“[A] superb history of the conquest of the North Pole. . . . In Fleming’s vivid prose, their suffering becomes a fable of men driven to extremes by the lust for knowledge, as epic as a Greek myth. They were Icarus in reverse: having sailed too close to their arctic hell, they crashed and froze.” Lev Grossman, Time Magazine
Ninety Degrees North
The Quest for the North Pole
978-0-8021-4036-4 • $15.00 • Paperback • Nov. 2003
History (Exploration and Adventure)
In the nineteenth century, the North Pole was a tantalizing mystery. Was it a continent of alien beings? Was it a portal into unknown inner worlds? Was it an open sea or a wilderness of ice? When Sir John Franklin went missing in 1845 explorers welcomed the opportunity to find out. Over the next one hundred years Britain, the United States, Russia, Germany, and dozens of other countries raced to be first at the top of the globe.
Picking up where his widely acclaimed Barrow’s Boys left off, Fergus Fleming’s Ninety Degrees North is a high-octane, swashbuckling history of the "ice-clumped lunatics" who vied to conquer ultimate north. Intrepid, obsessive, sometimes just plain insane, they endured scurvy, months-long ice traps, unspeakable deprivation, polar bear attacks, and sunless 100° F winters that often led to mutiny and madness. Their methodsships, sledges, skis, hot-air balloons, planes, and zeppelinswere as varied as their theories were fantastical. Some of them returned as national heroes; others, such as the impostor Frederick Cook, returned to be denounced as charlatans; still others, such as the mysteriously poisoned Francis Hall, never returned at all. Fleming’s larger-than-life cast of characters includes the playboy and media mogul James Gordon Bennett, who orchestrated expeditions solely to sell newspapers; and of course, the most controversial figure in Arctic exploration, Robert Peary, who persevered in his quest for fame despite having lost eight toes to frostbite. Was Peary the first to reach the Pole in 1909, as he liked to claim? Or was it almost forty years later when a Soviet team, shrouded in Cold War secrecy, became the first to set foot there?
Written with Fergus Fleming’s trademark wit, Ninety Degrees North draws on expedition logs, journals, and letters to give us what is easily the most engaging and comprehensive account of humankind’s epic quest for the North Pole.