On July 8, 1879, Captain George Washington De Long and his team of thirty-two men set sail from San Francisco on the USS Jeanette. Heading deep into uncharted Arctic waters, they carried the aspirations of a young country burning to be the first nation to reach the North Pole.
Two years into the harrowing voyage, the Jeannette’s hull was breached by an impassable stretch of pack ice, forcing the crew to abandon ship amid torrents of rushing of water. Hours later, the ship had sunk below the surface, marooning the men a thousand miles north of Siberia, where they faced a terrifying march with minimal supplies across the endless ice pack.
Enduring everything from snow blindness and polar bears to ferocious storms and labyrinths of ice, the crew battled madness and starvation as they struggled desperately to survive. With thrilling twists and turns, In The Kingdom of Ice is a spellbinding tale of heroism and determination in the most brutal place on Earth.
Hampton Sides’s brilliant work In the Kingdom of Ice explores the grand but ill-fated voyage of the USS Jeannette in a polar expedition to discover the nonexistent “Open Polar Sea.” The tale is a work of nonfiction written with the gripping quality of a psychological thriller. It is a story of adventure, courage, perseverance, and that certain slant of character that makes one willing to strike out into the dangerous unknown.
The historical figures of driven George Washington De Long, spectacle-seeking James Gordon Bennett, Jr, brilliant but unstable Professor Augustus Petermann, along with De Long’s crew are given full-bodied portraits in the tale, coming alive on the pages. Emma, De Long’s wife, serves as a heartrending heroine whose character is glimpsed through her letters to her husband. Well-written and thoroughly researched, Sides shows both the romance and the tragedy of the Gilded Age of exploration.
In the Kingdom of Ice is as much a retelling as it is a recounting of history, breathtaking in its humanizing of historical figures, fascinating in its unfolding of the harrowing undertaking. The antagonist of the story is the Arctic in all its unpredictable dangers, the limits of knowledge and cartography, and that desire bordering on madness to reach uncharted territory.
Highly recommended for those who enjoy nonfiction, particularly nonfiction pertaining to polar expeditions, survival, and exploration