Symone is fascinated by the Antarctic and especially Scott's expedition. In her mind she speaks constantly with Titus Oates, a charming British soldier who died on the expedition. She also admires her brilliant Uncle Victor who has looked after the family since her father's death and who shares her interest in polar exploration. Symone wears a hearing aid and is teased at school about her inexperience with boys.
One day Victor suggests a short break in Paris, but once there reveals his true plan: a journey to Antarctica. Symone is so excited she does not quite realise that she has been deliberately cut off from her mother. They fly to Antarctica via Buenos Aires, where they join the other travellers on the Pengwings tour, mainly rich eccentrics. They meet the Norwegian film director, Manfred Bruch, and his son Sigurd, who expresses interest in Symone.
As they fly south, eventually arriving at Camp Aurora on 'The Ice' itself, Symone is enraptured by the beautiful bleak landscape. Later she is staggered by the extent of Uncle Victor's ambition: he plans to search for "Symmes's Hole", a portal to the hollow interior of the Earth, which he believes to be inhabited and civilized. Manfred Bruch has come along to film his discovery. However, the film crew fails to materialize and, when several members of the party fall ill with food poisoning, the organizers decide to cut the tour short.
Victor, determined to pursue his dream, steals an amphibious truck loaded with fuel and supplies, taking with him not only Symone but also the sleeping Manfred and Sigurd. The second half of the book concerns the gruelling journey across the ice. Symone and Sigurd plot to leave a trail, to signal search planes. Symone draws on her knowledge of the treacherous terrain - thin shelf ice, the Shear, crevasses, mirages - to save their lives on several occasions. She stands up to her uncle and learns the truth about her father. The imaginary Captain Oates gives her comfort and support in the face of injury, madness, deception and treachery.
This report prepared by Maureen Evans