In 1879, a team of over thirty men sailed to the North Pole in an attempt to discover and document that frigid terra incognita. Sponsored and funded by James Gordon Bennett, Jr., owner of The New York Herald (who had also sent Stanley on his quest for Livingstone), the mission was motivated by a combination of curiosity, greed, and hubris. When the ship had gotten as far as the 72nd parallel, near Wrangel Island, it was trapped in ice; it stayed stuck for two years, briefly floated, then sank, leaving the explorers stranded and desperately trying to save their own lives. In the Kingdom of Ice, (Doubleday, $28.95), by Hampton Sides, is the story of the U.S.S. Jeannette’s crew; Sides recreates how these intrepid individuals walked across a frozen sea and faced death, bringing their expedition to life in the most brutal and vivid ways. This is not a book for the faint of heart, but it is a book that you can’t put down.
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