cover image In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS ‘Jeannette’

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS ‘Jeannette’

Hampton Sides. Doubleday, $28.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-385-53537-3

In a masterful retelling, Sides (Hellhound on His Trail) chronicles American naval officer George Washington De Long’s harrowing 1879 expedition to the North Pole, an account as frightening as it is fascinating. Each page envelops readers in the bravery of De Long and the crew of the Jeannette, their indefatigable quest for the “Polar Grail,” and their dogged will to survive. News mogul James Gordon Bennett Jr., a colorful personality who famously sent Sir Henry Stanley to Dr. David Livingstone, was De Long’s patron, mostly because he desired another front-page stunner for his paper. De Long’s journal entries are mixed in with Sides’s description of a voyage fraught with peril—their steamboat was wedged in ice for two winters and,upon released, was crushed. Seeking rescue, the crew hauled supplies hundreds of miles across Arctic ice fields. Weather was harsh, erratic, and frigid with food and shelter scarce; many succumbed to frostbite and madness. Flawed theories of Siberian geography and settlements caused further setbacks. (Disastrously, De Long had already discovered that prevailing theories about warm currents under Polar icecaps were incorrect.) Impeccable writing, a vivid re-creation of the expedition and the Victorian era, and a taut conclusion make this an exciting gem. Agent: Sloan Harris, ICM. (Aug.)