Extended Audio Sample

Download The Ice Balloon: S. A. Andrée and the Heroic Age of Arctic Exploration Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Ice Balloon: S. A. Andrée and the Heroic Age of Arctic Exploration, by Alec Wilkinson Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (202 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Alec Wilkinson Narrator: John Pruden Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
Regular Price: $19.95 Add to Cart
— or —
FlexPass™ Price: $12.95$5.95$5.95 for new members!
Add to Cart learn more )

In this grand and astonishing account, Alec Wilkinson brings us the story of S. A. Andrée, the visionary Swedish aeronaut who, in 1897, during the great age of Arctic endeavor, left to discover the North Pole by flying to it in a hydrogen balloon. Called by a British military officer “the most original and remarkable attempt ever made in Arctic exploration,” Andrée’s expedition was followed by nearly the entire world, and it made him an international legend.
The Ice Balloon begins in the late nineteenth century, when nations—compelled by vanity, commerce, and science—competed with one another for the greatest discoveries and newspapers covered every journey. Wilkinson describes how in Andrée several contemporary themes intersected. He was the first modern explorer—the first to depart for the Arctic unencumbered by notions of the romantic age and the first to be equipped with the newest technologies—but no explorer had ever left with more uncertainty regarding his fate, since none had ever flown over the horizon and into the forbidding region of ice.
In addition to portraying the period, The Ice Balloon gives us a brief history of the exploration of the northern polar regions, both myth and fact, including detailed versions of the two record-setting expeditions just prior to Andrée’s—one led by US Army lieutenant Adolphus Greely from Ellesmere Island, the other by Fridtjof Nansen, the Norwegian explorer who initially sought to reach the pole by embedding his ship in the pack ice and drifting toward it with the current.
Woven throughout is Andrée’s own history and how he came by his brave and singular idea. We also get to know Andrée’s family, the woman who loved him, and the two men who accompanied him—Nils Strindberg, a cousin of the famous playwright, with a tender love affair of his own, and Knut Fraenkel, a willing and hearty young man.
Andrée’s flight and the journey—based on the expedition’s diaries and photographs, which were dramatically recovered thirty-three years after the balloon came down—along with Wilkinson’s research, provide a book filled with suspense and adventure, a haunting story of high ambition and courage made tangible with the detail, beauty, and devastating conditions of traveling and dwelling in “the realm of Death,” as one Arctic explorer put it.

Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • “Alec Wilkinson’s writing is so flawless and engaging that I’d read him on a packed subway at rush hour.”

    Sebastian Junger, award-winning author of The Perfect Storm and War

  • “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…And Wilkinson doesn’t get bogged down in too much detail. He understands that the value of polar stories isn’t to be found in guy ropes and provisions. It lies elsewhere, in our endless love of discovery and the drama of being human.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Alex Wilkinson takes his place in the first rank of literary journalists…One is reminded of Naipaul, Mailer, and Agee.”

    Philip Gourevitch, Philadelphia Inquirer

  • “Fabulous…Readers meet ‘a parade of fanatics’ who attempt to reach the Pole, discover what is there, and return alive.”

    Boston Globe

  • “[A] gripping account of what has been called the heroic age of Arctic exploration.”

    Seattle Times

  • “[Wilkinson’s] superb storytelling skills shine on every page. The descriptions that Andrée and his expedition mates wrote about the harsh but stunning Arctic landscape and the slow, agonizing march to their inevitable deaths make for riveting armchair reading.”

    Minneapolis StarTribune

  • “Wilkinson gives us not only an exhilarating account of Swedish engineer S. A. Andrée’s ill-fated expedition, he offers a finely nuanced psychological portrait of a unique race of men—the Victorian-era Arctic explorers—and the age that produced them…[A] rare work of nonfiction whose sublimely understated writing rivals the inherent drama of the subject matter.”

    Toronto Star

  • “Once in a while you come across a book that so fully transfixes your imaginative gaze it ceases to become a book but simply a story.”

    Daily Beast

  • “Wilkinson’s anecdotal narrative is captivating, and he deftly conjures images of forbidding ice-white landscapes. A portrait not only of a man, but of an age, the book is packed with technological, geographic, cultural, and scientific tidbits…A thrilling account of a remarkable man.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “A writer known for discerning portraiture, Wilkinson here probes the personality of Swedish explorer Salomon Andrée, who, along with two companions, disappeared in an 1897 attempt to discover the North Pole by balloon…[A] fine addition to the annals of polar exploration.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Entertaining and extremely well-written, this captivating story about an obscure Arctic expedition is an essential purchase for all avid readers of exploration and polar literature. Highly recommended.”

    Library Journal (starred review)

  • “Entertaining…What makes this more than another adventure story is Wilkinson’s exploration of mankind’s compulsion to reach the extreme points of the Earth, despite all the absurd and obvious risks.”

    Amazon.com editorial review

  • “Wilkinson, ever elegant and thorough, fleshes out his account by delineating the previous expeditions of Greely and Nansen in order to get at the motivations in the minds of this ‘parade of fanatics heading for the deep places’…Beautifully focused and controlled.” 

    Kirkus Reviews

  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month, January 2012
  • A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2012: Nonfiction
  • A New York Times Editor’s Choice

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Christiane | 2/16/2014

    " I love reading books like this on vacation. A cancelled connection and a few hours spent in an airport just doesn't seem so bad when you're reading about a trek across the ice in almost complete darkness, dealing with toes falling off due to frostbite, and having to eat the sled-dogs (or worse!) in order to avoid starvation. S.A Andree had the brilliant idea to float a hot air balloon to the (as yet undiscovered) North Pole, thus, in theory, avoiding all that sledging around on ice floes. His journey does not end well. This is a harrowing account of a little remembered figure of Arctic Exploration, highly recommended for all modern day travelers! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Jennifer | 2/12/2014

    " I loved this book, read it in two days. Harrowing stuff, but well-written and sensitive. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by William Reichard | 1/31/2014

    " The book is fascinating in that it delves deeply into what draws any of us to move toward the unknown, what makes us want or need to explore uncharted territory. Sometimes it's simple vanity, sometimes it's curiosity and intellect, and sometimes it's the need to prove something to oneself. The book uses S. A. Andree's tragic attempt to reach the North Pole in a balloon as a frame, and within that frame packs a number of other narratives related to arctic exploration. What I wanted, in the end, was a better sense of Andree, but ultimately, that would have been impossible - once he and his companions launched, there was little record of them, save for the diaries each of the three kept, and the few photographs they took, which were discovered with their bodies sometime in the 1930's. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Bart Hoag | 1/25/2014

    " Yet another story of arctic and Antarctic exploration that didn't work out! The trauma and suffering that the early explorers went thru is almost unbelievable. This is a great story, well written and well documented, lots of great back ground information about contemporary explorations. "

  • > Show All
Write a Review
What is FlexPass?
  • Your first audiobook is just $5.95
  • Over 90% are at or below $12.95
  • "LOVE IT" guarantee
  • No time limits or expirations