Thursday, August 28, 2014

In the Kingdom of Ice - Hampton Sides

Sub-title: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette

Into the Wild, Alive, Annapurna; these are adventure/survival books I've read in the past.  The struggle of man against nature, the strength of character required to continue striving against impossible odds, the belief in the importance of achieving something important, of making history are all elements of these stories.  In this story the author tells the tale of an attempt in the early 1880's to explore the north pole by piercing the polar ice cap that was imagined to surround a temperate ocean at the top of the world.  I enjoyed the back story of how the expedition was conceived and funded and staffed.  I liked too the story of the captain and his wife and how their love was portrayed through her letters.  Almost half of the book was involved in bringing us to the point of the Jeannette setting sail from San Francisco via the Bering Strait to the pole.  Sides does a good job too of setting the period when America was seeking new frontiers and surging forward after the Civil War.  The actual journey surprised me when they planned on being trapped in the ice over winter, expecting to drift to the open sea beyond.  I was surprised they chose to continue on north, after determining that their assumptions were all wrong and their way forward was blocked.  After finishing the story, I wonder if there were other versions, some of which the author hinted at.  A good read that reveals the character of men willing to sacrifice their lives to advance mankind's knowledge of the world.

Published: 2014  Read: August 2014  Genre: History

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