Read of the Week

The Stowaway: A Young Man’s Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica

Laurie Gwen Shapiro

Simon & Schuster

Review: Lindiwe Mlandu

I love adventure. I love the thrill that it gives you, but I wouldn’t risk my life seeking it. I decided to read Laurie Gwen Shapiro’s first full-length work of non-fiction because it promised adventure.

Billy Gawronski’s story far exceeded my expectations. He loved adventure so much that he decided to stowaway – not once, but three times!

The 17-year-old New Yorker had always been an adventure fanatic. So when it was announced that Richard Evelyn Byrd was preparing for an expedition to the Antarctic in 1928, Billy knew he had to be part of it. However, due to his age, he needed his parents’ consent to sign up.

His first generation migrant Polish parents refused,saying it was dangerous and he should focus on his education. He had just graduated from high school.

Billy could not let the opportunity pass him by. He did the unthinkable and stowed away on one of the expedition ships. He was caught and sent back. He did not give up. He tried again. He was again sent back. Billy was not about to give up. He stowed away for the third time. This time they decided to let him stay.

The teen made headlines throughout America. Newspapers, including Time magazine, all wanted a piece of the brave stowaway.

Byrd’s expedition was the first to use the airplane, aerial camera, snowmobile and massive communications resources.

The expedition team spent two years away from home. It was hard work but Billy gave it his all. He was grateful for the opportunity and wanted to prove himself. Billy’s life story reads like a movie. What’s incredible is that it’s not fiction. He’s someone, who took risks, and most of the time they paid off.

He returned home during the Great Depression. Life was difficult and there were no jobs. Billy had to find his feet, but he wouldn’t stay home for long, the sea was calling.