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Labyrinth of Ice: The Triumphant and Tragic Greely Polar Expedition

4.44  ·  Rating details ·  957 ratings  ·  200 reviews
Based on the author's exhaustive research, the incredible true story of the Greely Expedition, one of the most harrowing adventures in the annals of polar exploration.

In July 1881, Lt. A.W. Greely and his crew of 24 scientists and explorers were bound for the last region unmarked on global maps. Their goal: Farthest North. What would follow was one of the most extraordina
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published December 3rd 2019 by St. Martin's Press
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Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: net-galley
A huge thanks to St. Martin's Press, and Netgalley.
I believe this is the book I've been waiting for! I've always been compelled to read about The Greely Expedition, but every book I've ever started was bogged down in facts. Facts are great, but I also need heart. The heart of the story isn't just facts, but it's the people. These crazy, brave men who had no experience of the Arctic, yet they somehow wanted to explore and leave their mark. I love reading about the Franklin Expedition, but there's
Jeffrey Keeten
Nov 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
***This is seriously the perfect gift for the men in your life. I know how difficult we can be to buy gifts for, but your dad, husband, brothers, uncles, friends, and lover(s) will absolutely love this adventure set in the snows and ice of The Farthest North.***

Let’s set the stage.

”From somewhere out in the bunched and knuckled hills came the plaintive howl of a wolf. Adolphus Greely, adjusting his spectacles and gazing at the three tall masts of the Proteus piercing the horizon, had cause for
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book will definitely become a must-read for everybody, like myself, interested in the exploration of the Arctic. Having read earlier about two most famous attempts by John Franklin and George De Long to explore the only then uncharted and most mysterious part of our planet, I was delighted to have received a book that covers yet another polar expedition. Lt. Adolphus Greely undertook in 1881 the mission to collect the meteorological and geographical data of the Arctic. The expedition was we ...more
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: disaster, exploration
“We have done all we can to help ourselves and shall ever struggle on, but it drives me almost insane to face the future. It is not the end that affrights one, but the road to be traveled to reach that goal. To die is easy, very easy; it is only hard to strive, to endure, to live…”
- Journal entry of 1st Lieutenant Adolphus W. Greely, Commander of the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition

“My dear friend Kislingbury…In the event of this pending journey ending fatally for me, I desire that you and [Sergeant
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Expedition and adventure fans
Recommended to Paula by: Publisher
What a thrilling read about the Greely expedition to the Arctic!

I have a keen interest in reading about adventures and explorations. I’ve read a few others including the George De Long expedition to the Arctic and Teddy Roosevelt’s Amazon adventure. The fact that people risk their lives in such harsh environments is amazing to me. Something I would never dream of doing, but like to immerse myself into by reading. I don’t believe, however, that Greely’s crew of 24 expected to walk into the most f
one fine day, i received an electronic mail that began like so,

I saw that you've previously enjoyed reading Endurance by Alfred Lansing. Would you be interested in reading an upcoming book called Labyrinth of Ice: The Triumphant and Tragic Greely Polar Expedition by Buddy Levy?

it’s true i love me some exploration/survival stories, and the offer was sweetened further by promises of vicious wolves, insanity, and cannibalism. i mean, i was informed that those elements would be included in the book,
Nov 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Bound for Lady Franklin Bay in the Canadian Arctic, twenty-five men left on The Proteus in 1881. Six made it home alive. Living and dead had endured extreme mental and physical exertion and exhaustion; illness; treachery; and ultimately severe deprivation and death It's an amazing true story. Buddy Levy takes us there in a way no other book I've read on The Lady Franklin Bay Expedition has. This is one of the best books on any polar expedition I've read, and I've read a lot of them. Levy is an i ...more
Nov 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well-written and action-packed, Labyrinth of Ice is a 4 star read and I would have enjoyed it much more if I hadn't read Ghosts of Cape Sabine which is much more critical of Adolphus Greely. Both are the true story of a poorly thought out adventure in the arctic in the 1880s headed by Greely who was in the Army and had no prior experience in sub-zero temperatures or as a sailor, even though part of their escape plan involved using a boat.

This was a plan that was destined to fail, mostly because
Jan 27, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
So far, all of my friends who have read Labyrinth of Ice have given it either four or five stars.  I guess there's always gotta be a dissenting voice, an outlier, and here I am. Unfortunately, I found this book tedious and mundane. It's a harrowing story but the way in which it was told left me bored much of the time. There was far too much repetition, too many descriptions that were similar to ones that came before. 

I enjoyed the first couple chapters and the last couple chapters, when Greely a
Andrew Smith
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In 1881 Lieutenant Adolphus W. Greely, an American with no Arctic experience, led a team of men to explore the upper reaches of Northern Greenland in what became known as the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition. His aims were to record observations relating to branches of physics, meteorology and botany, as part of a more wide reaching plan to establish a ‘girdle’ of stations around the entire Arctic region. Greely also hoped to achieve the accolade of having travelled Farthest North and, if possible, ...more
Dec 03, 2019 rated it liked it
I received a free advance copy of this from NetGalley for review.

As the warrior-poet Vanilla Ice once said, “Ice ice, baby.”

In 1881 Lt. Adolphus Greely led 24 men to Lady Franklin Bay in the Arctic where they planned to stay for 2 years while recording scientific data, exploring the area, and maybe becoming the first to reach the North Pole. Greely was a Civil War veteran who had meticulously prepared for the expedition, and he had worked up a detailed plan for resupply that had multiple conting
The explorations of the intrepid Arctic explorers hold a singular fascination for me. These are places I would never wish to go and I have no frame of reference for the below zero degree temperatures they recorded. In 1881, Lt. Adolphus W. Greely commands a volunteer crew of U.S military officers and others on a scientific expedition with several goals. His first responsibility was to set up the northernmost research station in the Arctic, where he and his men would collect and record meteorolog ...more
Karen R
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A stunning recounting of the Greely Arctic expedition, also known as the ‘Lady Franklin Bay’ expedition.

This polar expedition drew on for 3 long years due to politics that endangered lives, poorly managed rescue operations/supply mission missteps, and a seriously inexperienced crew that included an ex-criminal who consistently stole food from his mates.

Despite the crew’s lack of experience for this kind of mission and no familiarity with the Arctic, they had extraordinary courage and willpower
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
When discussing the ideas for this book the author, Buddy Levy, was advised to tell the story as if you were sitting in a bar entertaining others. I’d say, without reservations, he’s accomplished this. It reads like a suspenseful adventure story. Never dull or dry summoning up the bitter cold long months of darkness lit by the northern lights where the polar bears are observed as silhouettes. I enjoyed every page.
Fred Shaw
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Would you be willing to join or lead an expedition to the polar ice caps for the betterment of mankind? If you knew that your chance of survival was 50% would you still go? What if it were a competition against others or a personal challenge? Would you do it?

In 1881, 1st Lt. A.W. Greely did. A professional soldier and signal officer in the US Army, he led a team of 24 explorers and scientists into the Arctic to go further north than anyone had gone before and record weather related information t
Dec 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It is hard to imagine the extreme conditions, physical & mental challenges and isolation that A.W. Greely and the 24 members of his crew faced as they explored the far reaches of the north, attempting to do what several expeditions had previously tried & died doing. Extreme cold. Dangerous wildlife. Months without sunshine. Food stores dwindling. Trapped in the ice floes. Waiting for resupply ships that didn't come. It must have been terrifying.

This book is wonderful! The author obviously did ex
Nancy Oakes
Nov 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
full post here:

I picked up this book a couple of nights ago at about 6:30 p.m., and I didn't stop reading until two the next morning, and only then because I had to be up by 5:30.

According to the author, "Like nearly all great stories from the past," the story in this book has already been told, but he intended his account to

"provide an interpretation that focuses on the adventures, triumphs, and the unity, brotherhood, and patriotism of the men"

which he
Labyrinth of Ice tells the story of Lt. Adolph Greely and his crew of twenty four men and their quest to venture into the Arctic to both collect weather data as well as break the record for “farthest North” in the process. Despite extensive planning and preparation, what would unfold is a story of strength, courage and ultimately survival.

I was given an advanced copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Buddy Levy’s recounting of the famed 1881 Lady Franklin Bay Expedition is noth
Dec 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
I absolutely love books about exploration. And polar exploration in particular is such an adventure, battling extreme temperatures, 24 hour darkness, and limited natural resources. The Greely Expidition was a nail biting story that had me mesmerized and eager to plow on. It was truly an unbelievable account of how the best laid plans can go wrong and how men can rise to the challenges to beat the odds.

The author does an amazing job of researching the historical details and includes many origina
Robert Sheard
Aug 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I don't run into too many nonfiction works that are 5-star reads for me, but this is one of them. Not only is the harrowing tale of the Greely Polar Expedition almost too much to be believed, but Levy's account of it is brilliantly paced, meticulously researched, and wonderfully written.

This expedition forever changed much of the science carried out in polar regions and its effects are still being felt today. What a remarkable tale. (I'm surprised this didn't get more love in the BookTube Prize
Nov 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
In 1881, American Lt. A. W. Greely and a team of scientists went on a journey to pass the record of reaching furthest North. Buddy Levy's new book Labyrinth of Ice takes readers on their journey of glory and horror. The men accomplished their mission of reaching furthest North and contributing important scientific data. They were also stranded over two winters with dwindling supplies.

Before the astronauts and space exploration, men of courage and vision took on the vast frozen spaces of ice, se
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 stars

This book is the story of the 1881 – 1883 journey of the twenty-six brave men who undertook the journey to make the farthest North trek. For 300 years, the British have held the record. Now the determined Americans, led by Army officer Lieutenant Adolphus W. Greely have set out to break the record. They sail to the Arctic beginning in July 1881.

Lt. Greely's service so far has been in the West, building telegraph lines and suppressing Indian uprisings. He has never been to the Arctic, but
I've been fascinated by stories of polar exploration since reading Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage many years ago. I will readily confess that the desire for knowledge and achievement that drives individuals to risk their lives on these journeys is a feeling I do not share. But I am readily caught up in reading about their "why" and their "how".

When reading Shackleton's story I frequently consulted an atlas; I listened to Labyrinth of Ice: The Triumphant and Tragic Greely Polar Expedi
Jun 21, 2020 rated it liked it
The members of the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition (aka Greely Polar Expedition) persevered the best they could under unimaginable circumstances. The thoroughly researched details described by the author are fascinating. To think think that Greely and the members of his party sacrificed so much in the interest of science (and glory), is nothing short of amazing, and was ultimately a crucial starting point in arctic research continued to this day. The isolation they felt must have been harrowing, bu ...more
This was excellent. I hadn’t read anything on this particular voyage and kept it that way, glued to the tale and wondering if anyone even survived. I kept thinking “it’s been too long for them to not have lost any men”, soooo it’s obvious I’ve been reading tons of these books! This was one so well-written, showing how, decades after the Franklin expedition, men were still trying to conquer nature, and running into the worst combinations of circumstance and unfortunate planning lapses. Towards th ...more
Nov 24, 2019 rated it did not like it
Nonfiction about the Greely expedition (also called the Lady Franklin Bay expedition), yet another of the many terrible Arctic disasters that occured to (or were caused by) various explorers.

In 1881 American Army lieutenant Greely and his 24 followers (mostly scientists or other army men, plus two local Inuit men and one random French doctor) headed up to Lady Franklin Bay (an extremely ominous name that Levy somehow never points out the irony of! Perhaps it was too obvious?) near the very nort
Jul 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction-btr
This was a very informative book although a bit dry at some points. If you are into early exploration.
books and books about ice then this is the book for you. There are very beautiful natural backgrounds that we wont be able to see pretty soon because of global warming. I enjoyed this one.
Linda Bond
Oct 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There may be a shortlist of readers interested in the history of scientific exploration in polar regions, but Levy’s talent is storytelling. Applying his gift, he gives us a story that is moving, insightful and entertaining, at the same time as being a faithful rendition of history. The 1881 journey of Lt. L.W. Greely and crew of 24 to the “Farthest North” on their map is a story better experienced in the cozy warmth of our home with the fire lit and plenty of food on the table. It’s the story o ...more
Arctic exploration has long held a bewitching mystique in my mind, perhaps because it feels so far from my own experiences and inclinations. But I think to a larger extent, it represents those parts of our world, similar to the deep sea, that are visited by only a few, and retain their sense of wonder of the unknown. The best non-fiction should read like the best fiction--gripping, entertaining, evocative, and almost beyond belief. In this regard, Buddy Levy's Labyrinth of Ice handedly delivers. ...more
Oct 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I love Arctic/Antarctic expedition stories and I had never heard of the Greely Expedition. Wonderfully narrated making the reader feel like they are there in the moment. Breathing life into the real men who made up the expedition; both their courageous acts and fallible human selves shining through. Tragic and triumphant. Perfect words to describe it.
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Buddy Levy BIO--
Writer, educator, public speaker and entertainer, Buddy Levy is the author of Labyrinth of Ice: The Triumphant and Tragic Greely Polar Expedition (St. Martin’s Press, 2019); No Barriers: A Blind Man’s Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon (co-authored with Erik Weihenmayer, Thomas Dunne Books, 2017; a national bestseller and Honorable Mention Award Winner in the Outdoor Literature cate

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