Title: In the Kingdom of Ice
Author: Hampton Sides
Format: Audiobook, 17 hrs 30 mins
Read by Arthur Morey
In the Kingdom of Ice filled my mind with the horror and miracles I looked for in an adventure. It gave accounts of exploration of the opposite pole from Antarctica. However, the passion for ice and spiritual scapes was still present. I enjoyed the story encompassing the facts of this historical tale.
As narrative nonfiction, the story draws from letters, journals, and articles written in the late 1800s. George Washington De Long is a Navy officer who is baptized in ice on a mission to rescue survivors from the lost Polaris expedition. He returns to his wife, Emma, and baby daughter with dreams of exploring the ice again.
His inquiries lead him to the wealthy owner of the New York Herald, James Gordon Bennett Jr. Maintaining his mission to create news, Bennett funds De Long’s dream of exploring the arctic. Emma bravely sails with him from France to California, cementing their relationship to last the long years apart ahead.
In California, the ship undergoes a strengthening upgrade, is richly supplied and is commissioned in the US Navy. As the U.S.S. Jeannette, it sails north with 33 men in 1879. The plan is to navigate to the north pole via the Bering Strait. The voyage tests the theories of arctic and geographic experts of the time. Via his journals and letters, De Long narrates several years in the ice, revealing the inherent nature of a person to be magnified during an adventure. Sides describes the challenges they encounter but always accompanies it with De Long’s optimistic accounts of resiliency among his men.
The characters are surprisingly well-developed. De Long’s accounts depict the closeness acquired in ship life and survival in such harsh conditions. The reader develops an attachment to the characters, especially with De Long and his wife, who never loses hope. Sides masterfully times the conclusion so as… I will not give away the ending even though it is well documented in history. If you are like me, coming to this story without prior knowledge, then you will appreciate the gesture.
I recommend this book for anyone familiar with sea travel and fond of adventure. As touched by both, I am biased, but I think experience in these realms makes this book all the more meaningful. Perhaps, it would even inspire adventure in others. I think it’s worth a try.
Rating Summary: 9.8
Adventurous, Inspiring, Heartbreaking