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Binker

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

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On Tuesday evening, in my last vacation hurrah, my daughter, her boyfriend, and I attended a free lecture by the author Hampton Sides about his latest book, In the Kingdom of Ice.  The subject matter was fascinating and the author very engaging, so it was a fun and interesting evening.  I've already ordered the book (through the link!) and expect that we will have to draw straws to see who gets to read it first.  As an aside, my daughter and her boyfriend were the youngest people in the audience by decades.  

 

In the late 1800s, there was a theory that the Gulfstream and a similar current off of Japan diverted some of their warm waters to the poles, creating "rivers" through the ice that ended up in a warm polar sea.  In general, people were fascinated by exploration at the time (Stanley had just "found" the not-really-lost Livingston and Powell's book about the exploration of the Colorado was a best-seller), so a rich newspaper publisher paid for the Jeanette to go investigate whether or not this warm water theory was true.  

 

It is not true and the men got stuck in the ice.  For 2 years.  At some point, it became clear that they weren't going to get out in their ship, so they abandoned ship and 33 men and a lot of dogs walked 800 miles across the ice to the nearest open water, dragging their 3 smaller boats behind them. They launched and were hit by a storm and then washed up on the Lena Delta in Siberia.  Not all of them survived and the author was a little cagey about what happened, but it appears that the men who did not survive did not die during the trek across the ice, but much closer to solid land, where they would have been justified in thinking that they had "made it."  It reminds me of the only death in the Lewis & Clark expedition--a young man who died of a ruptured appendix before they had gone very far or encountered much danger.  

 

I will write a more thorough post once I read the book itself.

 

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