Labyrinth of Ice

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: Just don’t go to the Arctic. It’s a bad idea.

Quick synopsis: The story of the Greely Polar Expedition in 1881. It went badly.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: You don’t get a cold in the Arctic. The lack of people and germs means you just won’t get it. You may die of starvation like most of the Greely Expedition but at least you won’t have an annoying cold. Yes, I am an optimistic person. Why do you ask?

Fun Fact for History Nerds: Robert Todd Lincoln comes out of this episode looking like a huge jerk. He never truly supported the expedition and his foot dragging most likely led to the failure of one, if not two, relief expeditions. Daddy would have been upset.

My Take: The Greely Polar Expedition is a tale of two outcomes. On the one hand, they made it furthest north which was a huge deal in 1881. The team took a tremendous amount of scientific measurements that are useful even today. And they didn’t all die!

On the other hand, most of them did die. Three relief missions were needed to finally save what was left of the expedition. Accusations of cannibalism at the end marred what many saw as a tragic triumph. One expedition member even had to be executed.

In case you can’t tell, a lot happened on the Greely Polar Expedition and it is a fantastic story. Levy does what he does best here which is give you the details you need and keep the story moving. It is easy to get bogged down in the details and the personalities, but Levy focuses on the important aspects without losing the pace.

Verdict: A great book which is very accessible to even non-nerds.

If You Liked This Try:

  • Buddy Levy, Conquistador
  • Buddy Levy, River of Darkness
  • Gay and Laney Salisbury, The Cruelest Miles
  • Alfred Lansing, Endurance
  • Bruce B. Henderson, Fatal North
  • Jennifer Niven, The Ice Master
  • Hampton Sides, In the Kingdom of Ice
  • Stephen R. Brown, Island of the Blue Foxes
  • David Welky, A Wretched and Precarious Situation
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Labyrinth of Ice
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