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

Published: 2014-08-05
Hardcover : 480 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 4 of 4 members
New York Times bestselling author Hampton Sides returns with a white-knuckle tale of polar exploration and survival in the Gilded Age

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 ...
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New York Times bestselling author Hampton Sides returns with a white-knuckle tale of polar exploration and survival in the Gilded Age

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.

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, August 2014: In the last few decades of the 19th century, the world looked very different from the way it does now. Parts of the map were unfilled--chief among those spaces was the North Pole, which many believed contained warm currents that might provide safe passage. Enter James Gordon Bennett, the wealthy and eccentric owner of the New York Herald. Bennett--who was responsible for sending Stanley in search of Livingstone--wanted to produce another thrill for his readers, so he funded a naval expedition to reach the pole. Captained by George Washington De Long, the U.S.S. Jeannette shipped out in 1879 toward glory and parts unknown. The Jeannette became encased in ice, but the adventure was only just beginning. Author Hampton Sides does a masterful job of setting up the voyage against the backdrop of the Gilded Age, developing fascinating characters along the way, and delivering a true triumph of narrative nonfiction. Drawing on journal entries, letters, and eventually his own visit to the region, Sides paints a vivid, moving, and breathless portrait of the crew of the Jeannette. How could a book about this much snow and ice be this good? --Chris Schluep


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Discussion Questions

Suggested by Members

What has been discovered now in regards to sailing ships?
How could men leave their families for a long time?
by Rheach (see profile) 01/11/16

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Book Club Recommendations

Great read
by Rheach (see profile) 01/11/16
Bring a map of the artic such as a Globe. Read book in the hot summer!

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Astrid G. (see profile) 04/15/19

by Leslie R. (see profile) 03/26/19

This book is a remarkable tribute to the capacity of man to explore and persevere in perhaps the harshest and least forgiving earthly environment. While suspenseful and engaging, I would recommend reading... (read more)

by Jill M. (see profile) 01/18/17

  "The Kingdom of Ice"by Rhea W. (see profile) 01/11/16

Informative and interesting. Wish there had been more maps showing the path they took.

  "In the Kingdom of Ice"by Bobbi A. (see profile) 08/23/15

Very well written account of the harrowing journey of the men on the Jeanette in search of the North Pole. The author's research for this book was extensive & he takes you along to experience the trials... (read more)

  "Fabulous book"by Wendy G. (see profile) 04/27/15

  "This is an amazing tale of courage and endurance!"by Gail R. (see profile) 11/14/14

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... (read more)

  "An Armchair Adventure"by Kathleen F. (see profile) 08/18/14

The first part of the book is slow but interesting, great historical details. As the book moves to the actual journey it is a page turner. The people are so well described the reader feels much empathy... (read more)

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