The Race to Kangaroo Cliff

The Race to Kangaroo Cliff

by Alexander McCall Smith


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In this third and final installment of the School Ship Tobermory adventure series, the same loveable cast and crew are back, sailing to new locales in Australia with adventures that don't disappoint.

Ben and Fee MacTavish and the rest of the school ship Tobermory crew head to Australia to take part in a tall ships race. But after a good start, the Tobermory unexpectedly changes course to rescue a local boy, Will, who is stranded on the rocks. When the ship's dog, Henry, disappears, Will helps Ben, Fee, and their friends find him, but as the trail leads them deeper into the Outback, they begin to realize that a missing dog is the least of their problems. Join the crew aboard the Tobermory as they set sail from their home base in Mull to the Southern Hemisphere on an adventure they won't soon forget.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399554056
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 04/09/2019
Series: School Ship Tobermory Series , #3
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 1,236,048
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

ALEXANDER MCCALL SMITH is the author of the bestselling No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. He has also written over thirty books for younger readers, including a series featuring the young Precious Ramotswe—one of the world's most famous fictional private detectives. McCall Smith is also the author of School Ship Tobermory and The Sands of Shark Island, companion novels to The Race to Kangaroo Cliff. Visit him online at and on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter at @McCallSmith.

IAIN MCINTOSH's illustrations have won awards in the worlds of advertising, design, and publishing. He has illustrated many of Alexander McCall Smith's books.


Edinburgh, Scotland

Date of Birth:

August 24, 1948

Place of Birth:


Read an Excerpt

 “Iceberg ahead!”
Those two words were enough to make the hairs on the back of Ben’s neck stand on end.
They were shouted out by Badger, Ben’s friend with whom he shared a cabin on board the Tobermory, a training ship and boarding school. Badger gave his warning when they were both on watch duty—their job was to look out for signs of ice, or anything else that could be a danger.
They were standing together at the prow, the very front of the ship. Above and behind them, secured to the towering masts, were the rigging and the great expanse of sails that drove their course. The wind was light, although it had blown strongly earlier that morning, and the ship was traveling slowly. That was just as well, as the last thing you wanted to do was find yourself going too fast when there were icebergs.
Ben strained his eyes. The early-morning fog, thick and clammy like a cold white potato soup all about them, made it impossible to see very far. “Are you sure?” he asked his friend.
Badger nodded. “It was over there,” he said, pointing to the bank of swirling fog. “The fog’s hiding it now, but I’m sure it was there.” He paused. “Or pretty sure.”
“One hundred percent sure?” Ben pressed him.
Badger hesitated. “Ninety percent,” he replied. “Or eighty . . .”
“Should we tell the Captain?” asked Ben.
Badger hesitated again. Nobody wanted a false alarm, but nobody liked crashing into an iceberg. He made up his mind. “I think we should warn him,” he said. “It’s always better to be safe than sorry. You go, Ben—I’ll stay here and keep a lookout.” 
Ben ran back down the deck toward the Quarterdeck, where Captain Macbeth, the skipper—and school principal—was standing with some of the teachers and the student crew.
“Badger thinks he saw an iceberg,” Ben informed him.
Captain Macbeth had been talking to Miss Worsfold, but he cut off his conversation when he heard Ben’s report.
“An iceberg, you say? Where?”
“Dead ahead,” said Ben. “But a fogbank has swallowed it up and we can’t see it any longer.”
The Captain lost no time. Shouting out his instructions, he changed the course of the great ship, causing all but a few of the sails to lose their wind and flap loosely about. Almost immediately, the ship was slowed down.
“You come with me,” said Captain Macbeth to Ben. “We’ll find out what’s to be seen up there.”
They joined Badger at his post.
“Any further sightings?” asked the Captain.
Badger was about to say, “No, sir, nothing,” but stopped himself, as ahead of them, off their starboard bow, the fog had cleared. Appearing from behind its swirling cover was the steeply rising shape of an iceberg. It was not large, by the standards of such things, but it was quite bulky enough to cause serious damage to any ship that collided with it.
“There it is!” shouted Badger.
“Yes,” said the Captain. “I see it now.”
Looking through his telescope, the Captain was able to tell that the iceberg was hardly moving and that if they kept on their current course they would not get too close to it.
“Well spotted,” he said to Badger. “These things can easily sink a ship.”
The Captain looked again at the iceberg. Something had caught his attention.
“Well, well,” he said. “Now, there’s a sight you don’t see often.”
Ben asked him what he had seen, and the Captain’s answer was to pass him his telescope. “Take a look at the bottom right-hand corner,” he said.
Ben focused the instrument. For the most part, all he could see was white, but then, as he adjusted the eyepiece, something else came into focus—something that was small and both black and white. He blinked, and looked again. Surely not, he thought, and yet, as he looked again he realized that his first impression had been correct. It was a penguin. There was a penguin on the iceberg—a tiny marooned penguin standing on the edge of the ice, looking back at him across the expanse of cold water.
“It’s a penguin!” exclaimed Ben. “There’s a little penguin on the iceberg.”
By now they had been joined by others who had been working nearby and had come to see what the excitement was all about, including Poppy, an Australian girl who was a close friend of Ben’s sister, Fee. Other friends, Angela Singh and Thomas Seagrape, passed around the telescope. They all expressed surprise at seeing a penguin in such a lonely and improbable place.
“It can happen,” said the Captain. “I’ve seen penguins trapped on ice floes before. So I suppose they can end up on icebergs, too.
“It might have hopped up on it just before that chunk of ice separated itself,” he went on. “Then, before it knew it, the ice could have drifted off.”
“Poor creature,” said Thomas Seagrape. “It must be miles and miles from all the other penguins.”
For a while there was a silence. Ben imagined they were all thinking the same thing, but he was the one who put it into words. “Will it die?” he asked.
The Captain frowned. “I’m afraid it won’t be able to survive much longer all by itself. So . . . well, yes, I’m sorry to say, it probably will die.”
Again there was a silence. The ship was moving slowly and the ice was drifting along at much the same pace. For a while, at least, they and the little penguin were companions in the middle of this vast ocean.
It was Thomas Seagrape who spoke next. “Can’t we rescue it?”
All eyes turned to Captain Macbeth. He looked at the students: it was clear that he was wrestling with an answer. They had a lengthy journey ahead of them, and it would take at least an hour to lower a boat and row over to the iceberg, rescue the penguin, and then bring it back to the ship. An hour may not seem like a long time, but when you are crossing a great ocean, an hour’s delay may mean that you miss the wind or wander off your course.
And yet there are more important things in life than being on time.
“Are you really keen to do that?” asked the Captain.
The answer came in a chorus of voices—saying the same thing: yes.
“In that case,” said the Captain, giving his orders quickly, “Poppy, you get a crew together to row over to the iceberg. Thomas, you go and tell Miss Worsfold that I would like her to skipper the boat across.”
With a broad smile on his face, Thomas Seagrape saluted briskly and set off. For her part, Poppy immediately appointed Fee and Angela to her boat crew, along with Badger and Ben. They all went to fetch their life jackets and their warmest sea clothing. Rowing up to an iceberg would be a chilly business, Poppy warned them. She had never done it herself, but just one glance in the direction of the great chunk of ice was enough to tell her that this was so.

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