Overview (May Spoilers):
In the Kingdom of Ice highlights the voyage of the Jeannette and its crew on their daring arctic adventure in the late 1800’s. It is amazing how little we knew about our own world during this timeframe and Sides does an excellent job setting the political tone for the voyage and the intellectual understanding regarding the arctic. America was young and hungry to make a name for itself and to acquire new lands. Regarding the north, there were wild, inaccurate theories claiming that the arctic was an open ocean over the pole, while another claimed that perhaps there was a lost continent that contains new civilizations. Ultimately, these misleading claims, which were heralded in at the time, lead to the demise of many, many expeditions. The voyage of the Jeannette was to forge a new path north through the Bering Strait, which had yet to be attempted. Alas, the fate of the Jeannette was ill-fated, and the ship became stuck in the ice for around two years, which surviving on the ice alone is an amazing, unbelievable feat. Can you ponder, living your life, marooned on a sea of frozen ice for two years? I had a terrible time processing and comprehending exactly what these explorers had to endure. Upon the sinking of the boat, they then had a harrowing, dangerous dash to Siberia whereupon they faced an even more perilous environment. A few times upon the crew venturing upon islands that had not been explored yet by man, curiosity got the better of me and I pulled out Google Maps and looked up that part of the world trying to ascertain which islands they had discovered. Sides details all of the bigger than life personalities that partake in this tragic, yet amazing story of survival and adventure. While the fate of most of the crew was heartbreaking, we have an excellent sense of what happened during that three year isolation due to the survival of their records and journals. As such, Sides kept the reader in a state of suspense regarding who would live and who would die up until the very end. Overall, In the Kingdom of Ice was a highly entertaining tale that often times left me pondering how these explorers survived, sacrificed, and often times thrived in the dangerous situations they found themselves.