In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS JeannetteIn the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This true story of an intrepid American explorer is riveting. I had never heard of George DeLong before reading this book, but I developed a tremendous respect for him and a bit of national pride in his exploits. Be warned, however, that the book starts off rather slow. The author spends too much time on the biographies of the characters and the back story of earlier polar exploration. In particular, the life of James Bennett, the publisher of the New York Herald and the financial backer of DeLong’s expedition, is too long. Bennett was a colorful character, to be sure, and worth a serious mention, but his outrageous antics take more than their fair share of space at the beginning. The real story is DeLong’s polar expedition. Be patient while reading through or skip ahead. You won’t be disappointed once you get there.

From the outset the author quotes extensively from the logs, letters, and other writings of DeLong and his men, so we know that at least his papers survive the voyage. But what about the ship and its crew? I won’t spoil the suspense. The hardships and incredible feats of seamanship and survival are amazing and inspiring. If you enjoyed The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics and Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption you will enjoy this one at least as much. I found this book better than either of those. It doesn’t relish in detailing the human cruelty and unfairness of those two books, which at times seem to pander to the worst of the reader’s sadistic voyeurism. Here, it is all about man versus nature. There is suffering in great measure, to be sure, but also human resilience and fortitude.

I listened to this on CD. The reader is excellent. I highly recommend this book.

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