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Tale of expedition gripped by Arctic ice is chilling

Toward the end of the 19th century, people around the globe were enthralled with one of the last unknown areas of the world: the Arctic. It was as alluring and unknown as the surface of Mars or Venus. If a person could stand at the North Pole, any direction they took a step toward would be south.
What lay beyond the ring of ice that circled the top of the earth was a mystery which was the subject of many discussions by scientists and explorers. Everything about the pole was a mystery. Was it covered with mountains or tunnels that plunged into the center of the earth? Some felt it was an open sea fed by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic and Kuroshio Current in the Pacific.
The wealthy owner of the New York Herald, James Gordon Bennett Jr., who had financed H.M. Stanley’s expedition to Africa in search of Dr. Livingston and captured the world’s attention, was in search of creating another sensation. He bankrolled an expedition to the North Pole to be led by a young naval officer named George Washington De Long, who had recently returned to a hero’s welcome after leading a rescue operation off the coast of Greenland.
De Long was to lead a crew of 33 Navy officers, enlisted men and civilians into uncharted Arctic waters. The USS Jeanette sailed from San Francisco harbor in July 1879 in an attempt to reach the North Pole through what was then believed to be open water beyond the Arctic icepack.
The ship entered the ice to the east of Wrangell Island in September and, as expected, was held fast within a few days. After two years, in June 1881, the ice parted and it was hoped they might reach open sea, but within days the ice closed in with such force that Jeannette’s hull was crushed.
Less then an hour later the Jeanette went to the bottom of the sea, and, with the barest of supplies, the men were marooned a thousand miles north of Siberia.
They began their long march across the endless ice facing everything from snow blindness and polar bears to ferocious storms and frosty labyrinths. The expedition battled madness and starvation as they fought for survival.
“In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Voyage of the USS Jeanette” by Hampton Sides is a tale of heroism and determination in the most unforgiving territory on Earth.
Children’s story time: Weekly through Nov. 26. For more information, call 704-216-8234.
• Baby Time — A loosely interactive program introducing simple stories and songs to babies 6–23 months old with a parent or caregiver. Program lasts 30 minutes. Headquarters, Wednesdays, 10 a.m.; East, Mondays, 10 a.m.
• Toddler Time — Focused on sharing books, singing songs and encouraging listening skills for children ages 18–35 months with a parent or caregiver; lasts 30 minutes. Headquarters, Tuesdays, 10:30 a.m.; East, Mondays, 11 a.m.
• Tiny Tumblers — A loosely interactive program introducing simple stories, musical scarves and instruments for babies 6-23 months old with a parent or caregiver. The same program is offered two times per week; lasts 30 minutes. South, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.
• Preschool Time — To encourage the exploration of books and build reading readiness skills for children ages 3-5 with a parent or caregiver; lasts 30 minutes. Headquarters, Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.; East, Thursdays, 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.; South, Tuesdays, 1:30 p.m.
• Noodlehead Story Time — For children ages 4-8 to enjoy listening to silly books and tales together; lasts 30 minutes. Headquarters, Thursdays, 4 p.m.; South, Mondays, 4 p.m.
• Art programs — School-age children can learn different art terms and techniques and work on art projects. Program lasts 30 minutes. Headquarters, Art in the Afternoon, Thursdays, 4:30 p.m.; East, Emma’s Easel, Thursdays, 4 p.m.; South, Art with Char, Wednesdays, 4 p.m.
Teen Program: All programs 5:30-7 p.m. East, Monday; Headquarters, Tuesday. Celebrate the autumnal equinox with a variety of leaf-centered crafts. Teen programs are for middle school and high school students. Light refreshments for teens included.
Book Bites Club: South Regional (only), Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., “A Week in Winter,” by Maeve Binchy. Book discussion groups for adults and children meet the last Tuesday of each month. The group is open to the public and anyone is free to join at any time. There is a discussion of the book, as well as light refreshments at each meeting. For more information, please call 704-216-7841.
Displays for September: headquarters, Daughters of American Revolution, Manga 200th anniversary by Robert Clyde Allen; South, student art by Carson High School; East, Alpha Beta.
Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second language.

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