Firstly, the book itself is a beautiful thing. A sizeable hardback with a lovely cloth spine, illustrated with cracked ice. Everything is white and blue and immediately it's conjuring dramatic seascapes encrusted with ice and frost. That cover too- is it a compass? Is it a circle-of-life type thing? Is it a game? A roulette wheel of chance? It doesn't really matter of course, but look at it! It's pure joy.
The book tells the real-life story of Ernest Shackleton and his brigade of badasses and their successful failure to cross the Antarctic Continent for the first time. Successful because nobody died. A failure because they never actually completed the mission. But mission accomplished or not, the expedition's men carved themselves out a place in history for managing to survive for 8 months on nothing but salvaged rations and their own wits, out in the frozen wasteland of Antarctica 500 miles from civilisation in steadily worsening conditions and with rapidly deteriorating odds. It's a massive testament to the strength of the human spirit, the bonds of friendship and the fraternity of scientific and geographic discovery.
It lists the crew, the cargo, the supplies, the dogs they took, the anatomy of the ship, the skills and experience of everyone on board. The book goes into minute detail about the preparation and financing of the trip, its scientific and exploration objectives and its schedule. It reads like a story, with action and suspense and the overcoming of difficulties and obstacles, solutions and triumphs, but the truth of it is never lessened. The story takes on this extra gravitas because of this.
I absolutely loved the style of Grill's illustration- informal little doodles that convey as much character and individuality to each man and dog as it's possible to get. Just a additional few scribbles and it's easy to tell the cook from the photographer and the carpenters from the navigators. It's brilliant that the other men on the expedition get to have their own moments of recognition and their own characters and unique little props. The dogs too are individually named and depicted. There's a real sense of thoroughness to this book that is just wonderful.
|Grill, W. (2014) Shackleton's Journey. London, Flying Eye Books|
|Grill, W. (2014) Shackleton's Journey. London, Flying Eye Book|