In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides
(Doubleday, 2014, 454 pages)
In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides is the true story of the USS Jeannette which set sail in 1879 on an Arctic exploration mission. In the late 1800’s, the North Pole was one of the last remaining places to be explored. Some believed that the North Pole was not frozen. They believed that if an expedition could break through the Arctic ice, the explorers would find open seas and a verdant island which could be claimed for the explorers’ home country. James Gordon Bennett, the wealthy owner of the New York Herald, purchased the USS Jeannette and hired George Washington De Long to captain the ship on a mission to the North Pole.
In July 1879, De Long and a crew of 32 men set off for the Arctic with enough supplies to last for 3 years. Before the year was out, the USS Jeannette became trapped in ice. When the ice finally thawed enough to allow the trapped ship to escape, the real problems began. The hull of the USS Jeannette was breached forcing De Long and his crew to use their three smaller boats to make their way across endless ice to find Siberia.
In the Kingdom of Ice is a well-written book. Although it is a true story, it reads like a novel. The reader gets to know De Long and the crew members. If you don’t know the story of the USS Jeannette, the story is also suspenseful. Who, if anyone, will survive?