Sunday, August 31, 2014

In the Kingdom of Ice

The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette

Hampton Sides

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.(from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

This book tells the story of the USS Jeannette, and the crew that attempted to sail her into the uncharted territory that is the North Pole.

This story is a perfect example of why I love to read. I was captivated from the first page to the very last. The author doesn’t just tell us about the voyage of the USS Jeannette. He starts by telling the reader about the era this took place in, the important players involved in making the expedition happen and the history of the crew members. We spend so much time with the crew that I almost cried at the end over who survived and who didn’t.

Never a dull moment, In the Kingdom of Ice was informative, educational, entertaining and both uplifting and sad. If history had been taught to me when I was a kid with the same talent as Mr. Sides, I may have actually paid attention!

Many thanks to Doubleday, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this outstanding book in exchange for an unbiased review. Lucky me.

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