In the Kingdom of Ice: ~ by Hampton Sides

On my wish list for ages and finally went on sale (which I promptly lost any savings by buying the Kindle version to go with it but … I got more? –  Yes!)  Fascinating story of an exploratory expedition to discover what the North Pole was all about –  it was theorized at the time,  1878, that it was a large polar sea.  The Kindle version adds maps and a few photos.


In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeanette
by Hampton Sides
2014 / 411 pages (Kindle)
read by Arthur Morey  – 17h 30m
rating:   8.5
(both read and listened) 

Although I was familiar with the era,  I  hadn’t heard of this story at all so it was quite suspenseful and well done.

Hampton Sides has described an amazing cast of characters –  George De Long a US Navy man,  and his wife Emma captains the expedition    James Gordon Bennett Jr. a New York newspaper tycoon funds it,  August Peterman, a quirky German professor with his own ideas of about the North Pole provided the maps.    And then there’s  John Wilson Danenhower,  the navigator,  and George Melville an engineer and scientist,  on ship,  James Ambler,  the ship doctor, Raymond Newcomb, the naturalist,  several natives and others. .    Calvin Hopper and John Muir were on a rescue ship and Muir wrote a book about the adventure.  Cruise of the Corwin:  Journal of the Arctic Expedition of  1881 in Search of the Jeannette

It’s hard for us in the 21st century to understand the mystique which surrounded the North Pole –  it was thought there was a  warm pocket of ocean up there – all sorts of things were imagined or hypothesized.   Expeditions through the North Sea had been tried with grim results – now De Long was going to try the Bering Sea route.

De Long was convinced of Peterman’s ideas as was Bennett and they were determined to prove them true.   They found a ship and had it rigged out and the name changed from the Pandora to the Jeanette,  registered as American and flying the American flag.

The preparations take the first third of the narrative.  And then the Jeaneette is off with her crew and the narrative switches between what happened to those on board and those at home with an emphasis on the difficulties experienced by the ship’s crew.     I didn’t know the story prior to reading this so there was a certain amount of suspense.

The expedition has huge troubles and I won’t do any spoilers but it’s a fascinating account of an important voyage.

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1 Response to In the Kingdom of Ice: ~ by Hampton Sides

  1. Carmen says:

    I read a historical novel last year titled Minds of Winter about most of the Polar expeditions searching for Canada’s Northwest Passage. Maybe you’ll like it if you are into that topic. I thought it was very good, a slow burning plot but mysterious; the ending baffled me though.


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