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Authors: Iain Lawrence

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The Winter Pony

BOOK: The Winter Pony
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ALSO BY IAIN LAWRENCE

The Giant-Slayer
The Séance
Gemini Summer
B for Buster
The Lightkeeper’s Daughter
Lord of the Nutcracker Men
Ghost Boy

THE CURSE OF THE JOLLY STONE TRILOGY
The Convicts
The Cannibals
The Castaways

THE HIGH SEAS TRILOGY
The Wreckers
The Smugglers
The Buccaneers

This is a work of fiction. All incidents and dialogue, and all characters with the exception of some well-known historical and public figures, are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Where real-life historical or public figures appear, the situations, incidents, and dialogues concerning those persons are fictional and are not intended to depict actual events or to change the fictional nature of the work. In all other respects, any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2011 by Iain Lawrence
Jacket art copyright © 2011 by Tim O’Brien
Map copyright © Rick Britton

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Lawrence, Iain
The winter pony / Iain Lawrence. — 1st ed.
p. cm.
Summary: An account—from the point of view of a pony—of what it was like to be part of Captain Robert Scott’s 1910 expedition to reach the South Pole before rival Roald Amundsen.
eISBN: 978-0-375-98361-0
1. British Antarctic (“Terra Nova”) Expedition (1910–1913)—Fiction. [1. British Antarctic (“Terra Nova”) Expedition (1910–1913)—Fiction. 2. Ponies—Fiction. 3. Explorers—Fiction. 4. South Pole—Discovery and exploration—Fiction. 5. Antarctica—Discovery and exploration—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.L43545Wi 2011
[Fic]—dc22         
2010053550

Random House Children’s Books supports the
First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.

v3.1

WITH LOVE,
FOR MY FATHER

Contents

The year is 1910, and a great adventure is beginning. It will take two years to finish and will end in a desperate race across the bottom of the world, with a dead man being the winner. But for now it’s just an adventure
.

The American explorers Robert Peary and Frederick Cook are both home from the Arctic, each claiming to have beaten the other to the North Pole. There is now only one land unexplored, one place to discover: the South Pole. Men in six countries are raising expeditions in the hope of being the first to get there
.

Two are nearly ready
.

In London, Robert Falcon Scott is preparing a ship. He’s a captain in the Royal Navy, already a hero of southern exploration. Seven years ago, with Ernest Shackleton and Bill Wilson as companions, he discovered the polar plateau and pushed his way past 82 degrees south latitude, about five hundred miles from the Pole. No one had ever been nearer
.

There’s a strong feeling in England that a Briton should be first to the South Pole. Donations pour in to Captain Scott’s expedition. Eight thousand men volunteer to go with him. Lawrence Oates, a cavalry officer in the Inniskilling Dragoons, gives a thousand pounds in the hope that he can go along to care for the ponies that have been bought by donations from sailors. A young biologist named Apsley Cherry-Garrard is nearly blind without his glasses, but he donates another thousand to join up with Captain Scott. Schoolchildren raise money to buy sled dogs. Captain Scott himself travels up and down the country giving lectures and lantern-slide shows
.

In Norway, the explorer Roald Amundsen is planning his own expedition. But he’s keeping it a secret. He’s telling his financiers that he means to go north, to study the Arctic Ocean by drifting with the pack ice. He hasn’t even told his crew where they’re really heading in his borrowed ship, the famous
Fram.
It would make no difference; they would follow him anywhere. Amundsen was the first man through the Northwest Passage. He has driven sled dogs across the Arctic and learned the ways of the Inuit. He was first mate on the nightmarish voyage of the
Belgica,
trapped so long in the southern sea that his companions lost their minds
.

Both Scott and Amundsen know the frozen continent. Each wants very badly to be the first man to reach the South Pole
.

It’s an enormous prize they’re after. It’s fame and respect, a place in history. But what a trial to win it!

To reach the Pole, you have to navigate a frozen sea that only opens late in summer. You have to push your way through broken floes that might close around you at any moment and trap your ship forever, or crush it in an instant. When at last you get to shore,
you still have nearly a thousand miles to travel, around the crevasses of the Great Ice Barrier, over mountains of staggering height, across a vast wasteland where enormous waves of snow are driven along by the wind. You can’t carry all the food and equipment you’ll need, so you lay depots along the route, trekking far to the south and back again, moving supplies forward. Then you build a shelter on the shore and sit out the southern winter, with temperatures to sixty below and darkness that lasts for months. As soon as spring appears, you’re off to the Pole. You have to reach it—and return—in one long dash. You must be back before winter catches you in the open, before your food runs out, before your feet and fingers freeze
.

If you’re lucky, your ship might be waiting. There might still be time to get off the continent before the sea freezes again. But if you’re late, or winter’s early, you have to wait for another summer
.

There are seals and penguins to eat, though many men choose not to. Everything else is brought in your ship: food for men and animals; sledges; harnesses; skis and boots and winter clothing. There’s not a single tree on the whole continent, so you have to bring enough wood to build your hut, enough fuel to cook every meal
.

You’re in the loneliest place on earth. But there are signs here and there that others have come before you. A whole ship lies at the bottom of the sea, splintered by the ice. A wooden hut sits above the beach, food and sleeping bags still frozen inside. The walls of a stone shelter crumble by the shore. Tattered remains of abandoned tents blow in the wind like the clothes of old scarecrows. And little cairns of snow still stand on the dreadful Barrier, though the wind whittles them away, month by month
.

You might wonder if it’s worth the trouble, all the danger and
the fear. But if you’re the right sort of person, the answer is easy. All you can think about is that prize, the honor of being first to the Pole. So many men want it, but only one can have it
.

Amundsen is taking nearly a hundred dogs. He believes they can pull light sledges all the way to the Pole. He means to move quickly, taking little food and few supplies
.

Captain Scott is planning a lengthy stay and a careful assault. He’s taking scientists to study the ice and the weather, the geology, the plants and animals. He’s bringing motor sledges to carry the load for the polar party. He saw them in action in Norway and was so impressed that he now has three of the machines. Each can haul a thousand pounds at seven miles an hour, on and on, with no need for food or sleep
.

He’s taking harnesses for man-hauling, the British way of polar travel. But he’s taking dogs as well, though he’s afraid they’ll let him down. On his last expedition, he had great trouble with his dogs and had to kill them all. Now he sends a man to Siberia to buy the best he can find
.

Scott knows that Ernest Shackleton had greater success with ponies on his later expedition. So he instructs his man to pick out twenty ponies once the dogs are gathered. They must be light colored, every one, he says. All of Shackleton’s dark-colored ponies died
.

The man is Cecil Meares, an expert on dog teams and sledding. But he knows almost nothing about ponies. So he hires a Russian jockey to help, and they set out for the Great Wall of China, to a horse fair in the town of Harbin. He goes searching for Manchurian ponies
.

BOOK: The Winter Pony
9.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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