Review of In The Kingdom of Ice: The grand and terrible polar voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides
Anyone familiar with the Shackleton story will feel right at home with this equally compelling story of exploration and survival. Hampton Sides knows how to tell a good story. This book is every bit as good as his last book Ghost Soldiers.
This voyage preceded Shackleton’s. When Shackleton started his journey he knew more about the dangers of the Artic than the crew of the USS Jeannette and was better prepared for the harsh conditions. The author spends a lot of time setting up the story. You not only learn about the people and men behind the journey, but you also learn just how little was known about the Artic and the many wild and dangerously incorrect assumptions. This background portion of the book moves a bit slow, but once the ship sets sail it is a real page turner.
Once the ship becomes entrapped in ice, you know things are not going to end well. Yet it takes more than two years for the ice to finally engulf the ship and force its occupants out into the frozen world. From that point on it is a race for survival over both ice, land, and sea.
As the men break up into separate teams both on land and sea, the story is told from the varying perspectives. We not only follow the men trying to get back to civilization, but we also learn about the people waiting for news back home and the efforts underway to find the missing ship and crew.
My one criticism of the book involves the image section. This story would have benefitted from having the images in context. Unfortunately, too many publishers these days treat images in ebook versions as an afterthought, especially the publisher of this book. The image section is located at the very end of the book, after the endnotes and bibliography. Most people reading the ebook version will probably never get that far. The same can be said about endnotes. Note to publisher: with an ebook you can set things up so the reader can easily switch between text and endnote and back again. It just takes a little effort on your part.
Here is the book trailer for In The Kingdom of Ice