In August 1930, a Norwegian sloop, sailing in the Arctic Ocean, stopped at a remote island, where its crew members foudn a book, together with a boathook stamped ‘Andree’s Pol. Exp 1896’. Not far from the boat was a body leaning against a rock, with its frozen legs extended. They carefully opened the jacket the corpse was wearing. When they saw a large monogram ‘A’, they knew who they were looking at: S. A. Andrée, the Swede who, in 1897, set off to discover the North Pole, one of the last unmapped places on earth.
The Ice Balloon is the story of the heroic age of polar exploration, and the dream of conquering one of the most inhumane landscapes on earth. In this golden age of discovery, Andrée’s ambition was the most original and remarkable, with many comparing him to Columbus for novelty and daring. For, of the thousand or so people who had gone looking for the Pole, at least seven hundred and fifty of whom had died, only Andrée used a balloon.
Reviews of The Ice Balloon
- ‘Wilkinson’s writing is so flawless and engaging that I’d read him on a packed subway at rush hour.’ Sebastian Junger
- ‘The Ice Balloon tells a remarkable story, while also allowing those of other explorers and their ill-fated expeditions to float gracefully through its pages’ Carl Wilkinson, Financial Times
- ‘It does take a writer of Wilkinson’s diligence of research, elegance of style and perfect pitch as a storyteller to give a doomed, forgotten hero a fine memorial to his heroic adventure in the golden, amateur age of polar exploration’ Iain Finlayson, The Times
- ‘Wilkinson writes with insight and flair, artfully interleaving Andrée’s story with a brief history of Arctic exploration … his prose style suits the spare polar landscape, making his occasional poetic touches even more effective … He understands that the value of polar stories lies in our endless love of discovery and the drama of being human.’ Sara Wheeler, New York Times
- ‘An elegant history of Arctic exploration’ TLS
- ‘Some engaging material here’ Sunday Telegraph, Melanie McGrath
- ‘If Wilkinson does not add much that is new to the story, he re-tells it with panache and compassion’ Joanna Kavenna, Spectator