In the latter part of the 19th century much of the world was gripped what could be called Arctic fever. As one of the last untapped regions of the world, nations were eager to be the first to reach the North Pole. The prevailing theory of the time, believed by many to be indisputable fact, was that beyond the ice pack of the northern latitudes was an Open Polar Sea, the waters temperate and the climate mild.
After taking part in an Arctic rescue mission to find the remaining survivors of the Polaris off the coast of Greenland, American Navy Lt.George W. DeLong was eager to return. Upon his return to the United States he worked tirelessly to find a way to captain his, own Arctic expedition. With the funding of the affluent newspaperman James Gordon Bennett, Jr. and the support of the U.S. Navy, DeLong embarked from San Francisco for the Bearing Strait convinced that this as yet untried route would successfully take him to the top of the world.
However shortly after crossing through the Strait, DeLong's ship became trapped in the ice pack. The ship drifted for two years, heading generally northwest to regions approximately a thousand miles above Siberia. And there after popping free of the ice for abrief time in an unusually mild summer, their ship sank. DeLong and his men made a desperate march across ice flows, towing their cutters in search of land, hoping beyond hope to reach salvation in Siberia.
This is a tale both harrowing and heroic. Told in a narrative style reminiscent of Laura Hildebrank and Erik Larson, this book was a genuine, late-night, keeping me up late into the night. Sides had access to a treasure of previously unpublished correspondence between DeLong and his wife Emma, which he incorporated throughout the book, which gave the reader a strong sense of connection to them both. This is by far the best non-fiction book I have read this year and in reality one of the best books I have read in all of 2014.