Hundreds of Bee readers come out for Hampton Sides and his 'Kingdom of Ice'

New York Times bestselling author Hampton Sides was on a multi-city tour for his new nonfiction narrative title, “In the Kingdom of Ice,” when he stopped at the Sacramento Bee Book Club Thursday night to deliver a words-and-pictures presentation to a crowd of 325.

Afterward, he autographed copies of his book and posed for photos with fans.

“In the Kingdom of Ice” recounts the long-lost story of the USS Jeannette, which left San Francisco in July 1879 carrying a crew of 33 bound for the North Pole, one of the planet’s last uncharted regions.

“There were myths and tales from mariners and whalers going back to the Greeks and Vikings, (including one of) a lost civilization living on a lost continent, “ Sides said. “In some kind of profound way, we wanted to believe there was a warm, cozy place up there, an oasis in an ice-free ‘open polar sea.’”

After five years of preparation, the government-endorsed U.S. Arctic Expedition was launched. The Jeannette was a three-masted schooner with a coal-fired steam engine and a screw propeller. It had been thoroughly outfitted and provisioned, and massively reinforced to withstand anything the Arctic might throw its way. She carried a crew of civilians and naval officers under the command of Lt. Cmdr. George Washington De Long.

“The voyage was a Greek tragedy (in which) the villain was circumstance – an accumulation of near misses and missteps that De Long couldn’t foresee,” said Sides.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee