I don't know about you, but I am always on the hunt for a good book.
Luckily our next opera The Andrée Expedition has given me plenty of new reading material about a subject that I know almost nothing about- Arctic exploration. I have found two great books directly on the subject of Andrée's fantastic voyage: The Ice Balloon by Alec Wilkinson and Andrée's Story; the Complete Record of his Polar Flight, 1897.
I have spent more than a little time trying to understand why anyone would choose to leave family and home behind to travel to almost certain death by freezing, bear attack, or starvation. I have to say I still don't quite get it, but it makes for a compelling story.
The Ice Balloon by Alec Wilkinson is a fascinating account of the heroic age of Arctic exploration and specifically the journey of S. A. Andrée and his cohorts Nils Strindberg and Knut Fraenkel. Not only does it tell the story of Andrée, but of several other expeditions that all met with varying degrees of tragedy. It also illuminates the perception of the unknown arctic and and what drove men to do such crazy acts (spoiler: science mostly).
A fair reviewer would admit that there are some slow spots in the book and that a lot of pages are dedicated to expeditions of Adolphus Greeley (a bit gruesome due to some instances of cannibalism) and Fritjoff Hansen, which grew frustrating when all I wanted to read about is Andrée and the balloon. There is a good bit of biographical information about Andrée, Strindberg, and Fraenkel and an excellent overview of their journey as well as the lives of those they left behind.
Overall I give it 3 and 1/2 stars.
If you would like to purchase a copy, you can click here to do so from Amazon, although I am sure the folks at Phoenix Books downtown would order it for you.