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Nick Bertozzi – Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey


Image credit: Shackleton, Nick Bertozzi

Written by Miranda Miller

Nick Bertozzi pored over his Adventures of Tintin comics as a child, living vicariously through the travels of the young Belgian reporter. It lit a spark, he says – one that inspired him to get off the couch and do some traveling of his own. Bertozzi hopes his new graphic novel, Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey, will do the same for children and adults alike.

Shackleton is the real-life adventure story of Sir Ernest Shackleton's 1914-1917 trans-Antarctica expedition, one of the most harrowing and heroic exploration stories

of all time.

Shackleton and his crew set out from Southend on August 4, 1914, en route to Antarctica via Buenos Aires and South Georgia in search of the South Pole. They'd spent an extra month in South Georgia alongside knowledgeable Norwegian sailors preparing for the Weddell Sea crossing and waiting for the ice to disperse, yet the expedition would fall short of his goal. In January 1915, just a day's sail from their destination, the sea ice closed in around The Endurance and trapped it in place for the winter.

Bertozzi, creator of the Lewis & Clark comic, spoke with Quark Expeditions about his motivations and process for telling Shackleton's Endurance tale. He wanted to share the story of Shackleton and his men in a factually accurate account that also captured the spirit of the journey. He also wanted readers to understand the emotion of their plight – of being shipwrec

ked. "They were really lost. They knew roughly where they were, but they didn't know where they were going. They weren't calm, they weren't relaxed," he said.

Shackleton Comic Cover

His interest in the adventures of Sir Ernest Shackleton took flight when his mother went to see the James Caird at a museum outside of Boston. "She relayed the story to me and as she was speaking, I realized right away that this was a story I wanted to turn into a comic book," he said. "It's a real story, but the arc of tension just continues on an upward trajectory until there's this sweet release to the end when they finally make it home."

Inspired, he watched an IMAX movie and read books about The Endurance, but felt as though much of the conflict in modern accounts of the events had been eked out in favor of characterization. According to Bertozzi, "The conflict with this person against nature was strong enough without having to introduce emotional conflicts. That made me even more inspired to create a visual narrative of this story.

"I had a few friends who had gone to Antarctica on vacation cruises – my uncle, a geologist had gone down there with a group of people and was showing me some pictures," he remembers. "As soon as I saw these pictures, I knew it was going to be so much fun to draw."

Bertozzi credits modern-day adventurer and Royal Navy engineer Seb Coulthard with much of the period-specific knowledge he needed to keep Shackleton true to time of the expedition. Coulthard sought out Bertozzi five years ago after finding an initial chapter he had published online.

"I was contacted out of the blue by Seb, who was doing an expedition recreating the boat journey and crossing of South Georgia on foot. He wanted to use my comic for his website," Bertozzi recalls.


Antarctica Credit: Shackleton Epic Expedition

Seb Coulthard, second from right, with the crew of the Shackleton Epic Expedition, who successfully recreated the 800 nautical mile boat journey and three-day mountain climb of Sir Ernest Shackleton's Antarctic survival journey.

"I did get a firsthand look into this journey they undertook and Seb was instrumental in helping me with some of the finer points and reference of the journey. There's just no way you could find that without the help of someone who had gone on a journey like this. They used period equipment, a replica of the James Caird, and went right down to the clothing they wore," he said. "He helped me with ship plans, maps, clothing and props – all sorts of things. The book would not be nearly as complete had he not contacted me."


Bertozzi had to improvise in places, even as he attempted to get the spirit of the journey right and stay as close as possible to the facts. The newspaper accounts, for example, are fictional in that he was unable to surface the actual news coverage, though they are true to the story and help with exposition.

"There was no film record of that point, you know?" he laughed. "They weren't writing every word they ever said in their journals. I felt as though narrative captions would intrude on these characters. You would see them as characters performing a play."

American comic book writer/artist David Mazzucchelli helped Bertozzi bring his ideas to life in a graphic novel that doesn't rely on the beauty of the drawings, but uses them instead to tell Shackleton's story, rich in emotion and information. "He really gave me a lot of insight into design and helped me achieve the correct balance of information and illustrations on the page," he said.

And just how would Sir Ernest Shackleton feel about Antarctic exploration today – particularly that it's become accessible to more people?

When asked to put himself in Shackleton's boots, Bertozzi laughed. "I've never thought of that… I think he really liked the idea of going where no one had gone before. I think he'd be a little ticked off! But he'd be there as much as anyone else," he said.

"It's clear he was obsessed with Antarctica and had he been born a hundred years later, he'd be there now, digging holes and climbing mountains, but he'd be ticked off he couldn't have it to himself."

Bertozzi plans to continue sharing the stories of great figures in the history of world exploration in his next works.

"I was joking around that I'd do a little Shackleton comic about a child Shackleton running around Ireland pretending he was climbing Mt Everest or touring on the polar ice caps. We'll see!" he promised.

"I think one could certainly do an entire book about his journey with Robert Falcon Scott, or the Nimrod expedition – those are great stories. Or even the period after he returned from the Expedition of Discovery, when he returned for WWI and what he went through there, would be a great story."

Descendants of polar explorers Shackleton and Scott have joined Quark Expeditions as Experts-in-Residence on a number of Antarctic cruises, regaling passengers with tales of their ancestors’ journeys a century ago. This year, we're pleased to offer Nick Bertozzi's Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey in our on-board shops for passengers. It's a great chance to relive Shackleton's adventures in the very place they happened, one hundred years ago.

Nick Bertozzi shares his drawings, musings and web-things he finds interesting on his Tumblr and personal website. You can connect with him on Twitter for answers to any questions about Shackleton.





Shackleton’s Legacy: Antarctic Exploration a Century After Endurance


This year marks the 100th anniversary of an event celebrated by historians, explorers and Antarctic enthusiasts around the world. In 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 27 brave souls set out aboard The Endurance in hopes of becoming the first explorers to traverse the Antarctic continent. Their aptly named ship became frozen in ice before reaching shore, and although Shackleton and his crew never had the chance to fulfill their mission, the events that followed would come to be regarded as one of the most extraordinary examples of leadership and exploration in history.

Endurance: A Triumph of the Human Spirit

Locked in the grips of the Antarctic’s unyielding elements, with minimal supplies and no hope of rescue, Shackleton and his crew persevered through insurmountable obstacles. The Endurance was eventually crushed by the Antarctic’s melting ice pack, and the crew was forced to set up camp on ice floes. Eventually they managed – exhausted, frostbitten and starving – to navigate their lifeboats to the unpopulated Elephant Island. Realizing no help would come to them, Shackleton and a handful of crew
members set off in a single lifeboat, dubbed the James Caird, across 800 miles of treacherous waters in hurricane conditions.


Against all odds, the James Caird landed on South Georgia Island, only to be faced with a 20 mile march across impassable mountains and glaciers to reach the whaling station on the other side. Shackleton and two other crew members made the march in 36 hours with nothing but 50 feet of rope and a carpenter’s adze. They reached the whaling station and Shackleton lost no time in rescuing his crew. All 27 men were rescued and returned to civilization alive.

Then and Now: 100 Years of Antarctic Exploration

Modern Antarctic explorers routinely recount the crew’s inspiring story and toast to “the Boss” – Shackleton, the informal patron saint of Antarctic expeditions. Inspired by the harrowing story of Shackleton and his heroic crew, modern day researchers, scientists, photographers and citizen explorers
follow in Endurance’s path each early spring and late fall to experience the raw natural beauty found only here, at the southernmost edge of the world.

South Georgia

Thankfully, since Shackleton’s expedition, exploration to the Antarctic has become less dangerous and more accessible. Modern inventions such as synthetic moisture wicking and waterproof materials are an enormous improvement over the natural fiber trousers and wool sweaters worn by Shackleton and his crew.

Ice boots, crampons, waterproof clothing and hand-held digital cameras protect modern-day adventurers from the frostbite and hypothermia Shackleton’s crew endured. Carefully engineered ice class seagoing vessels and strict seasonal Antarctic voyage schedules ensure today’s explorers won’t suffer the same fate as The Endurance by becoming imprisoned and broken by the ice.

Shackleton’s Legacy Lives on in Jonathan Shackleton, Antarctic Explorer

Today, expeditions to the Antarctic are spearheaded by experts like author, historian, guide and cousin to Sir Ernest Shackleton, Jonathan Shackleton. Not only is Jonathon a direct relative of the Irish Kildare-born Antarctic explorer; he is a notable expert and explorer in his own right. Jonathan has accompanied more than 30 groups on trips to the Antarctic. Most notably, he has guided tours to Elephant Island, to
Sir Ernest Shackleton’s grave on South Georgia Island and to Snow Hill, where he and Quark Expeditions’ tour group were the first to visit this vast penguin colony.

Scott and Shackleton

Antarctic Exploration Today: Adventure Tourism’s Last Frontier


Condemned by early explorer James Cook as a place from which “the world will derive no benefit,” the Antarctic continues to call explorers to her icy floes and shores. One hundred years after Shackleton and his crew set out for Antarctica aboard The Endurance, adventurers like those on Quark’s Antarctic voyages continue to flock south. Undeterred by the danger and cold, modern Antarctic explorers are eager to retrace the crew’s footsteps and to experience the raw beauty and test of the human spirit which can only be found here, at the edge of the world.


100 Years Later with Shackleton and Scott


“Excuse me... Jonathan? Falcon? I’m Karine from Quark!”

That’s how I met Jonathan Shackleton and Falcon Scott for the first time. I wasn’t expecting to meet them until we boarded the ship, but as it turned out I was standing next to them on a shuttle bus from the airport terminal to the plane headed to Ushuaia. It was Friday, February 8, 2013.

I’d been speaking with and emailing Jonathan and Falcon for months, organizing their time with Quark on the Ocean Diamond as our “Experts-in-Residence” for this voyage. We shook hands and Jonathan quickly gave me a double kiss on the cheeks and said, “Lovely to meet you.”

Karine and Jonathan Shackleton - Lemaire Channel

Immediately I could hear whispers on the shuttle bus of those who took notice and knew who these gentlemen were. Most people on the shuttle were more than likely headed to Antarctica. And these two great descendants of Antarctic explorers were on the shuttle bus with them! You could feel the excitement moving across the crowd. This set the tone for the voyage...

On the first night aboard the Ocean Diamond, the expedition staff welcomed Jonathan and Falcon and introduced them as part of the Experts-in-Residence program. Some of the passengers had booked their trip specifically because these two men were going to be in attendance, while some didn't know. Either way, the passengers were thrilled. Cameras were clicking, people were approaching them, and everyone tried to sit with them for at least one meal during our voyage.

On day 2 of the Drake Passage, Jonathan gave his first lecture on the history of his cousin, Sir Ernest Shackleton. Within the first 10 minutes of his presentation, Woody (our expedition leader extraordinaire) came on the public address system to announce our first iceberg sighting, “I’m terribly sorry to interrupt Jonathan Shackleton’s lecture, however there is an iceberg on the port side of the ship.” Everyone was obviously unable to sit still, however no one wanted to be the one to get up in the middle of his lecture. Thankfully Jonathan realized and offered to delay his presentation. When everyone returned to their seats, he re-started his presentation by saying, “The present is much more important than the past.” Obviously he understood how excited everyone was to take in everything onboard, on-land and at sea.

Shackleton giving a lecture in Antarctica

That afternoon we had our first landing in the South Shetland Islands. Jonathan, Falcon and I were on the first Zodiac together to land in the Aitcho Islands. As Jonathan and Falcon shook hands, the first time a ‘Shackleton’ and a ‘Scott’ were on the Antarctic Continent together in over 100 years, Falcon said with a sheepish grin, “Welcome to my Continent.”

The highlight of the voyage with Jonathan and Falcon, however, was our overnight camping experience on the Continent. How exciting to sleep on ice, in bivy sacs (or tents) with descendants of the great explorers. Before bed we were all gathered around Jonathan and Falcon as they recounted stories and read from their books. It was quite the Antarctic bedtime story.

When I first started working with both men, I would refer to them as “Shackleton and Scott.” Now they are, and will forever be, Jonathan and Falcon. Yes, they are indeed descendants of great Antarctic trailblazers, but they have also become more in my eyes. They are kind and sweet, polite and gentle, helpful and caring men with an incredible family history which they generously and proudly shared with the world. I, for one, feel lucky to have had such an enriching experience.

So at the end of our 11-day voyage, we parted ways just as we had met: with a kiss on both cheeks. And although I’m sad to no longer be breaking bread with Jonathan and Falcon, I do hold very fond memories of my time with them at the bottom of the world... And I’m not gonna to lie, it was kind of cool to know that I was part of the team that brought these two together.

By Karine Bengualid
Karine Bengualid is Quark Expeditions' Marketing Manager. A keen traveler, this was her first trip to Antarctica and her 6th continent.


Shackleton & Scott voyage to Antarctica with Quark


Jonathan Shackleton (cousin of Sir Ernest Shackleton) and Falcon Scott (grandson of Robert Falcon Scott) are currently on Quark’s 11-day Antarctic Explorer voyage, February 9, 2013, Ocean Diamond Voyage to Antarctica. Their first landing in Antarctica took place on Feb. 12th , 2013 and Scott and Shackleton were on the continent together for the first time. A film crew from NBC's Today Show caught them shaking hands and Scott said to Shackleton "Welcome to my continent", which got lots of laughs and set the tone for the landing.

Both are guest lecturers as part of Quark’s exclusive Experts in Residence Program. Their lectures will add an extra layer of interest and insight to the voyage and will afford passengers the opportunity to experience the expedition in an intimate and conversational environment.

Stay tuned for more photos & updates about the voyage and airing dates for the NBC program.






About Jonathan Shackleton: Jonathan Shackleton is a leading expert on the life and achievements of Ernest Shackleton and authored Shackleton: An Irishman in Antarctica and The Shackletons of Ballitore (1580-1987).

About Falcon Scott : Falcon Scott maintains a longtime interest in the Antarctic and his grandfather's expeditions, and recently spent more than one month in Antarctica working with New Zealand’s Antarctic Heritage Trust to weather-proof his grandfather’s famous expedition base hut.


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