The Stowaway: a Young Man’s Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica by Laurie Gwen Shapiro
17-year-old Billy Gawronski, finishing high school in New York City in 1928 but reluctant to join his father’s upholstery business, is fascinated by news stories about Commander Richard Byrd’s plans to fly over the South Pole. Billy’s father refuses to give him permission to apply for a position on the crew, so the persistent teen swims across the Hudson River to Hoboken to stowaway, only to find out that others have had the same idea. It takes a couple more attempts, but finally Billy is allowed to join the crew as a mess boy and later coal stoker on the Eleanor Bolling for the journey to Tahiti and New Zealand. Will he get to Antarctica, and maybe even winter over? Billy’s Polish grandmother predicted that Billy would meet Commander Byrd. Billy is a minor player on the exciting expedition but he gets plenty of publicity back home, and even gets his moment of heroism. Later, the crew struggles through the Depression, and Billy tries to work his way through college, helped by a letter of recommendation from Admiral Byrd. Billy later finds his calling in the Merchant Marines, becoming one of the youngest captains during World War II. This is an enjoyable readalike for 81 Days Below Zero by Brian Murphy and Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff.