Voyage of Ice

Voyage of Ice

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by Michele Torrey

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All Nick ever wanted to be was a whaling captain, like his father before him. What could be more glorious than the life of a whaleman, battling mighty sperm whales and returning home rich as Midas? So when his older brother Dexter signs aboard the Sea Hawk, Nick won’t stand to be left behind.

But life at sea is very different from what either


All Nick ever wanted to be was a whaling captain, like his father before him. What could be more glorious than the life of a whaleman, battling mighty sperm whales and returning home rich as Midas? So when his older brother Dexter signs aboard the Sea Hawk, Nick won’t stand to be left behind.

But life at sea is very different from what either Dexter or Nick expected. They are mercilessly overworked by a cruel and dangerous captain. The officers think nothing of beating the crewmen within an inch of their lives. And that’s only the beginning. When an awful turn of fate leaves them stranded in the harsh Arctic winter, they encounter the toughest battle of all—and this one is for their very survival.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In the first of her projected Chronicle of Courage seafaring series, Torrey (To the Edge of the World) unspools a nail-biting adventure of two brothers, sons of a whaling captain who has died at sea. Nick, the narrator, is 15 when he and his older brother, Dexter, enlist for a tour of service aboard the whaler Sea Hawk in 1851. Quickly nicknamed Bones for his skinny frame, Nick endures relentless abuse from older shipmates and the cruel Captain Ebenezer Thorndike. Dexter, defending Nick, receives gruesome punishments, and one night Nick's ribs and nose are broken from beatings, and rats and cockroaches thrown into his bed. The brothers' plan to desert backfires and only intensifies Thorndike's animosity toward them-as does the growing mutual attraction between Nick and the captain's beautiful daughter. All of these events unfold against the backdrop of the whaling itself, a gory and messy business for which Nick's father's descriptions have left the boy unprepared: "The blood was hot and horrible and I wanted to cry. Whaling was nothing like I'd imagined." A shipwreck in the Arctic brings other dire challenges, all of them dramatic and many of them grim (a shipmate's cannibalism, a grave raided by a bear). Torrey's sharply focused prose gives each development the ring of credibility, and those who like survival tales will be rapt. Ages 10-up. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
In the 1600's, whales were common along U.S. coastlines. But 200 years of whale hunts depleted most species, and whaling ships of the 1850's had to venture thousands of miles from home into Arctic waters to fill their holds with valuable whale oil. When 15-year-old Nick Robbins and his older brother Dexter sign on to a New Bedford, Massachusetts whaling ship, romantic boyhood notions of an easy, lucrative life are soon knocked out of their heads. Dangerous, backbreaking work, an abusive captain, and rats chewing their toenails at night soon take their toll. After his first horrifying experience butchering a whale, Nick resolves to someday escape the whaling life. The captain's enchanting daughter Elizabeth befriends Nick, but he risks a flogging each time he speaks to her. When the ship runs aground in the Arctic and sinks, Nick saves the injured captain and Elizabeth, reaching shore with Dexter and a few survivors to face polar bear attacks and starvation, trapped on the icepack. Plucky Elizabeth becomes a hunter who outlasts the men in her determination not to succumb to hopelessness. Wandering lost one night, Elizabeth and Nick find a native encampment. The native people feed and clothe them all until the spring thaw. Powerful descriptions, authentic language and details, and an absorbing plot propel this superior historical fiction. A glossary of sea terms, a bibliography, and an author's note describing whaling and the decimation of whale populations add to the book's usefulness in the classroom. 2004, Alfred A. Knopf, Ages 10 up.
—Ann Philips
Fifteen-year-old Nicholas and his brother, Dexter, have signed on to the Sea Hawk, a whaler bound to fill her hold with whale oil and blubber. By 1851, whaling ships must travel ever longer distances to find their quarry. The boys soon discover that whaling is not glamorous. The work is difficult, the food sparse, and ship captains have a free hand in running their vessels. To his misfortune, Nicholas catches the eye of Elizabeth Thorndike, the captain's teenage daughter, and as a result takes excessive abuse from the captain and crew. Finding whales scarce, Captain Thorndike sails toward the Arctic, where they are reportedly plentiful. Luck is no better there, and the Arctic winter threatens. Before the Sea Hawk can sail to safety, it is shipwrecked. Among the survivors are Nicholas, Dexter, Elizabeth, Thorndike, and several crew members. The torturous Arctic winter tests Nicholas as he tries to survive the weather, hunger, wild animals, and rebellious shipmates. This book is more a tribute to whales than a whaling adventure. While describing life aboard a whaler, it lacks the action of a seafaring tale appealing to targeted readers, ages ten to thirteen. The frequent use of imagery slows the pace, and although the book chronicles young Nicholas's maturation, this leisurely pace will make it a tough sell. The book's comprehensive glossary, bibliography, and afterword describing the whaling industry will supplement a lesson on whaling. The novel might appeal to a reader with an interest in whaling; however, it lacks the punch of an adventure with more general appeal. VOYA CODES: 3Q 2P M (Readable without serious defects; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School,defined as grades 6 to 8). 2004, Knopf, 192p.; Glossary. Biblio., and PLB Ages 11 to 14.
—Ed Goldberg
School Library Journal
Gr 6-10-A gripping story wrapped around the theme that there is no glory in whaling. Desperately wanting to follow in the footsteps of their late father, the captain of a whaler, Dexter and Nick leave behind their easy life with their aunt in New Bedford and sign aboard the Sea Hawk as soon as Nick turns 15. However, Nick soon discovers that he hates everything about the job-the captain, the crew, the harsh punishments, the danger, and the killing and processing of whales. The only bright spots are the rare sightings of the captain's daughter, and he knows better than to even look at her directly for the fear of dire repercussions, and being with his brother. Nick's experiences include an attempted desertion, sailing through the ice-filled waters of the Arctic, a shipwreck, and a struggle to survive the winter. The novel will educate as well as entertain, as there is a lot of adventure intertwined with the accurate descriptions of shipboard life, survival in a hostile environment, and the Native people who eventually rescue the castaways. The main characters, and some of the lesser ones, are well developed and readers come to care about their fate. In addition to being a good seafaring yarn, this title could be used as parallel reading about the history of 19th-century New England and whaling. An extensive glossary of whaling and nautical terms, a lengthy bibliography, and a historical note are appended.-Nancy P. Reeder, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Columbia, SC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
10 Years

Meet the Author

Michele Torrey, a voyager herself, has visited over 30 countries. She is also the author of To the Edge of the World and the Doyle and Fossey, Science Detectives, mystery series. The author lives in Auburn, WA.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Voyage of Ice 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago