In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette

by Hampton Sides

Hardcover, 2014

Call number

940.4 SID

Collection

Publication

Doubleday (2014), 480 pages

Description

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.… (more)

Media reviews

Hampton Sides's "In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette," which recounts the astonishing tribulations of a group of seafarers determined to be the first men to reach and reconnoiter the North Pole, is a splendid book in every way.
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... as Hampton Sides illustrates in his vivid new book, “In the Kingdom of Ice,” hopelessly naive notions rarely lead to good outcomes in the Arctic.

User reviews

LibraryThing member japaul22
I LOVE these polar exploration books! This is a new book that describes the attempt by De Long and a crew of about 30 men who try to reach the North Pole by boat in the 1880s. De Long was backed by Gordon Bennett, the wealthy and eccentric owner of the New York Herald who is a story in himself.
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They were operating on the popular assumption that warm water currents running from the Pacific Ocean to the Arctic would create a passageway through the ice and lead into open waters of the Polar Sea. Obviously, we know now, thanks to their unsuccessful voyage, that this is not possible.

De Long's crew is filled with memorable and admirable men (and only a few "problem children") who fight through some extremely tough conditions. I don't want to give away the course of their travels because that's most of the fun of reading this book. I will say though, that there are adventures on sea, ice pack, and land. As always with polar exploration books, the conditions these men endure are unbelievable and admittedly their preparation was not good, though considering the information at hand I think they did what they could.

Hampton Sides does a great job of keeping the story moving along and especially of describing the geography and terrain. John Muir makes an appearance as part of a team sent to try to locate the Jeannette. I love reading about these remote areas of the earth and definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves the polar exploration books. It's not quite as good as The Last Place on Earth or Endurance, but it gets 5 stars from me none the less for keeping me riveted to the very last page.
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LibraryThing member msf59
In the summer of 1879, with a crew of 32, the USS Jeannette set sail for the arctic waters, to map a course to the north pole. If the Jeannette succeeds, it would be the first mission to do so. An extremely dangerous voyage, due to the unpredictable and unrelenting ice pack.
Shortly, after arriving
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in the northern waters, near the Bering Strait, the Jeannette was trapped. They were stuck there for two years until the hull was finally breached and the crew was forced to abandon ship and march across the ice. A thousand miles away from Siberia, battling the cold, starvation, snow blindness, injuries and polar bears. Did they survive? You will have to read it, to find out. These lips are sealed.
This is a harrowing, incredibly thrilling adventure tale, meticulously researched and written, by one of my favorite nonfiction authors.
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LibraryThing member jan.fleming
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,
Show More
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.


“We have the right kind of stuff to dare all that man can do,” De Long



Being a major fan of Polar exploration accounts I was eagerly looking forward to reading this book.

I was not disappointed. Gordon Bennett! What a thumping good read.
The author makes great use of authentic source material in this extensively researched account of the forgotten tragedy USS Jeanette's doomed voyage.

A wonderful example of narrative non fiction - a tale that reads like a novel but with the detail of a historical study. The author brings back to life the crew and their courage and persistence to survive but never once losing their humanity. The section on the Lena Delta, its ice barrier and indigenous population was fascinating

One criticism; a book on this subject with so many references needs an index, next edition maybe?
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LibraryThing member mybucketlistofbooks
Really excellent beach reading. A story that I had never heard of before, but which was a sensation at the time. It is the story of the Arctic Polar Expedition launched in 1879 aboard the U.S.S. Jeanette commanded by George DeLong (who the DeLong archipelago in the arctic sea is named after). The
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expedition was launched at a time when theories about what the North Pole contained were varied and usually ill informed. The predominant theory was that the pole was surrounded by a girdle of ice, but itself was open water, and may even be warm…by some theories tropically warm.

Previous attempts at reaching the pole had failed. All had tried to reach it by creeping up the coast of Greenland. Ice inevitably stopped these expeditions. This new attempt would try to reach it via the Bering Strait based on a theory that a warm current of water known as the Kuro-Siwa drove far enough north to weaken the ice pack and provide an open water route to the pole. What happened to the crew of the USS Jeanette is extraordinary – and I am not going to relate it here because I do not want to ruin it.

It reads like a Jack London novel on steroids!

If you are off to the beach this year and looking for something to wile away your time…bring this book. And no doubt, Hollywood will want to get in on the act as I cannot imagine a better story for the big screen!
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LibraryThing member smasler
Hampton Sides has written a masterpiece of arctic exploration, bravery, loyalty and love. In the Kingdom of Ice tells the story, today nearly forgotten, of one of the most gripping adventures of the late 19th century. The story of a doomed polar expedition and the brave and incredibly loyal men of
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the crew pulls the reader along from the first page in a Melville-like way. Through explanations of the search for the perfect vessel, the inventory of scientific equipment and foodstuffs, Sides never writes a word without it relating to the character of the men and women that inhabit this tale. And also, like Melville, the United States and its young country search for its place in the world is underlying the entire tale. This is a story of amazing loyalty and tortuous hardship. Where men and women kept promises under hopeless conditions. Of luck and fate and, at least for me, surprise at the outcome. Finally, Sides writing is masterful. The story is enough to pull one along to the end, but Sides manages to craft his prose in a manner that follows or maybe leads the pace of the story. It is difficult to tell as the interweaving is done perfectly. Finally, although in the 19th century, maritime exploration is usually a story of men at sea, some of sides most eloquent, brave and loyal characters are the women who were a part of the voyage. This is a complete story of the lives of those who were a part of the Grand and Terrible Voyage of the U.S.S. Jeanette.
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LibraryThing member StaffReads
Not only is this a gripping tale of adventure, survival, and loss in the northern Arctic in the 1800's, but the author delivers a fabulous back story on the cultural norms of the time, the state and impact of the media, and prevailing beliefs that makes this fascinating from beginning to end. I
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admit to being a fan of Hampton Sides since reading Ghost Soldiers.
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LibraryThing member St.CroixSue
Not only is this a gripping tale of adventure, survival, and loss in the northern Arctic in the 1800's, but the author delivers a fabulous back story on the cultural norms of the time, the state and impact of the media, and prevailing beliefs that makes this fascinating from beginning to end. I
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admit to being a fan of Hampton Sides since reading Ghost Soldiers.
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LibraryThing member nbmars
Hampton Sides, an excellent storyteller, here takes on “the grand and terrible polar voyage of the U.S.S. Jeanette,” as this book is subtitled.

As late as the end of the nineteenth century, no human being had ever been to the North Pole, but theories about what lay there abounded. All that was
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known for certain was that ships (usually whalers) that sailed north of Canada or Siberia encountered impenetrable pack ice that moved south in winter, but retreated to the north somewhat during the Arctic summer. The world’s most eminent cartographer, the German August Peterman, had theorized that the Kuroshio, a warm current flowing north past Japan in the Pacific, probably continued through the Bering Strait between Siberia and Alaska, and then under the pack ice to warm a large, hitherto undiscovered “Polar Sea.”

James Gordon Bennett, the eccentric plutocrat who owned The New York Herald, believed that newspapers should not only report the news, but should also make it. It was he who sent Sir Henry Stanley to Africa to find Dr. David Livingstone (who was in no need of finding) and in the process to greatly increase newspaper circulation by reporting on his travels. Seeking another such coup, Bennett decided to sponsor a U.S. naval expedition to reach the Pole. He purchased a sturdy 146 foot, three-masted steam vessel, formerly belonging to the Royal Navy, and renamed it Jeannette after his sister. He designated as Captain a young officer named George Washington DeLong, who had won some renown in a rescue operation off the coast of Greenland. DeLong then recruited a crew of 32 men and set sail for the Arctic, guided only by charts prepared by cartographers who had never been there!

North of the Bering Strait, the ship was soon trapped in pack ice, where it remained for two years! Although completely immobile, the ship drifted about 1,000 miles in that time. Finally, the ice melted enough for the ship to float, but the next day, the ice returned with a vengeance, this time crushing the hull as with a vise and sending the Jeanette to the bottom. The crew was able to abandon ship in time to save most of their supplies and three small boats, but they were marooned on the ice hundreds of miles from the nearest land.

What followed makes a harrowing tale of extreme courage, resourcefulness, endurance, suffering, and comradeship as the crew “raced” to the coast of Siberia, one thousand miles away, before the onset of the Arctic winter. As it was, they could manage only a few miles a day because of all the supplies, equipment, and documents they dragged along. All of the men made it to the edge of the pack ice with their three small boats, but during their attempt to cross to the mainland they encountered a gale, which caused the boats to lose track of one another. Twenty of the original 33 men died (including DeLong), but the stories of some of those lost were preserved in their diaries, which were later discovered along with their frozen bodies. The heroic effort to make sure these accounts were saved was led by the crew’s engineer, George Melville (said to be distantly related to Herman Melville).

Evaluation: As in his other books (Ghost Soldiers, Blood and Thunder, and Hellhound on His Trail), Hampton Sides moves this non-fiction narrative along at the pace of riveting, page-turning fiction. This is another gripping spell-binder, sure to please anyone interested in early polar exploration or just plain adventure.

(JAB)
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LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
This is the true story of the voyage and tragic ending of the USS Jeannette as it tried to reach the North Pole, only to become stranded when trapped in walls of ice. Eventually, all the men onboard were forced to go on foot across the Polar Regions. Injuries and illnesses plagued them as they
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soldiered on, in spite of all the pitfalls they faced. The amazing journey coupled with the amazing courage and fortitude of the men as they crossed the tundra, ferried down canals surrounded by ice, moved in uncharted territories with maps that were inferior, or less complete than originally thought, and filled with errors, is a feat worth noting and learning about. Although, at times, the details were tedious, since almost every moment written in a journal kept by Lieutenant Commander DeLong is referenced, the retelling of their expedition reads like a novel, with the tension slowly building, but never reaching a fever pitch, which would make the reader uncomfortable. There are scenes described which are brutally honest and cruel. The fates were surely not with them. The amount of research that went into this book had to be monumental because it is so complete, so well told, the reader will feel they are exploring with them.
In a time before airplanes and cruise ships, telephones and automobiles, extensive maps and geographic information, the desire to explore unknown areas like the North Pole, obsessed some wealthy people who were willing to fund such expeditions. The danger was enormous but the curiosity, for some, was greater. Because of the conditions in the Arctic, there was no way for anyone to be rescued if things went awry, no planes to search the ocean, no maps to follow, no GPS, no ice breakers to mount a really successful and immediate search. Any effort would be very time consuming and difficult. All of the dangers that the explorer ship encountered would also be encountered by the rescue ships, so often they turned back without results.
An American publisher, James Bennett, August Petermann, a well-known British cartographer, and George Washington De Long, a Naval officer, all wanted to explore the waterways north and be the first to reach the North Pole. Bennett funded the expedition and hired George Washington De Long to lead it. Petermann was the mastermind behind the failed effort since his charts and maps were flawed and fell short of providing the correct information necessary for success and survival. In addition, his theories about the area to be explored turned out to be balderdash and led to the U.S.S. Jeannette’s (formerly “The HMS Pandora”), eventual short-lived journey. They became marooned on an ice floe, for almost as long as they tried to escape the Arctic ice by ship. They remained lost at sea for about 4 years.
When they became irrevocably stuck in the ice and could not get free, they survived for several years on the stores of supplies they carried with them and on wildlife from the sea, land and sky, Soon, though, they were fraught with unexpected dangers. The ice crushed and tossed the forlorn crew and ship, hither and yon, causing it to spring leaks and sustain damage, and eventually, the ice dealt it a death blow and it had to be abandoned. DeLong and his crew suffered from illnesses like frostbite and scurvy, and also from some unknown sicknesses, one of which was eventually determined to be from the lead in the cans of tomatoes. When they became ill, they did not have adequate medical supplies and were unable to get help from elsewhere. Also, this was more than two centuries ago and medical knowledge was in its fledgling stage; there were no antibiotics and no diagnostic technical equipment was available. There was no way to communicate their plight to anyone in the outside world. Their world was virtually blacked out from the rest of humanity.
The excruciating journey was burdened with unforced errors from the beginning. Following the in completely drawn maps of the famed cartographer, August Petermann, and also trusting in his theories about a water route to the North Pole through the Bering Strait, which was later proven incorrect and rife with errors, the expedition was doomed to failure. This is the story of their struggle to survive. The first third of the book was filled with details about the backgrounds of the major characters involved in the endeavor. It sometimes got bogged down in the minutiae and became tedious and a bit boring. Moving along, though, once the journey begins, it grows fascinating as you realize the determination, strength of character, courage and fortitude these men must have possessed to even undertake such a journey, knowing many before them had died trying to accomplish the same goal. Their valor and fearlessness when confronted with so little hope for survival and such vast expanses of emptiness and uninhabited wastelands, was extraordinary. The author deserves kudos for the amazing amount of research that went into this well planned and well laid out explanation of the USS Jeannette’s birth and ultimate death, concentrating on the period of time from its purchase in 1878, its refitting and its sailing in 1879, to the time of the discovery of the remains of the seamen that never made it back, in 1882, in spite of the multiple search parties sent out to find them. When one thinks of the conditions that they suffered under, one has to wonder that any survived and marvel at their courage, determination and sense of purpose..
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LibraryThing member GaryBigfoot
This book describes the goal and the history of the USS Jeannette in the late 1800's. For a number of years different ships had set out to find the warm water sea at the North Pole. Eminent cartographers and scientists of the time "knew" that if a passage could be found through the ice circling the
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Polar Sea, then ships could use the Pole as a short route to countries on the other side of the globe. Of course that was the ultimate goal of the Jeanette.

This is a remarkable story of human survival through unbelievable circumstances. If it were fiction I would not have believed that the crew could have possibly lived through what they did. This is one of the most inspiring accounts I have read.

I was enthralled with the book from beginning to end.

Many ships had set out for the Pole but no one had made it yet and the deaths were plentiful. Since the previous ships had all used the same general route, Lieutenant DeLong (USN) believed that the key to success was to take a completely different route. He also knew that he had to carefully select his crew because the voyage would include terrible privations. Selecting provisions was also a huge and critical process.

The wealthy Editor of The New York Herald agreed to finance the trip. The US Navy agreed to make the Jeanette a Navy ship with Lieutenant DeBold in command. The hand selected crew consisted of military and civilians making for an interesting command situation.

Although the Jeanette did not make it to the Pole, they went far enough to determine that there was no warm sea to be found. In the process they recorded an exceptional amount of critical scientific data heretofore unknown.

Some of the men made it home, but not all. Since some did live, and because the scientific data they had meticulously gathered made it home, the voyage of the USS Jeanette was very successful in spite of the fact they did not meet their final goal, their ultimate goal.

The men underwent such traumatic conditions that some of them started eating their clothes and shoes which were made of animal skins.

I enjoy reading about those who have succeeded against all odds. The Jeanette was locked in ice for over a year, with the crew suffering incredibly cold and often wet conditions, lack of food and not knowing when to turn around nor how to return home. The word "hero" is used lightly today, but the Jeanette crew were true heroes. It was people like that who made our nation great.
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LibraryThing member labdaddy4
An excellent book. Easy to read and very captivating. Unlike so many works of history, this never drageed or got bogged down with minutia. The story moved and kept me engaged the entire time. I found it very interesting that not really so long ago mankind was so amazingly ignorant of the geography
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and conditions in the polar regions.
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LibraryThing member Jacobflaws
A gripping tale and even better writing. The reason I pushed this to 5 stars instead of 4.5 is that the writing flowed so well that I couldn't put the book down--Hampton Sides is truly a gifted author and this book is a great one.
LibraryThing member debnance
Is In the Kingdom of Ice the best nonfiction I’ve read this year? you ask.

It just might be.

But how can that be? you continue. Didn’t you also read the amazing Dead Wake? And Being Mortal?

Yes. And yes.

You prod me, You just can’t leave it at that. Tell me more.

But Kingdom of Ice is the
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incredible true story of some of the bravest men who ever lived, men who tried to take a ship to the North Pole in the 1870’s, get trapped in the ice, have to abandon their ship when the vessel sinks, and attempt to travel over sea and land to Siberia in one of the coldest places on earth.

Yes, you say. I see. Now that’s a story.

Yes. That’s a story.
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LibraryThing member mybucketlistofbooks
Really excellent beach reading. A story that I had never heard of before, but which was a sensation at the time. It is the story of the Arctic Polar Expedition launched in 1879 aboard the U.S.S. Jeanette commanded by George DeLong (who the DeLong archipelago in the arctic sea is named after). The
Show More
expedition was launched at a time when theories about what the North Pole contained were varied and usually ill informed. The predominant theory was that the pole was surrounded by a girdle of ice, but itself was open water, and may even be warm…by some theories tropically warm.

Previous attempts at reaching the pole had failed. All had tried to reach it by creeping up the coast of Greenland. Ice inevitably stopped these expeditions. This new attempt would try to reach it via the Bering Strait based on a theory that a warm current of water known as the Kuro-Siwa drove far enough north to weaken the ice pack and provide an open water route to the pole. What happened to the crew of the USS Jeanette is extraordinary – and I am not going to relate it here because I do not want to ruin it.

It reads like a Jack London novel on steroids!

If you are off to the beach this year and looking for something to wile away your time…bring this book. And no doubt, Hollywood will want to get in on the act as I cannot imagine a better story for the big screen!
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LibraryThing member amandacb
At turns compelling, suspenseful, factual, and humanizing, Hampton Sides’s latest historical masterpiece is sure to enthrall both fans of Arctic exploration and newcomers.

Granted, the Jeanette does not leave her San Francisco dock until page 137, which means Sides does plenty of
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background-building. Why Arctic exploration was so important and who these men were, at heart, take up the first quarter of the book. Never monotonous, Sides nevertheless occasionally gets too bogged down in the minutia.

Once the boat gets underway, an exciting and daring expedition begins. Instead of focusing merely on the commander De Long, Sides ensures that we know the rest of the crew, some of whom sacrificed their lives in this attempted Arctic venture. Interspersed throughout are letters from De Long’s wife, Emma; she is, in turns, depressed, optimistic, and numb throughout this three-year ordeal.

Suffice it to say that the ending is almost incomprehensible to a mere reader – slogging through ice packs with the wind howling, temps twenty below zero, what’s left of your boots soaking wet, gnawing on pieces of your leather jacket. The sheer bravery and fortitude of these men reads like a fiction story, but it is all too real.

Throughout, Sides’s lyrical prose flows naturally. One of my favorite examples: “He passed through the Thuringian Forest, the ancient land dipping and heaving like a dark green sea. The train dropped into a fertile basin, a patchwork of cow pastures and mustard fields, and then chuffed into the prim village of Gotha” (75).

Even if you do not have any interest in historical exploration, you will enjoy this as a story of unparalleled determination.
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LibraryThing member bwhitner
This was a compelling read. I was weary at first as to whether it would hold my attention but the book was very well written. I can't say I enjoyed the story I was very tragic . I could have done without some of the details, but that is what made the story rich. The men on this voyage had great
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tenacity. They moved on no matter what was put in front of them. I admire their character. In my eyes all of them are heroes.
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LibraryThing member luvztoread
Excellent read! Couldn't put it down…..
LibraryThing member dougcornelius
It's amazing to me that we have gone from having unexplored areas on Earth to passing by Pluto in less than 150 years.

James Gordon Bennett was the eccentric and extremely wealthy owner of The New York Herald. He had recently funded Stanley's trip to Africa to find Dr. Livingstone as way to sell
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papers. Now he was looking to create the next sensation. He set his sights on an expedition to reach the North Pole.

At the time, the North Pole was still unknown and unexplored. The foremost cartographer in the world, a German named August Petermann, believed that warm currents sustained open water at the top of the world. The theory was that the warm Japan current flowed through the Bering Strait toward the pole and created an area of warmer, ice-free water around the pole. If a ship could just break through the ice ring, it could reach the pole. Peterman even forecast that there was a landmass at the pole.

Of course, we now know that he was wrong.

The writing in the book is superb. There are great elements and themes in the book. I found the story itself to be lacking. Perhaps I've read too many polar expedition books. (Explorers travel north, get trapped in the ice floe and suffer.)
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LibraryThing member Jared_Runck
I tell everyone that, if Hampton Sides wrote a book about paint drying, I'd buy it immediately and read it! Ever since I picked up "Ghost Soliders," Sides has become one of my favorite authors & and top-notch storyteller. Sides has a distinct gift for finding that one amazing story you've never
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heard before, and then proceeding to tell it in such a way that it immediately becomes your favorite story.

"In the Kingdom of Ice" is a tremendous tale of human achievement and tragedy. He captures both the grandeur and hubris of a bygone America and treats both honestly and respectfully. Every key character in the tale of the Jeanette expedition is truthfully but sympathetically drawn; they aren't "heroes" or "villains"...they are real, flesh-and-blood people. This strikes me as a difficult accomplishment when one is telling a story of feats of near-superhuman endurance.

"In the Kingdom of Ice" strikes that wonderful balance of telling a TRUE story...a little bit sad, a little bit grandiose, a little bit humorous...but REAL and, therefore, worthy to be told.
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LibraryThing member nyiper
Just plain excellent! But hauntingly horrible in terms of thinking of those men and the days and months and years of freezing and cold and hunger. The audio, read by Arthur Morey was wonderful. The descriptions were so full of detail and to think that the actual words written by DeLong and other
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members of the crew were the source--truly amazing that all of that material was saved for history.
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LibraryThing member debnance
Is In the Kingdom of Ice the best nonfiction I’ve read this year? you ask.

It just might be.

But how can that be? you continue. Didn’t you also read the amazing Dead Wake? And Being Mortal?

Yes. And yes.

You prod me, You just can’t leave it at that. Tell me more.

But Kingdom of Ice is the
Show More
incredible true story of some of the bravest men who ever lived, men who tried to take a ship to the North Pole in the 1870’s, get trapped in the ice, have to abandon their ship when the vessel sinks, and attempt to travel over sea and land to Siberia in one of the coldest places on earth.

Yes, you say. I see. Now that’s a story.

Yes. That’s a story.
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LibraryThing member JeffV
In the late 19th century, exploration was all the rage, and there were many expeditions to reach both the north and south poles. Most of these were unsuccessful, the USS Jeanette was remarkable in it's total failure but survival of some crew members to tell the fascinating story.

The book starts out
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rather slowly establishing the cast of characters, their relationships and expectations. A geologist and explorer, Wrangel, posed a theory of lush, green gardens at the poles. James Bennett, owner of the New York Herald, financed the expedition in hopes of lots of exciting print material. George Melville, related to author Herman, was an officer. And captain George DeLong was unflappable, respected commander of the expedition.

The journey began in San Francisco. The ship held stores for several years -- while the Arctic was largely unknown, it's dangers were not unanticipated. Once in polar seas, the ship became promptly locked in ice for nearly 2 years. When the ice finally started to give way, the ship was destroyed by moving ice floes. Among rescue missions sent to look for the Jeanette was one containing renown naturalist John Muir.

The expedition discovered a number of islands, most of them off the north coast of Siberia and now Russian possessions. Jeanette Island, Bennett Island, Wrangel Island were among these, and an island group has been named "The DeLong Islands" in memory of the expedition. After the Jeanette was destroyed, three small boats were portaged by the crew, who at first had teams of dogs to help move supplies, but as food became scarce, the dogs could no longer be supported. When the three boats attempted to cross a channel in stormy seas, the group was separated -- one boat was never heard from again, DeLong and Melville landing at different spots but were unable to find each other. Ultimately, Melville, with a few other crew members, found some Inuit that eventually helped him get back to civilization. He mounted a rescue search but unfortunately it became a mission of recovery instead. DeLong's recovered journal details the horrifying fate of the brave party.

This is one of those stories where one marvels at the limits of human endurance. It really is a fascinating story, I'm surprised I wasn't aware of it earlier.
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LibraryThing member Stbalbach
In the Kingdom of Ice is a retelling of the USS Jeannette expedition of 1879 that sought to sail to the North Pole by way of the Bering Straight. It was sponsored by the same newspaper a few years earlier had sponsored Stanley to find Livingstone in Africa, they hoped for a similarly good story. It
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would deliver, the Jeannette was front-page news and famous for a time. It has all the right elements of fascinating characters and dramatic story, but for whatever reason has lapsed into obscurity so that today very few have heard of it.

Sides has done a remarkable job as to expected. He writes with cinematographic quality like a documentary but also has the depths of literature, creative non-fiction at its best. The genre of polar exploring is well worn but Sides keeps things interesting with a sentimental love interest and back-story about James Gordon Bennett, Jr., publisher of the New York Herald, who I'd really like to read a biography about, should it ever be written. Some might complain too much time was spent in the lead up to the Arctic but I found that it helped with the immersion of time and place. This is the first book I've read about the Lena River Delta in Siberia, the largest of its type in the world, so it now holds a place in memory. As well as the Delong Islands which have retained some of the Pleistocene-era flora and fauna, among the last places on Earth with a foot in the Ice Age. I'll never go to these places but I sure felt like I've been, and lived to tell about it.
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LibraryThing member dknoch
The story of the USS Jeannette and her captain, George De Long, is a little-remembered footnote in the history of Arctic exploration, though it was once a global sensation. In his latest work of literary non-fiction, In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette,
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author Hampton Sides enthusiastically chronicles not only the ill-fated journey itself, but devotes significant time to painting vivid character portraits of the personalities who participated, either directly or abstractly, in what was truly a Polar Odyssey.

Reading more like a novel than a work of non-fiction, the narrative born from Sides' thorough examination of primary source material is made compelling through the author's vivid prose. Contemporary accounts, log books, and personal letters were used to tease out the finest details behind the Jeannette's Arctic journey, with the author actually traveling to some of the remotest reaches of the voyage to add a level of authenticity only first-hand experience can provide.

Fans of "true adventure", as well of those with more scholarly interests in Arctic exploration, will both find In the Kingdom of Ice a worthy addition to their bookshelves.
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LibraryThing member RoxieT
I have read a lot of books on Arctic expedition disasters and shipwrecks, but "In the Kingdom of Ice" was definitely a page turner. I especially appreciated the historical references incorporated into the storyline. These tidbits, such as, the origins of the U.S. Open, the early renditions of the
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electric light bulb, formation of the U.S. Coast Guard, etc, helped ground me into the time period.
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Awards

Audie Award (Finalist — History/Biography — 2015)
Notable Books List (Nonfiction — 2015)
Chicago Public Library Best of the Best: Adults (Selection — Nonfiction — 2014)

Pages

480

ISBN

0385535376 / 9780385535373
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