Into the White: Scott’s Antarctic Odyssey

Written by Joanna Grochowicz Sarah Lippett (illus.)
Review by Jane Burke

A first novel, and based on the true and well-known story of Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole in 1911-12, this is a straightforward and accessible introduction to the subject for young people aged 11-15. Joanna Grochowicz has done her research, and emphasises that this is the story of the Terra Nova expedition itself, and the ‘memorable characters’ who accompanied Scott, rather than a biography. Each actor in the story—the four men who died with Scott and the others who survived—is brought to life, and their individual actions, thoughts and feelings dramatized. This is a group endeavour, and is made to seem so. We care as much about the young student Apsley Cherry-Garrard as Dr. Edward ‘Uncle Bill’ Wilson, and learn as much about the latter’s ‘worst journey in the world’ to secure emperor penguin eggs as we do about the last days of Scott’s race to the Pole.

The tale is told in the present tense and uses existing diaries, notes and previously published memoirs for authenticity; conversations and interior monologue are invented but not obtrusive. The language is terse and precise: Six ponies gone. It’s a terrible blow …’ but not without poignant imagery: ‘The sun is now a slave to the horizon … A strange twilight remains.’

Sarah Lippett’s illustrations throughout are simple and engaging, with thumbnail sketches of all the characters, scenes and equipment—a pair of boots, a sextant, a sledge—scattered throughout, drawn in a clear and graphic style. The maps are excellent and informative.

This book somewhat simplifies the complex character of Scott himself, and mentions but does not delve into some of the controversies of the story, but this is appropriate for the book’s anticipated audience, and does not in the end shirk an atmosphere of final tragedy.