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In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette

4.18  ·  Rating Details ·  12,857 Ratings  ·  1,722 Reviews
New York Times bestselling author Hampton Sides returns with a white-knuckle tale of polar exploration and survival in the Gilded Age

In the late nineteenth century, people were obsessed by one of the last unmapped areas of the globe: the North Pole. No one knew what existed beyond the fortress of ice rimming the northern oceans, although theories abounded. The foremost car
Hardcover, 454 pages
Published August 5th 2014 by Doubleday (first published August 1st 2014)
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Margaret Willoughby I'm new to the polar exploration topic, but it seemed that DeLong did thorough research and that he relied heavily on the experts of the day:…moreI'm new to the polar exploration topic, but it seemed that DeLong did thorough research and that he relied heavily on the experts of the day: Petermann, whalers, naval officers, and his own experiences in the northern latitudes. I found it fascinating because of the personalities of those involved--their strengths and weaknesses that made them come to life. I felt tremendous sadness for their suffering and admiration for their loyalty to one another. It was very interesting to witness the decision-making process of DeLong.

I highly recommend the book. It was my favorite of the year and one of my all-time favorites. The story and the people stick with you long after you finish the book.(less)
Katherine The Terror put me in the place of those explorers. I felt like I was with them on the journey...the cold...the fear...the loneliness.

Reading that…more
The Terror put me in the place of those explorers. I felt like I was with them on the journey...the cold...the fear...the loneliness.

Reading that book led me to want to read "In the Kingdom of Ice" in order to get a sense of what polar exploration was REALLY like at that time. I think that the author of The Terror got a lot right.(less)

Community Reviews

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Feb 07, 2017 Matt rated it it was amazing
By endurance we conquer
-- Sir Ernest Shackleton's family motto

The tree has been dragged to the curb. The lights are all packed. The wrapping paper has been recycled. All the new toys have been forgotten by the children, who are already asking for newer toys. Christmas is over. The long dark of the year has begun.

The other day I had the following conversation with my five year-old. It started when I asked her if she could sing something other than Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. You know, before
Nancy Oakes
I know I just added this book yesterday, but I opened it at 1 pm when it arrived, let everything else go, skipped dinner, and read the entire night through because I could not put it down. I guess you might say that I LOVED this book:

a) It's about polar exploration, probably my favorite nonfiction reading topic in the universe, b) it's by Hampton Sides, who has not let me down yet with any of his books, and c) it's just so engrossing that I couldn't stop reading it. I'm pretty tired and cranky
A terrific read about a doomed American attempt to sail to the North Pole via the Bering Strait in 1879. I didn’t set out thinking I wanted to read a harrowing account of an Arctic exploration. But based on five-star reads of two previous books by Sides, I took to heart that when a great cook asks you for dinner, you don’t need to bother asking what is being served. I knew I could count on him to make stories from history come alive with all the drama and character development you expect from gr ...more
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Sep 04, 2014 Howard rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Howard by: Steven Z.
In the fall of 2006, I drove from Santa Fe to Taos, New Mexico and walked into the Kit Carson Home and Museum. When I entered I spotted an individual sitting behind one table while another nearby table held a stack of books. It was obvious that he was a writer promoting a book.

Taos, which hosts a number of festivals and celebrations every year, can be a busy little village at times, but not that day. There wasn’t much going on. In fact, there were only two other visitors besides me in the museum
May 05, 2014 Sofia rated it it was amazing
It'll be a terrible injustice (and frankly perplexing) if this book doesn't become one of the big hits of this fall and holiday season.
It's a completely amazing and terrifying real story, which you can look up online fairly easily--DON'T. In the Kingdom of Ice reads like the most unputdownlable fiction and once you start reading you won't want the ending spoiled for you. Save the internet search for after you finish the book, when you'll be dying for just another drop of detail about these large

The first half of the 1800's was mostly dominated by the Royal Navy as far as the Arctic was concerned. The desire for conquering something uncharted, almost unobtainable, did play a part in that. But the main – and somewhat disenchanting – reason for Britain’s Arctic excursions was purely financial. The English navy, having defeated Napoleon, had nothing major left to do. Most of the seamen were laid off and the officers were working at half pay, so any chances of promotions were really out of
Jul 02, 2014 Hannah rated it it was amazing
What an absolute privilege it is to have won this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. Not only do I love polar non-fiction, but now have the giddy anticipation of locating and reading everything writer Hampton Sides has ever written!

Mankind's desire to explore his environment has produced some amazing and courageous individuals. The account of the voyage of the USS Jeannette and her crew to locate and reach the North Pole during 1879-1882 is a riveting read from start to finish. Sides wr
To tell the truth, polar exploring never held much fascination for me. The only thing that makes me think it might be magical is that so many explorers have mentioned the quality of the light. But the idea that one would risk one’s life and spend more than two years to “get through the ice pack” really seems like a dumb idea to me.

Given that, I probably was not the ideal reader for this book, but I took on this story because I thought maybe all would become clear. Sides tries to make it sound ex
Feb 11, 2017 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating and well researched story of the USS Jeannette and the tragedy that befell her and her crew. In the late nineteenth century people were obsessed with one of the last unmapped areas of the planet, the North Pole. Theories abounded but no one knew what existed beyond the ice that rimmed the northern oceans. Whoever could plant his flag at the pole would attain fame and glory.

James Gordon Bennett, the wealthy owner of The New York Herald, had recently captured the world's at
Nicole R
From the moment I saw the description of this book I knew I was going to love it. Tales of survival intrigue me and tales of survival in the polar reaches of our planet are simply mind-blowing.

I take for granted all of the science we know about our planet and how relatively safe it is to travel to its far reaches. But it wasn't too long ago when that wasn't the case. In the 1870's, no human had been to the North Pole, few explorers had even forayed into the Arctic Circle, and hypotheses ran wil
Sep 09, 2014 Zora rated it liked it
2.5 stars. A disappointment. The author almost lost me in the first 200 pages of background information. But I came here and read tepid reviews and was assured it got going 1/3 of the way in, so I skipped ahead to that point and had a better reading experience.

Let me assure you, the author's style is pleasant, and his research is exhaustive. If you're interested in any of his other topics, I suspect you'd enjoy those books. But what is this deal with recent NF books? They include every extraneou
I wanted to read this book since it was published in May. After reading Dead Wake and The Boys in the Boat I was ready for another true story of heroism and dedication in the face of tragic circumstances. Well, I got more than I've bargain for. This book shook me to the core. I have never before experienced such a raw physical response to written words. During this read I had goosebumps on my arms, felt pin-like pricks on my head, was holding my breath for pages at the time, and had to remained ...more
Jun 15, 2014 Wyatt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So far this is literally one of my favorite books I've ever read. Deeper review to come but I'm positive this will be a multiple read.

So, I finished and I have to say this book was amazing. I found myself actually wanting to know more about secondary players in the book, particularly James Gordon Bennett. He was a larger than life character and is begging for a great biography. The hardships that the men endured in those winters is something to behold. Anyone interested in nautical explorers nee
Dec 21, 2014 Anna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: Rae
There is nothing quite like a thoroughly researched, well-paced, well written non-fiction account of some jaw-dropping event that it seems hardly possible actually happened. Such books are inevitably difficult to put down and ‘The Kingdom of Ice’ is an exemplar of the genre. Hampton Sides (who has an Arctic explorer-esque name himself) recounts the extraordinary voyage of the USS Jeannette, whose crew intended to reach the North Pole. But wait, you might ask, how were they supposed to get there ...more
In the Kingdom of Ice follows the trails and tribulations of the brave men who explored the North Pole in the late 1800’s. The book focuses on the crew of the USS Jeannette which was bankrolled by the New York Herald and James Gordon Bennet and led by the United States Navy. The expedition was led by George De Long who had been gripped by “Arctic Fever” and like many of his crew had an intense desire to traverse to the North Pole. Although the expedition is not successful it does dispel many myt ...more
Oct 21, 2014 Jeanette rated it really liked it
Lots and lots of detail here coupled with intense character study. How real life events shape these people during this quest for information! Historic recognition of this Captain and voyage of discovery when it was thought that the Northern polar region was an open sea. An action movie in real life, within minutia of personality detail and written well. Epic tale of brave and smitten investigators. COLD.
Dave Gaston
Hampton Sides is aiming dead on for the classic, “The Endurance,” mano-a-mano! And he almost gets us there. This true story is awesome …and wildly grisly! I keep a folder on GoodReads called “ICE” and I have 8 great titles tucked in there, Kingdom is among the most graphic. (Side-note: the best title name in the group is still “We Die Alone.” …you just can’t beat that bold face title!)

The twin tragedies of the Endurance and Jeannette include a similar series of eerie events; a hobbled and abando
Just as it actually took me three months to read from when I got this book as a birthday gift, so it has taken me some weeks to write this review. For the life of me I just can't decide on what to say or how to tell you that you should, no you MUST read this book. Suffice to say this one's a true page turner in every sense of the word!

Not to give the main plot and the nuts and bolts of the story away, this book is mainly about an ill-fated polar expedition in 1879. I've always been fascinated by
Steven Z.
Sep 04, 2014 Steven Z. rated it it was amazing
Hampton Sides is a very engaging writer who has taken his readers through a number of diverse adventures. Whether hunting down James Earl Ray for the assassination of Martin Luther King; detailing the mission of US Army Rangers in January 1945 behind Japanese lines in the Philippines; ; or exploring the role of Kit Carson in the American west, Sides has always been able to break down each topic to capture the attention of his readers. His latest effort, IN THE KINGDOM OF ICE, is no exception as ...more
Toni Osborne
Jun 12, 2015 Toni Osborne rated it it was amazing
The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette

This first rate adventure narrative recreates the astonishing tribulations of a group of 33 seamen who set sail in 1879 from San Francisco on a daring expedition that would bring them to the North Pole via the Bering Strait.

The expedition was financed by the flamboyant James Gordon Bennett Jr, owner of the New York Herald and the USS Jeanette piloted by George Washington De Long, a harsh disciplinarian with a granite disposition. The USS Je
Laurie Notaro
Dec 01, 2014 Laurie Notaro rated it it was amazing
If you love historical non-fiction narrative, this is the book for you. I found it got off to a slow start, but there is a lot of backstory that needs to be told--but my advice is to push through the first 100-125 pages...once the story really becomes about the Jeanette, there is no going back and you are along for the ride. In a word, this book is gripping. I kept waking up at 2 am to read more. That's insanity. The story is incredible, and much like Unbroken, once you think the crew has reache ...more
Andra Watkins
Aug 02, 2014 Andra Watkins rated it really liked it
Everything historical adventure should be. Well-researched, without too much detail to sully the plot. Characters who breathed on the page and spoke from the grave. Impossible feats of bravery, of stupidity, and of bravado. A love story. A portrayal of friends who stick together through an ice-riven hell.

We read books like this to remember what the world was like before we knew it all. To ask ourselves how much we could endure. To pay homage to people who were made of sterner stuff than we are.

Mar 19, 2016 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chris by: Diane
Sides chronicles the fate of the ship and crew quite well. Driving home points in some cases but showcasing what happened just after the crew left for the voyage (in many cases, these events if known might have changed the outcome). The story is gripping and well told.
Nov 07, 2014 Ruth rated it it was ok
I have read many, many, polar exploration books, and this one doesn't come close to measuring up. Sides spends almost the first half of the book talking about what I would call peripheral characters. I do not care about these people. Then, we at last get to the actual voyage, and things ain't much better. I was impressed that De Long went to so much trouble to plan for every possibility....except for the big one, which was that the warm polar sea did not exist. I don't think it was real smart ha ...more
Nov 05, 2014 Hudson rated it really liked it
I'm a sucker for a good exploration story and this book definitely delivered!

Like any good history book this reads like a story and flows along very naturally. The physical and mental hardship those men endured is just absolutely incredible to me and I was constantly amazed at how much punishment they could take and keep going.

It was also kind of funny for me to read again about the inimitable J Gordon Bennett the owner of the New York Herald. I had recently read a book about Stanley and Living
Wes Cobb
Dec 07, 2014 Wes Cobb rated it liked it
While the story of the Jeanette is compelling and tragic, this book suffers from poor pacing and occasional lack of focus. Sides spends nearly a third of the book giving substantial background on the characters of the book, even those - like J. G. Bennett, the expedition's sponsor - that nearly drop out of the story entirely once the expedition is actually underway. He also takes a long tangent away from the expedition to describe the rescue mission of which John Muir (of Yosemite fame) was a me ...more
Lisa B.
Aug 21, 2014 Lisa B. rated it it was amazing
Outstanding. Better than five stars.

This book tells the story of the USS Jeannette, and the crew that attempted to sail her into the uncharted territory that is the North Pole.
This story is a perfect example of why I love to read. I was captivated from the first page to the very last. The author doesn’t just tell us about the voyage of the USS Jeannette. He starts by telling the reader about the era this took place in, the important players involved in making the expedition happen and the histor
Definitely not light reading.... But certainly quite fascinating, informative, and enthralling. Also, meticulously researched and studiously written - though at times rabbit trail excessive. Somewhat in the vein of Erik Larson, author of Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania; except Sides' writing style is notably more high-brow and scholarly, per se. My vocabulary was stretched to full capacity.

FOUR **** Studiously-Fascinating, History Tome ****STARS -

Sep 08, 2014 Cara rated it did not like it
There's either something wrong with every other person who has reviewed this book or something wrong with me. Since the latter is clearly impossible as I am a person of impeccable taste, I can only ask: what is wrong with you people?! This book is terrible. I'm almost impressed by Hampton Sides' ability to turn such an interesting story into such a boring book. And I'm not usually afraid of boring books. I read boring books all the time. WTF, Hampton Sides?
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“He belonged to the men who have cared for great things, not to bring themselves honor, but because doing great things could alone satisfy their natures.” 2 likes
“stitched it up, but the German went about his work without a whimper, refusing to go on the sick list even for a day. “Nindemann is hardworking as a horse,” said De Long, and “seems to know no such thing as fatigue.” Nindemann was also oblivious to cold. His circulation appeared to be different from other men’s. On freezing winter hunts, he wore hardly any clothes. He kept his cabin colder than everyone else’s. His feet were inured to frost. He was a polar creature, through and” 1 likes
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