Monday, November 18, 2013

The Vogage of the Aurora Australis: Sophie Scott Goes South by Alison Lester

Woohoo! I'm going to Antarctica!

That's right, me. Sophie Scott. I'm nine years old and I'm going to Antarctica with my dad.

He's the captain of the Aurora Australis. It's an icebreaker. We're delivering people and supplies to Mawson Station. We'll be the last visitors there before winter comes and the ocean freezes.

Most kids dream of adventures, and Sophie Scott finds herself in the middle of real thrills and real chills. Although the ship seems big in port, longer than a football field, and her berth with its own curtains and reading light seems snug, it is only few days until Sophie sees that the hardships of this adventure are for real. Storms strike and even moving about the ship is dangerous.

I've missed a couple of days of my diary because the sea has been so rough. Last night the ship was rocking and rolling like crazy. Anything not tied down goes flying and I have to hold on all the time. Sometimes a wave bashes the ship so hard it feels as though we've hit a rock.

The dining room portholes go underwater every time the ship does a big roll. It's like we're eating inside a washing machine.

I'm so cold I can hardly type. There was a wild blizzard and I couldn't sleep.  I was sliding up and down like a yoyo.  This morning the decks were covered with ice and snow and it was too dangerous to go outside.There were loud BONGS as icebergs just below the surface bashed into the ship's hull.

But in moments of calm, despite frozen toes and fingers, Sophie is excited to spot her first icebergs, seals, and, at last, penguins. Even dressing for the Antarctic is an adventure, with eight layers plus boots and gloves. After thirteen days at sea, the ship reaches the Antarctic port of Mawson Station.

After breakfast we climbed down a rope ladder to a barge waiting below.  It was scary, trying to hang on, with the ship moving up and down.  As soon as I got inside I felt sick and dizzy... the building was heaving up and down.  I was seasick on land!

But soon Sophie ventures outside to see more seals and many penguins, to take pictures of sunrises and sunsets and to hack off a piece of Antarctic ice to take home to her little brother Alfie. She takes a ride on the diesel ice crawler, the Hagglund, which sometimes seems to be slipping scarily back down the slope toward the sea. The wind becomes so strong that she cannot stand without an adult between her and its force, and Sophie is stranded by a sudden Antarctic blizzard, a whiteout, using the safety ropes between buildings to locate the safety of the Red Shed, where she sleeps to the recorded sound of a seal singing under the ice. At last she wakens to a calm day and gets a rare and spectacular view of the southern lights, the aurora australis.

Alison Lester's true account of a real-life adventure, Sophie Scott Goes South (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013), provides a kid's-eye view of a terrific journey that will be memorable to young readers just as it was for Sophie. Lester's line drawings have a natural appeal to youngsters, with schematic illustrations as well as nature drawings, and even a polar projection map is included, along with a glossary of terms--Katabatic Winds, krill, GoreTek, and monkey deck to name a few.

Oh, and Alfie's Antarctic ice makes the voyage all the way back to Hobart in its own cooler!

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