Into the Unknown

Into the Unknown

Author Stewart Ross admits that exploration is ³not just about technological advances; it's also about people.² Make no mistake, though, this book delights in those technological advances, and illustrator Stephen Biesty's artwork is perhaps the centerpiece of this work.

Each of the fourteen journeys covered here begins with a a contextual background of the explorer, his or her times, the motivation for the exploration, and a few intriguing, little-known facts. The writing is inviting and punctuated by small illustrations of such related items as navigational tools, how a sail's shape affects steering, maps, the breathing apparatus used by Edmund Hillary, and other visuals that enhance the narrative.

What soon becomes the most anticipated part of this book, however, is unfolding the extra-large paper at the end of each chapter; the reader is rewarded with diagrams of boat building details, the layout of a caravansary (where Marco Polo spent many nights on the Silk Road), exploded views of boats and airships, even a cross section of the Columbia and a tracing of its trip to the moon. One of the more amusing illustrations is the depiction of the Ma Robert, the boat that carried David Livingstone into the depths of Africa. Its gorgeously detailed drawing includes and points out all the design flaws that made it unsuitable for its journey.

While Ross covers the explorers you've come to expect (Columbus, Polo, Magellan) he surprises with attention to those more often overlooked like Mary Kingsley, Pytheas, and Zheng He. In addition, through Biesty's illustrations the reader will become better acquainted with the adjustable rudder, the make up of an astronaut's suit, the Vikings' navigational tool, and the layers of the earth's atmosphere.

Give this book to potential illustrators and those interested in exploration, history, and inventions. They won't be disappointed!

Reviewed by Jane Behrens, High School Librarian, Johnston High School


How did successful explorers of land, sea, and air get to their destinations? Fourteen historic journeys travel across the oceans of the world, up into the stratosphere and down to the deepest place on earth.


Less-known expeditions, like Pytheas the Greek sailing to the Arctic Circle in 340 BC and Mary Kingsley’s solo travels in West Africa in 1895, are highlighted along with familiar firsts such as Magellan’s fleet circumnavigating the globe and Apollo 11 landing on the Moon. Peek inside a camel caravansary on the Silk Road, retrace the difficult trek up Mt. Everest, and compare the construction techniques of various seagoing ships with Biesty’s ever-popular cross-section diagrams.


Each chapter contains illustrated foldouts which show ships, aircraft, or extreme condition clothing in intricate detail, as well as clear maps of each journey. You’ll travel across the seas, through the skies, on perilous land journeys, and even into space with the amazingly complex drawings and intriguing text in this well-designed book. 92 pages plus foldouts (and the book cover unfolds to become a world map of all 14 journeys!).


Recommended by: Katy Manck, Librarian-at-Large (retired academic/corporate/school librarian), Gilmer, Texas, USA

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