Shackleton: The Voyage of the James Caird: A Graphic Account

This graphic history is one of a series which presents the explorations of the Arctic and Antarctic by Irish and British explorers in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In some ways, this is the most important of all those stories because the purpose of the journey changes dramatically from one of glory (crossing the Antarctic) to one of humanitarian action (saving the lives of every single member of the expedition and ensuring that they all get home safely).

When their ship, ironically named The Endurance, becomes trapped in the Weddell Sea, Shackleton and five of his men are forced to draw on all their powers of resilience and endurance to make an epic journey of eight hundred miles in a lifeboat, and then walk across terrible frozen wastes and mountains in order to get help and save the lives of all twenty seven expedition members. This tale of failure becomes a tale of the triumph of the human spirit; of loyalty, courage, love of one’s fellow man. By definition, it is a ‘manly’ true story, which will likely appeal to boys.

It is well and simply told. Hard decisions, sacrifices and cruel pain are not avoided. The illustrations are conventional for this kind of narrative. They are strongly based on some of the actual photographs of the expedition. Some adjustments would have helped to identify characters more easily. For example, historically Shackleton wore a number of different styles of hat on the journey. It would have helped to present him in one only throughout this text. In graphic novels, each character needs to be simply and clearly signified.