New York Times bestselling author Hampton Sides returns with a white-knuckle tale of polar exploration and survival in the Gilded Age
In the late nineteenth century, people were obsessed by one of the last unmapped areas of the globe: the North Pole. No one knew what existed beyond the fortress of ice rimming the northern oceans, although theories abounded. The foremost cartographer in the world, a German named August Petermann, believed that warm currents sustained a verdant island at the top of the world. National glory would fall to whoever could plant his flag upon its shores.
James Gordon Bennett, the eccentric and stupendously wealthy owner of The New York Herald, had recently captured the world's attention by dispatching Stanley to Africa to find Dr. Livingstone. Now he was keen to re-create that sensation on an even more epic scale. So he funded an official U.S. naval expedition to reach the Pole, choosing as its captain a young officer named George Washington De Long, who had gained fame for a rescue operation off the coast of Greenland. De Long led a team of 32 men deep into uncharted Arctic waters, carrying the aspirations of a young country burning to become a world power. On July 8, 1879, the USS Jeannette set sail from San Francisco to cheering crowds in the grip of "Arctic Fever."
The ship sailed into uncharted seas, but soon was trapped in pack ice. Two years into the harrowing voyage, the hull was breached. Amid the rush of water and the shrieks of breaking wooden boards, the crew abandoned the ship. Less than an hour later, the Jeannette sank to the bottom,and the men found themselves marooned a thousand miles north of Siberia with only the barest supplies. Thus began their long march across the endless ice—a frozen hell in the most lonesome corner of the world. Facing everything from snow blindness and polar bears to ferocious storms and frosty labyrinths, the expedition battled madness and starvation as they desperately strove for survival.
With twists and turns worthy of a thriller, In The Kingdom of Ice is a spellbinding tale of heroism and determination in the most unforgiving territory on Earth.
Ebook edition includes over a dozen extra images
In a masterful retelling, Sides (Hellhound on His Trail) chronicles American naval officer George Washington De Long's harrowing 1879 expedition to the North Pole, an account as frightening as it is fascinating. Each page envelops readers in the bravery of De Long and the crew of the Jeannette, their indefatigable quest for the "Polar Grail," and their dogged will to survive. News mogul James Gordon Bennett Jr., a colorful personality who famously sent Sir Henry Stanley to Dr. David Livingstone, was De Long's patron, mostly because he desired another front-page stunner for his paper. De Long's journal entries are mixed in with Sides's description of a voyage fraught with peril their steamboat was wedged in ice for two winters and,upon released, was crushed. Seeking rescue, the crew hauled supplies hundreds of miles across Arctic ice fields. Weather was harsh, erratic, and frigid with food and shelter scarce; many succumbed to frostbite and madness. Flawed theories of Siberian geography and settlements caused further setbacks. (Disastrously, De Long had already discovered that prevailing theories about warm currents under Polar icecaps were incorrect.) Impeccable writing, a vivid re-creation of the expedition and the Victorian era, and a taut conclusion make this an exciting gem.
Thoroughly researched, this was a fascinating read. I happened to finish the book the night I arrived in Annapolis and found that there is a memorial to the exploration on the grounds of the Naval Academy.
I’ve read several books about arctic exploration, but none more engrossing than Sides’ telling of the journey of the USS Jeannette. A combination of journal entries, letters and official logs of the exploration allow the reader to get to know some of the main players in getting the expedition funded and the Jeannette crew itself. Sides describes the arctic environment incredibly vividly. I couldn’t put the book down!
This book was gripping from page one to the very end. Excellent read!