Thursday, 26 November 2015

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand & Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeanette

by Hampton Sides. 5 stars.

Since reading The Worst Journey in the World a few years ago I’ve been fascinated by explorers, particularly those venturing into the polar regions. Where Scott and his men were attempting to reach the South Pole, In The Kingdom of Ice is concerned with the other side of the world and takes place in the previous century, at a time when it was believed that once you broke through the ice around the Bering Strait you’d follow warm currents into a warm, open sea around a temperate Pole. 

Unfortunately for the USS Jeanette and her men, they were soon to discover that this was very far from the case.

A non-fiction book that reads like a thriller (which was no doubt helped by the fact that I hadn’t the first clue about this expedition or its outcome) I read this book in two sittings, huddled under a duvet and tearing through the pages long into the night as the ship became first trapped in ice (for over a bleeding year!) and then sank, leaving her men stranded in the Arctic with no hope of rescue. 

The sheer determination it must have taken for them not to have given up there and then is unimaginable to me – and that’s even before the attempts to try and cross the ocean, then Siberia, in the hopes of stumbling across salvation. That anyone made it back at all is astonishing. That someone then went back in the hopes of finding those still missing is truly astounding.

I take my hat off to all of the incredible people in our history who have taken on such incredible feats, and to the people who write about them and let me experience (albeit from the comfort and safety of my living room) even a little of their magnificence.

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