The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette

17HARRIS-master675Robert R. Harris at The New York Times:

Ice. You remember ice. The stuff that forestalled so many polar explorers back before global warming and dreams of beachfront homes along the shores of Baffin Bay. But, as Hampton Sides reminds us in this first-rate polar history and adventure narrative, the notion of mildish weather in the Arctic did not begin with climate change. Just 150 years ago many believed that the Gulf Stream and its counterpart in the Pacific, the Kuroshio, reached all the way to the North Pole. Once a ship broke through a rim of ice circling the top of the globe, the thinking went, it would encounter an open polar sea and easy sailing to the pole.

Following the failed tries in the mid-19th century to discover a Northwest Passage and make progress north between Canada and Greenland, many experts, including August Petermann — the eminent German geographer known as the Sage of Gotha and, as Sides writes, “probably the world’s most vocal and indefatigable advocate of the Open Polar Sea theory” — argued for an attack on the pole from the other side of North America through the Bering Strait.

more here.