Survival Tails: Endurance in Antarctica


By Katrina Charman

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A group of sled dogs race to survive a perilous journey across Antarctica in the exhilarating second installment of Survival Tails, perfect for fans of the Ranger in Time and I Survived series!

Sled dog Samson wants nothing more than to be part of Ernest Shackleton’s historic voyage to Antarctica. He wants to feel the snow under his paws and the wind on his face as he races across the ice fields, and most of all he wants to help his humans find eternal glory as they chart the continent. His fellow sled dog, Bummer, just wants to get through the voyage in one piece. Why would he want to face down a dangerous, icy wasteland when he could stay inside his kennel, warm and safe?

When their ship, the Endurance, becomes trapped in sea ice, leaving the dogs and men with no way home, their journey becomes not about personal glory, but about survival. Samson, Bummer, and the other dogs will have to put aside their differences and band together to rescue their humans…and themselves.

With engaging nonfiction back matter that delves into the fascinating true story behind the book, Survival Tails: Endurance in Antarctica is sure to keep readers entertained as the second entry in this series of action-packed animal adventures.




July 1914

Samson panted, trying to stay cool as he kept pace with the dogs at the front of the pack. Each dog was determined to stay one step ahead of the others, trying to prove himself. Like him, they were mutts—a mixture of more than one breed: Newfoundland, Saint Bernard, wolfhound—specifically selected for their size, strength, and thick fur.

Samson imagined he was running free in the Antarctic, a cool breeze blasting against his face as he bounded through deep, unblemished snow never before trodden on by human or dog. He chased his companions across ice-covered lakes until his legs and lungs burned. He breathed in air so fresh and pure that he felt he could run forever.

One of the dogs beside him edged ahead, grinning as he began to overtake Samson. Samson grinned back, accepting the challenge and digging down even further inside himself to go faster, faster! He quickly caught up with the other dog so that there was barely a nose between them. Samson pulled farther ahead, watching the dog’s expression as he took the lead. But instead of racing faster, the dog suddenly pulled back as though afraid to continue.

Samson turned to run for victory just in time to see the brick wall enclosing the dogs’ exercise yard looming dead ahead. He skidded to a halt, narrowly avoiding a collision as his attention slammed back to reality.

A whistle sounded, and he and the nine other dogs in his group were led back into the building that housed their kennels. Samson reluctantly followed, his daydream fading as each dog was put into their own cage. Each dog’s name was written in chalk on a board hung above. The kennels were dark and the atmosphere hot and stifling. Samson’s thick fur was much better suited to the freezing temperatures of his Canadian homeland than the smoggy, humid London air.

Like Samson, the other dogs were restless. With almost a hundred dogs in such close proximity, a brawl broke out practically every time a group was let out for daily exercise. Today was no different. Exercise time was always too short, and Samson’s muscles were still tightly knotted from being imprisoned in his kennel all night. The other dogs hated being locked back up. They growled warnings to their kennel neighbors in frustration, snapping their jaws and baring their teeth, each attempting to assert authority over the other. Those dogs would never be chosen for the expedition, Samson thought with a shake of his head. They were too wild.

He tried to settle in a comfortable position in what little space he had, resting his chin on his paws, hoping for a little nap despite the constant yapping and bickering. As he dozed, his mind wandered, filled with thoughts of what might lie ahead. He couldn’t wait for the expedition to begin. To be on a ship heading off toward adventure.

The famous explorer Ernest Shackleton had requested that ninety-nine dogs be brought over from their homeland to accompany him on his next journey into the unknown. Shackleton planned to be the first person to make the trip across land from one side of Antarctica to the other, while the Ross sea party set up supply depots on the opposite side. Shackleton would be looking for dogs who were strong, able to lead, not quick to brawl. Samson knew he could be all those things, but more than that, he wanted to discover new frontiers and make his mark on the world just as Shackleton had.

A snuffle came from his left, and Samson opened one eye to peer through the wire cage at the dog next to him. Samson’s neighbor was smaller than most of the other dogs, and his fur wasn’t as full. Where Samson had long white-and-gray fur that hung in his eyes, this dog’s fur was brown, short, and wiry. Samson remembered him from the voyage over from Canada. The dog had been sick most of the journey. While the other dogs had relished the spray in their faces from the crashing waves, and the salty tang of the ocean air, this dog had barely left his kennel. Samson wondered how he had been chosen to come in the first place. If he couldn’t handle a simple boat trip, the poor fellow wouldn’t survive the journey to Antarctica, let alone the expedition.

The dog snuffled again.

“Is everything all right?” Samson whispered, so the other dogs wouldn’t hear. They had mostly ignored the dog when he was keeping to himself in his kennel, and Samson had been too caught up in his own excitement about the journey ahead. But if they sensed a crying dog in their midst, he’d have no chance.

The dog glanced over at Samson, then dropped his head to his paws again with a groan.

“I don’t belong here.” The dog sighed. “Look at these other dogs.” He glanced up again. “Look at you! I can barely keep up with them out in the yard, let alone haul a great hulking sled behind me.”

Samson moved closer to the wire cage dividing them. “I’m sure you’re not all that bad,” he said. “Besides, we’ll be trained first. There will be plenty of time to build up your strength and stamina.”

The dog sniffed. “You think so?”

Samson nodded. “I’m sure of it. The humans must have seen something in you to have picked you to come to England in the first place. C’mon, what are you best at?”

The dog hesitated. “Well… I’m a good hunter,” he said.

“There you go,” Samson replied. “Don’t give up just yet.”

The dog’s eyes brightened. “I’m Bummer,” he said with a shy smile.

Samson smiled back. “Samson. Nice to meet you.”

Bummer was quiet for a moment and Samson lay back down.

“What do you suppose will happen to us if we’re not chosen?” Bummer asked.

Samson paused. He wasn’t sure of the answer, and he wasn’t all that certain that Bummer would be chosen, but he didn’t want to dampen the smaller dog’s spirits now that he’d started to cheer up. “Probably be sent back to Canada,” he said. “But that won’t happen to us. Think positively. I’m strong and fast, and you’re a good hunter. That’ll be worth something.”

Before Bummer could reply, the dog in the cage on his other side began laughing. “Don’t lie to him,” he howled. “The runt has no chance and you know it.”

Samson growled, but the dog ignored him, leaning so close against the cage that it looked as if dog and wire were merging into one. “You’re too small, too slow, too weak,” he told Bummer.

Samson growled another warning at the dog as Bummer backed into the corner of his cage, his tail between his legs.

“See?” The dog laughed. “He hasn’t got an ounce of courage. The main thing you need in the wilderness is courage. Expeditions are not for the fainthearted. He doesn’t belong here with the likes of us.”

Bummer whimpered.

“That’s enough!” Samson barked, jumping up against his cage. The other dog did the same as Bummer cowered in the middle.

“What’s all this noise about, Amundsen?” a man asked, hurrying in from the yard. He glanced at the two dogs growling at each other and opened Amundsen’s cage. “Time for some exercise,” the man said. “Looks like you could burn off a bit of energy.”

Another human joined the first and they opened some of the other cages, leashing five dogs each to lead them outside to the paved yard.

“I’m glad we’re not in Amundsen’s exercise group,” Samson muttered as he watched them leave. Amundsen was clearly bad news. Samson was sure he and Bummer hadn’t heard the last of him.

“Did you see Shackleton’s advertisement?” a third man asked a fourth a few cages down as he swept Amundsen’s cage. Samson’s ears pricked up. The man pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and unfolded it. “I was thinking of applying,” he said, passing it over to his companion.

“‘Men wanted for hazardous journey,’” the other man read out loud. “‘Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.’”

He folded up the paper and handed it back. “You’re a braver man than me,” he said. “I wouldn’t last five minutes in those conditions. It’s bad enough working these kennels in the winter.”

Samson turned to Bummer. “Did you hear that?” he asked, his tail wagging as the men moved away to clean out the other vacant cages. “Honor and recognition!”

Bummer shook his head. “All I heard was constant danger. Amundsen was right. I don’t belong here.”

“Don’t listen to Amundsen. He’s just trying to spook as many dogs as he can so that he’ll have a better chance of getting in. Look at him,” Samson said, nodding toward the yard, where Amundsen seemed to be holding court, with six dogs surrounding him and listening intently to his every word. “He’s a bully. Plain and simple. Shackleton won’t want dogs like that on the trip.”

Amundsen’s ears pricked up. He shot a glance over at Samson, baring his teeth in a grin.

Bummer looked at Samson uncertainly.

“Just wait and see,” Samson reassured him. “Soon you and I will be off on a grand adventure, and Amundsen will be far, far behind us.”



July 1914

Bummer couldn’t get the words constant danger out of his mind. It was all he could think about when awake, all he dreamed about when he got what little sleep he could. Worst of all, he couldn’t stop thinking about what would happen to him when he wasn’t chosen—when neither his master back home nor Shackleton wanted him.

“He’s here!” Samson barked. “Shackleton is here.” His tail wagged so hard that it smack, smack, smacked against the wire cage as fast as Bummer’s heartbeat.

“What do you think we’ll have to do?” Bummer asked, pressing his face against the wire to get a glimpse of the man who held their future in his hands.

Samson frowned, then his eyes brightened. “Maybe a bit of running?” he suggested. “I hope it’s running. I’m good at running.”

“I bet you’re good at everything,” Bummer said under his breath.

Samson was one of the biggest dogs, if not the biggest dog there. Even though his fur was thick and full, Bummer could still see the curve of his muscles and the power they held. Samson was likely to be chosen as soon as Shackleton laid eyes on him, and Amundsen along with him.

It suddenly occurred to Bummer that being between two of the largest, strongest dogs was not likely to put him in the best light.

A row of men lined up, each taking a dog from the kennel to lead them out into the yard. Bummer took a deep breath as Samson gave him a reassuring nod. The dogs stood in a long row with their allocated humans, their backs against the wall as Shackleton stood before them, notebook and pencil in hand. He was not a tall man, Bummer thought, but he had the presence of a giant. In his smart gray pinstripe suit and black shoes so highly polished that the morning light glinted off them, there was no doubt that he was the alpha. He paraded slowly up and down, pausing every so often to examine a dog or scribble something in his pad.

He shook his head at two of the men and they took their dogs away, leading them out through the tall wooden gates at the opposite end of the yard.

“Where are they going?” Bummer whispered to Samson.

“Isn’t it obvious?” Amundsen snapped before Samson could answer. “They’re no good.”

Bummer lowered his head and tried to swallow down the huge lump in his throat as the dogs were led past, their eyes wide with confusion and a fear that matched his own. They were bigger than he was and likely stronger. If they weren’t chosen, Bummer thought, he had no chance.

“Swap places with me,” Bummer said, trying to squeeze past Samson to move farther down the line, closer to some slightly smaller dogs where he wouldn’t be so dwarfed, but the man holding his leash pulled him back firmly.

“Stay calm,” Samson whispered out of the corner of his mouth. “Just do what I do.”

Bummer gave a quick nod and straightened up, trying to keep his legs from shaking as he mirrored Samson’s stance. Stand firm. Tail straight. Head high.

He tried to focus as Shackleton neared. Resisting the urge to watch what was happening, he stared straight ahead. Finally, a dark shadow fell over Bummer and he held his breath, not daring to look Shackleton in the eye.

“These two,” Shackleton said.

Samson looked at Bummer with a wide grin. Bummer stared back. He couldn’t believe it! He’d been chosen. He moved to follow Samson as he was led back to the kennels, but his leash held firm.

Amundsen gave a harsh laugh beside him. “You didn’t think he meant you?” he said, following Samson.

Bummer felt his heart drop out of his chest. What had he expected? He wondered why he’d ever hoped he might have a chance. His brother had told him as much before Bummer had left Canada. He was the one who was supposed to come to London, not Bummer. It was only because their master had changed his mind at the last minute—hadn’t wanted to give up his best dog—that Bummer had been offered up in his place.

He hadn’t belonged there and he didn’t belong here, either.

Bummer’s tail sagged as he watched the lucky dogs who had been chosen being led to the kennels, their tails wagging and heads held high in triumph, while those who hadn’t made the cut were led out of the gate. Bummer could feel their disappointment growing in his own belly as he waited to be led the same way.

A set of bricks was laid out across the yard in a wavy path. The remaining dogs were given a new task—to weave in and out of the bricks as fast as they could. It seemed easy enough, Bummer thought, but it had rained earlier that morning and the cobblestones were slick with water.

A sudden determination came over him as he was led to the starting point. Shackleton hadn’t cut him yet. He still had a chance to prove himself. Bummer dug his claws into the ground and ducked his head low, trying to ignore the roar of blood in his ears and the tremor in his legs.

“You’re still here,” he whispered to himself. “Don’t give up yet. You’re still here.”

Shackleton held up his shiny golden pocket watch and shouted, “Go!”

Bummer ran as fast and hard as he could, swiftly weaving in and out between the bricks as though he’d done it a thousand times before. He was almost at the end when something small and gray darted ahead, making him lose focus.

A mouse.

Bummer’s front paw slipped and he flew forward, tripping over the last brick, tumbling head over paw to land in a heap at the wall.

Shackleton shook his head, making a mark on his notepad.

Bummer glanced around desperately as his man came over with his leash. He didn’t want to leave! Not when he’d finally found a friend, not when he’d had just the tiniest bit of hope that he might actually be chosen.

He spotted the mouse again, zipping along the bottom edge of the wall toward Shackleton. Bummer pulled away as the man leaned down to leash him, and raced toward Shackleton at full pelt, skidding right between his legs to dive at the blur. Then he turned back, lifting his prize in the air between his jaws triumphantly.

The tiny mouse he’d caught wriggled and squealed, shaking a paw at Bummer. “Let me go, you overgrown rat!”

Shackleton stared at Bummer and the mouse for a moment before whispering something to the man with the leash. The man nodded and headed toward Bummer, eyeing him warily.

Bummer’s head drooped. What had he been thinking? He’d tried to make one last attempt at showing Shackleton what he could do but had only ended up looking like a wild animal. He gently lowered the mouse to the ground, letting him go. “Sorry,” he said.

The mouse gave a shrill “Hmmph!” and scampered off.

Bummer sat down to allow the man to leash him, then started toward the gate, but the man pulled firmly in the other direction.

“Back to the kennels, you daft dog!” the man huffed. “Are you sure you want this one?” he called over to Shackleton.

Shackleton gave Bummer a small smile, then nodded. “I like his spirit.”

Bummer strutted back to the kennels, feeling bigger than Amundsen and Samson combined.



August 1914

It had been a tense few weeks while they’d waited at the kennels to be brought to Plymouth, where Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance, was docked. As much as he hated sailing, Bummer had to admit that the ship was impressive. It had been specially adapted to withstand the harsh conditions of the Antarctic, with a thick frame and hull reinforced at every possible point. Its bow was sleek and narrow, resembling the sharp-edged blade of an ax, able to cut through thick pack ice as easily as water. Three tall masts reached to the sky and a shorter funnel stood at the stern of the ship, and four sturdy lifeboats—two on each side—hung out over the water from the top deck.

The sixty-nine dogs chosen to join Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition had their own open-fronted wooden kennels, which ran the length of both sides of the top deck. To his relief, Bummer and Samson had remained kennel neighbors at the bow, the front end of the ship. The dogs were kept chained to their kennels, but the chains were long and loose and the dogs were often released as long as they didn’t cause any trouble or get in the crew’s way. Bummer preferred to stay in the relative safety of his kennel, as far away from Amundsen as it was possible to get on a ship surrounded by water.

“I knew he’d be chosen,” Bummer whispered to Samson, nodding down the deck at Amundsen.

“Well, I was right about one thing,” Samson said with a grin.

“What’s that?”

“That you and I would both be chosen,” Samson said.

Bummer shook his head in disbelief. There were so many other dogs who would have been far better suited to the expedition than him. He still couldn’t quite believe it. He watched the humans on the quayside, waving farewell, and couldn’t help but wonder how long it would be until they returned to civilization.

“Where’s the boss?” one of the men called out, scanning the deck for Shackleton as he hurried past. “Britain has declared war against Germany!”

The men called Shackleton the boss, and the dogs had taken to doing the same.

“What does that mean?” Samson asked. “Are we still going to Antarctica?”

“Not if the humans need this ship for their war,” Bummer replied, feeling an odd mixture of disappointment and relief all at once.

Samson looked distraught. “But I wanted to make my mark on the world. I want to be known for doing something… amazing.” He sighed.

Bummer couldn’t help but feel disappointed for his friend, even if he wasn’t sure he felt the same way. The excitement of being chosen for the expedition had quickly worn off and slowly turned into a nauseating dread in the pit of his stomach that he wasn’t entirely sure was due to seasickness.

“I’m sure there will be other expeditions,” Bummer said to himself as much as to Samson.

They strained against their chains as Shackleton appeared on deck, waving a piece of paper in his hand. He gathered the men around. “It’s a telegram from the Admiralty,” he told them. Men and dogs moved closer, eager to hear the news. “Britain is at war with Germany,” he said solemnly. “But we have been sent word that we can continue with the expedition.” He held up the telegram for all to see. “It says: Proceed!”

The men cheered and the dogs barked. Samson howled in delight that he would get his big adventure after all. To his surprise, despite the fear of the unknown, Bummer couldn’t help but feel a burst of excitement, too. This was his chance, he thought, to prove that he did belong. After a long pause, Bummer added his barks and howls to the chorus.

“Are you not pleased?” a voice purred from above. “You don’t seem as excited as the others.”

Bummer peered up to see a cat with patches of brown and black and white fur lounging on his kennel roof, her tail waving hypnotically back and forth.

“Of course, just a little nervous about what lies ahead, that’s all. What are you doing on board?” he asked.

“I came with my human, the carpenter,” she said. “I’m Mrs. Chippy.”

“Aren’t you afraid of being the only cat on a ship full of dogs?” Bummer asked.

“Should I be?” Mrs. Chippy asked with a sly smile.

“Not of me, I suppose.” Bummer gestured down the deck toward Amundsen. “But maybe some of the others.”

“Don’t worry about me,” Mrs. Chippy said, standing to stretch out her back. “I’m not so easily scared.”

“Have you been on a ship before?” Bummer asked.

Mrs. Chippy shook her head. “No, but I’m sure it’s no different from being on land,” she said. “Better, in fact… On land you don’t have food readily available at any time of day or night. Just look at all that fresh fish.” She peered over the edge of the ship, licking her jaws.

Bummer laughed. “Not so easy to catch, though.”

Mrs. Chippy frowned. “I’ll find a way,” she said. “Or I’ll pester my human until he catches some for me.”


  • Praise for Survival Tails: Endurance in Antarctica:
"The story is filled with suspense and dramatic events that stretch credulity yet are indeed based in fact. This book lures its audience into the sled dogs' world of cracking ice, leopard seals, and killer whales, and leaves them with newfound respect for both the animals and the ferocity of the polar climate."—School Library Connection
  • Praise for Survival Tails: The Titanic:
  • "...the perfect combination of adventure and history. Recommend this book to readers of Lauren Tarshis's "I Survived" tales."—School Library Journal
  • "An exciting, sometimes humorous, adventure...blends well-written, riveting animal fantasy with historical information about the ship's disastrous voyage."—Booklist
  • "This new take on the infamous tragedy of the Titanic is full of close calls and animal high jinks."—Kirkus Reviews
  • On Sale
    Dec 11, 2018
    Page Count
    272 pages