In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides is a book that I could not recommend more about the perils of Arctic exploration.
The book is the unbelievable true story of the USS Jeannette. Its captain, George Washington De Long, embarks on a mission to reach the North Pole, as no explorers had yet done. Their voyage is like nothing I have ever read about or seen — in life or on screen.
The book starts off exciting and then hits a slow point fairly early on, as the book sets the stage for the narrative and the incredible characters. My second point of advice (my first one being to read this book), is to press on through some of this initial backstory to where the true adventure begins. There was a point, I must admit, in which I thought of putting the book down because of a particularly prolonged section regarding the financier of the epic voyage. I am very glad that I did not, however, as the rest of the book would prove to be endlessly enthralling.
In the Kingdom of Ice will give you an appreciation for early exploration unlike anything before it. These men, in their wooden coal-powered vessel, take on conditions that even the greatest technology of today struggles with. De Long and his crew prove to be both the most resourceful, courageous and unrelenting group of men I have ever heard of. They explore previously undiscovered islands, trek across hundreds of miles of ice pack and battle against all odds for their lives. You can feel their struggle at every moment.
You will learn about history, about the technological inventions that have lead us to where we are today. You will learn many things about the Arctic and the power of the unrelenting ice. Most importantly, you will learn about the resiliency of men pushing the boundaries of their technology, their bodies and their minds.
Few books have had such a profound effect on me as this one. I recall many sleepless nights in which I lied awake turning page after page, desperate to learn more of their fantastical journey. I pass these words on to you, so that you may be robbed of your sleep as well.