The Ice Balloon: S. A. Andree and the Heroic Age of Arctic Exploration
by Alec Wilkinson
Knopf, 2011. 233 pgs. Non-fiction.
In 1897 S. A. Andree, Nils Strindberg, and Knut Fraenkel launched a hydrogen balloon which they were hoping would combine with lucky winds, a set of drag cables, and some sails, to carry them swiftly and directly over the North Pole and down the other side of the world to North America. They disappeared, never to be heard from again, until their bodies--and their journals and other writings--were discovered some 33 years later. Alec Wilkinson's meticulous account of Andree's bold attempt is interspersed with stories of other adventurers who either tried and died, or came back beaten by the cold, the dark, and the ever-moving ice. Alec Wilkinson is one of the finest prose stylists writing today, and his elegant, haunting account is both enlightening and mystifying.