The books in the Explorers series take young readers back in time to share explorations that had a major impact on people’s view of the world. Kids will investigate why and how the explorers made their journeys and learn about animals they discovered along the way. They’ll find out how some animals affected the outcome of the journey, helping explorers find their way, causing key events to happen, or helping the explorers survive. Young readers will also learn that, because of the explorers’ journeys, animals were introduced to places they’d never lived before, sometimes with dramatic results.
Would you believe that, once, worms inspired people to explore the world? In fifteenth-century Europe, silk made from the thread of silkworms was more valuable than gold. Silk and silkworms could only be found in the areas now known as China and Japan, and finding the fastest sea route between these areas and Europe could make an explorer very rich. Christopher Columbus was determined to find that route. In 1492, he set off with three ships, and while he did find land, it wasn't what he expected. Neither were the animals he found along the way.Readers learn about the Silk Road and the quest to find an easier route to the silk and spice trade. It took more than eight years for Columbus to sell his plan. The description of the ships includes information about cats and rats, both of which were common shipmates, as well as "bugs in the grub." The fleet set sail on August 3, 1492. They had problems early on and landed in the Canary Islands before they set sail again. They entered the Sargasso Sea in mid-September. The wealth of animals they spotted led them to believe they were close to land, but this was not the case. Finally, in mid-October, they spotted land.
Christopher Columbus leapt out of his boat ahead of all the others and waded onto the beach. There he dropped to his knees and gave thanks for a safe voyage. He named the new land San Salvador and claimed it for Spain. Neither Columbus nor the Spanish rulers cared that a group of people Columbus came to call the Tainos (TI-nohz) had already settled on the island and called it Guanahani (Gwah-nah-hah-KNEE).The author makes no bones abut Columbus' actions towards the natives and states that "Columbus ordered his men to capture six of the natives. In his logbook he described them as strong, healthy, smart, and likely to be good slaves." Columbus sailed through the islands of the Caribbean for two months before departing in on Christmas Eve in 1492. Around midnight, the Santa Maria struck a coral reef and began to sink. Columbus was forced to join the crew of the Niña and left the crew of the Santa Maria behind to found a colony on the island he named Española. On January 6, the Pinta and Niña finally reunited to sail home, but it was a difficult journey. Both ships finally returned to the Spanish port of Palos on March 15, 1493. In April of 1493, Columbus went to meet the King and Queen and show them all he had brought back from the Caribbean, including the Taino captives, gold, and animals.
As the story of Columbus is told, sidebars and other text bits describe the animals Columbus encountered. The page displaying a map of the islands that Columbus explored describes seabirds, painted fish, baby turtles, and mermaids (manatees). The page describing the sinking of the Santa Maria is accompanied by the following text.
ANIMALS SANK THE SHIPI found there was less of an emphasis on animals in the volume on Robert Scott. This book seemed to focus more on Scott and the men who made the trek with him. Here is how this one begins.
Coral reefs are really large groups of animals called coral polyps. Each coral polyp produces a hard skeleton around itself, forming a little cup it can hide inside. Neighboring coral polyps link their skeletons together. When they die their skeletons become the foundation on which new coral polyps build. Slowly, the coral colony becomes big enough to form a reef.
Imagine a place that is so far away from where most people live that for ages no one knew it existed. It can be reached only during the summer because in the winter it is surrounded by ice and it's dark nearly all the time. Much of the land is also covered in ice year-round, and the weather is among the fiercest in the world. This place is Antarctica (ant-ARK-ti-kuh).Throughout this book, "boxes" resembling index cards provide information about the exploration, animals, and important findings. Since these explorations took place in the early twentieth century, there are photographs to accompany the illustrations.
Since it's such a long journey to get to Antarctica and conditions there are so unpleasant, why did Robert Falcon Scott go there twice? You may be surprised to learn that animals had a lot to do with why he went and also played a major role in what happened while Scott was there.
Readers first learn a bit about Scott and Dr. Edward Wilson, the assistant surgeon on the expedition who also happened to be a skilled painter who loved to study birds. While Scott oversaw preparations in England, others were being made in New Zealand. Dogs for the expedition were shipped there ahead of the ship's arrival so that they could train for their work. Scott's ship, the Discovery, left Scotland in 1901 on the last day of July. On board were all the supplies they needed, 47 men, and Scott's dog, Scamp. On the way to New Zealand, the ship stopped at Macquarie Island to investigate the wildlife. It was here that Scott and his crew first saw penguins. The Discovery reached New Zealand in November of that same year. It took a month for the crew to overhaul the ship, load more supplies, and take on the sled dogs to prepare for the final journey to Antarctica. Scott and his crew (minus Scamp, whom Scott found a home for) set sail on December 21, 1901.
By the end of January, 1902, the Discovery and her crew were anchored in McMurdo Sound and setting up camp. During the first year they had many preparations to keep them busy. It wasn't until November of 1902 that Scott, Dr. Wilson, and Ernest Shackleton headed south to try and reach the pole. The trip was disastrous, so the group turned back a few days before Christmas. When they returned to McMurdo Sound in February of 1903, they found a ship anchored in the harbor prepared to accompany them back to New Zealand. However, the Discovery was trapped in ice and unable to sail, so the relief ship set sail after leaving behind fresh supplies and a few members of its crew. Scott was happy to stay in Antarctica to further his explorations, while Dr. Wilson was eager to study the Emperor penguins. This second year in Antarctica brought another failed attempt to reach the pole.
Scott returned to England in September of 1904. He was surprised to find he was famous. He returned to service in the navy, married, and dreamed of returning to Antarctica. A second expedition was funded in 1909. Because another explorer was also setting off for Antarctica, papers around the world billed this as a competition to reach the South Pole first. However, Scott's expedition was to study the wildlife, weather, and rocks. This time they brought dogs and ponies with them. Their goal was to drop off supplies along the route they would take the next summer to the South Pole. The trip was fraught with difficulties the entire way. After a winter of study, Scott and a team of 11 men left on November 1, 1911 to try and reach the pole. When the team reached the Beardmore Glacier, 3 men and the dog teams were sent back. In January of 1912, three more men were sent back. Only 4 men remained with Scott to reach the Pole. In March a dog team set out to meet Scott's team at a supply depot, but after six days of waiting, they left alone.
In reading about Scott's quest to reach the Pole, I found myself wondering why anyone would persist in the face of such difficulties. My son was caught up in the story of the dogs and horses, and what he perceived to be terrible treatment of them. He couldn't get past how difficult and deadly the work was for them. No matter what captures your fancy, there's no denying this is a gripping tale.
On first glance I thought the Animals __ Saw in the title was a bit misleading. While there is plenty of information about the animals that were encountered, studied, and even eaten along the way, particularly in the Columbus book, the emphasis really is on the exploration.
In the end, I found I was utterly fascinated with these books. In addition to the wealth of information in the texts, both contain a glossary, extensive index, and information on books and web sites where readers can learn more. Teachers will be happy to know that there is a guide for this series.
Author: Sandra Markle
Illustrator: Jamel Akib
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Date Published: 2008
Pages: 48 pages
Book: Animals Robert Scott Saw: An Adventure in Antarctica
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Date Published: 2008
Pages: 48 pages