Published by Doubleday on Aug. 5, 2014
In 1879, the USS Jeannette set sail from San Francisco with the mission of becoming the first naval expedition to reach the North Pole. Funded by eccentric newspaper mogul James Gordon Bennett and captained by George Washington de Long, the Jeannette expedition captured the imaginations of people around the world.
De Long and his crew of 32 men cast off amid much fanfare and sailed north into the arctic, hoping to make history. However, within a few months the ship was trapped in the pack ice, where it drifted amid the icy floe for nearly two years. Finally, after months of monotony, the Jeannette‘s hull was breached and the crew was forced to abandon ship. In less than an hour, the ship had sunk to the bottom of the ocean.
Stranded on the ice a thousand miles north of Siberia, de Long and his crew began an endless march across the pack, striving desperately for survival. Together they fought starvation, impossibly cold temperatures, wild weather, and the disorienting danger of their icy prison in their attempt to reach land and salvation.
I don’t read as much non-fiction as I should, but this book reminded me just how gripping it can be. Although this is the true story of a naval expedition, it almost reads like a novel in its pacing and richness of detail. Sides’ research is impeccable, and I loved the way he set this book up, including interesting background on the main characters and fascinating information about the state of arctic exploration at the time. The expedition, itself, was also wonderful to read. (It was actually kind of unputdownable.)
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It’s the kind of book that had me coming home every night and say to my boyfriend, “you’ll never guess what happened to the polar expedition now!” (He must have gotten very tired of this, and I have sufficiently spoiled this book that he’ll probably never read it. He was a very good sport, though.) This book really has everything: eccentric millionaires, heart-sick lovers, brave sailors, STDs, history-making exploration, danger, and extreme circumstances! It’s also extremely well written. In the Kingdom of Ice is page-turning narrative non-fiction at its finest.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.