Mrs. Chippy's Last Expedition: The Remarkable Journal of Shackleton's Polar-Bound Cat

by Caroline Alexander

Hardcover, 1997

Call number




Harpercollins (1997), Edition: 1st, 176 pages


The carpenter has a very fine cat who is known as "Mrs. Chippie..." -- from the diary of Commander F. A. Worsley, captain of Shackleton' s "Endurance." When Sir Ernest Shackleton' s ship "Endurance" became trapped in the Antarctic ice, all twenty-nine members of the crew were pushed to their limits of survival, including Mrs. Chippy, the ship' s estimable cat. Fortunately for posterity, Mrs. Chippy left a diary of the ordeal. Closely based on the true events of Shackleton' s heroic journey, and illustrated with authentic photographs taken by Frank Hurley, expedition photographer, "Mrs. Chippy' s Last Expedition" is a firsthand account of one of the greatest adventures in history--from a unique point of view.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Pool_Boy
I loved this book. A fun read from the cat's purrspective. But what a sad ending.
LibraryThing member pouleroulante
tabby cat sails on the Endurance, becomes ice-bound with the rest of them.
Mascara warning:I am sure I cried at some point reading this.
LibraryThing member Othemts
The conceit of this novel is that it is the recovered journal of Mrs. Chippy the (male) ship cat of the Shackleton expedition. At times it verges on excessives cutesyness, and times dull (after all being honest to its source there was a lot of sleeping going on by the narrator). But since I like both cats and the Shackleton expedition I enjoyed this book thoroughly. Especially since the cat saw himself as a vital part of the expedition and a full member of the crew. Interactions with the crew are given a distinctive cat's-eye view, and Mrs. Chippy describes his important watches (ie - resting in the sun on deck) and duties. The end of the book is heartbreaking. I actually had no knowledge of Mrs. Chippy's ultimate fate, and the book does not make it explicit, but the last pages before the journal abruptly ends have Mrs. Chippy describing the extra kindness of the crew giving him extra fish and thanking him for coming on board. I found out online that Shackleton ordered that Mrs. Chippy and all the sled dogs be shot before they began their journey over the ice. The ship's carpenter Chippy McNish didn't like that and never forgave Shackleton. After reading this book, it's hard for me to forgive Shackleton.… (more)
LibraryThing member yukon92
An absolute must for any cat lover. My only deduction is for the very abrupt ending that seemed like the author got the required page number and just quit!
LibraryThing member michaelwarr
A view of Shackleton's Endurance expedition from a cat's point of view.
LibraryThing member drrox
A polar-exploration book with a definite twist, this tells the story of the Endurance expedition through the eyes of its smallest "shipmate" Mrs Chippy, Carpenter Harry McNeish's (male) cat. The book is brilliantly framed with a (fake) introduction from an eminent Cat biographer Lord Mouser-Hunt, singing the praises of Mrs Chippy as the premier "explorer's explorer" (in a way that offers a surprisingly astute satire on "biographer's-bias") and the text is presented as a series of entries from Mrs Chippy's diary, with footnotes of commentary and additional quotations from the (actual) diaries of other expedition members. It's a lovely little book. Caroline Alexander is clearly a cat lover and she really brings Mrs Chippy to life, both in his behaviour - demonstrating "how mice work" to his friend the stowaway turned steward, Blackborow - and in his descriptions of the polar landscape: "the sky mouse-grey, the sea like frozen milk."

The narrative covers the year Endurance spent trapped in the ice so there's a lot of waiting around, and when he's not tormenting the dogs, Mrs Chippy spends a good deal of his time sleeping, sorry "supervising the stores room" and "testing the bunks." But aside from the cuteness of the gimmick - Chippy is written genuinely believing himself a crew member with important supervisory duties on an equal, or even superior, footing to the human explorers - the cat's perspective creates a very egalitarian lens through which to view this quite rigorously hierarchical expedition. In Chippy's eyes lower-class characters like Blackborow and the cook, who are often overlooked in more canonical expedition narratives, really come to take centre stage and the book paints a vivid picture of everyday life below decks.
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