dried grass.

Reviewed By CleanTeenReads
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