Trial by Ice

Novel by Richard Parry, Kid-blog by Connor Bosco

Contrasts and Contradictions

A part of the book that I really thought would never happen was them getting lost from the Polaris because of the horrible judgement of the captains. When I first looked at the book I thought that they might stay and use the scraps of the book but no, they got all split up and put into two parties. In the text is says, ¨The Polaris vanished behind the land and was gone.¨ This should have never happened had they not been so stupid as to strand half on the ice.

Aha Moment

I believe that the biggest aha moment in the book was on page 301. on that page the rest of the world discovered that Captain Hall had been killed by arsenic. In the text it says, "an intake of considerable amounts of arsenic by C.F. Hall. I thought this part was the biggest aha moment because this is the part where the entire mystery of the book is told to the world. The part that I had been speculating on for the entirety of the book was told and gave some satisfaction that I had continued with the book.

Tough Questions

In the early/middle chapters of the book, not specifically any page for this question but chapters about 7-10, the captains ask themselves if they should put a party o the ice or not. Later on they ask themselves why they did that and if it was truly the best idea. The shortage of food strove them to almost insanity as they saw it as their faults. The German's separated from the rest of the crew causing even more distress and less unity. While there is no one quote it is mentioned multiple times. That was the toughest question asked.

Words of the Wiser

I found the words of the wiser section of the book mark probably the hardest. I searched and searched the entire book for just one little bit of wisdom with no luck. After scanning the entire book twice I realized that there really wasn't anything for words of the wiser. Just about everyone in the book was the same age and the men were to frantic trying to survive to even try to give some helpful advice. The captains were to arrogant to listen to any of the advice anyways and considering half of the crew only spoke German with little English means that it would be extremely hard to convey any sort of idea. The only people capable of giving helpful wisdom would be the Inuit but the crew saw them as an inferior race and so called savages. This is why I really could not find anything for words of the wiser.

Again and Again

The part of the book that I thought had continued on and on throughout the book was the idea of limited food. It was referenced so many times that to find every page would mean writing down just about a half of the pages of the book. I believe this was continued to give the reader a sense of what the crew was truly going through. Had the author not continued this throughout the book it would seem as though food was not a problem when it was the biggest problem the men of the Polaris faced. This theme is made even more prevalent as chapter fourteen titled, "Slow Starvation." This is simply the the main idea of the book and is used to further the plot until the very ending. This is the idea that I thought on again and again as the book progressed.

Memory Moment

In the early stages of the book and later on the book references a certain point in history and of a characters experiences. On page 227 the book references a point in history beyond the point that the story takes place, the age of the Third Reich. In the text it says, "By this time the daily intake of those on the ice was at best guess, less than five hundred calories." Nazi nutritionists calculated that their slave laborers would need a minimum of eight hundred calories a day to perform useful labor for a period of four to six months before they starved to death." This quote helps the reader to understand that these men were suffering much like the holocaust victims. The thought that nature is just as good at murder as Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Hitler and other Nazis is terrifying. The book also references other failed attempts to reach the north pole which just shows how the captains of the Polaris were ignorant people that need to read up on their history. These flashbacks and even flash forwards (if that's a thing of course) help us, the readers understand exactly what this was like.

Creative Questioner

In the book I had formulated many questions most of which were answered at the end but by the time it was ready for lit circles I had one that I needed to share. The question I asked was not in any one location but throughout the chunk I was given. It was how long could the men survived had they not shared with the natives and were never rescued? This question went along with the whole repeating the idea of hunger but in the text it shows that they were also sharing with an Inuit village. How long would they have survived if they turned the Inuit away and the ship passing by was mysteriously destroyed? Could they have lasted weeks months or even another year with the gunpowder they had? If they hadn't shared with the Inuit they would not have gotten so many catches so that would hinder them correct? And if they hadn't shared they would have more bread to last them correct? From the feedback I got from my lit circle group, they were clueless also and interested in how long the men really would have lasted. That was my best question and the one that really left myself and others scratching our heads,

Word Watcher

There were many words in the novel that were either an interesting word choice or made a difference. My group discussed many of these words. One such was fiasco on page 266. I chose it as it gave me an idea of how "crazy" the chunk of the book was. It helped me visualize what it would be like there. My group had also seen this and thought the same thing which I thought was great. Some of the other words I chose were scapegoat on page 265, overzealous on page 274 and malcontent on page 284. Unfortunately my group had not seen these but they still understood where I was going with it. The author put this in to help the reader but it also gives a lot of beauty, per say, that only language can give us. It really made me stop and think about the English language in its finest form.

Literary Luminary

There is more figurative language in this book then in any other I have ever read, well in density I suppose. The idea of a barren wasteland really lends itself to figurative language as without it, the book would be stale. In my group we discussed many that left us with a good understanding of the book. On page 297 there is a quote that states, "The four men stepped back a century in time." My group told me that it was very descriptive and that much had happened in between the 1880s and the 1980s. I chose it for exactly those two reasons. I started to ponder how much had really happened, two world wars, the rise and fall of the Soviet Union with the plague of communism spreading infecting Eastern Europe and Eastern Asia, the arms race more formally known as the cold war and so many more. It really makes you just put down the book and think. This kind of language is what makes many interested in reading novels.


As the book is a classic story of survival against the odds I was bound to have a few connections. One of my biggest connections was how the idea of being stuck on an ice floe reminded me of a book (which for the life of me I can not remember) where an Inuit boy is sent on a quest to become a man. However he was stuck for a couple days, not a few months. It was a connection that I continued to think about and became my most important connection. My group also connected to that with other books that they could also not remember. connection within a connection I guess. While I did have other connections that was the most important and left the biggest imprint on my mind.

Brief Summary

I probably should have put the summary a bit earlier into the post but oh well, it will do fine here, so here it is. The novel Trial by Ice takes place in the rebuilding period of human history or the 1870s and 1880s in the continental United States and the Arctic circle. A man named Charles Hall becomes fixated on reaching the north pole for the United States. As he gains popularity, congress finally agrees to let him attempt the feat. Hall quickly puts together a crew which is nationally divided and puts three captains aboard instead of one. The ship the Polaris takes off and sets course for the north pole. After a while the ship gets caught in a storm and pinned against some ice. Meanwhile aboard the ship the crew becomes even more divided and the Hall mysteriously dies of some "illness." The ice strangles the ship and half of the crew gets stuck on an ice floe while the other half gets stuck on the shore. Months of hunger and cold greet the men as the organization of the project becomes abandoned. Inuits come for the food and help the crew with hunting. When spring comes a ship passes by and rescues one of the crews. Weeks pass by but the other half is finally rescued and taken back to the United States. A century after a failed trial the truth is found that Emil Bessel had poisoned Hall which led to the demise of the entire expedition.

My Opinion

In all my opinion of the book is as divided as the crew. One half of me liked it while the other half not so much. I thought the overall idea and use of language was quite extraordinary but it got stale for me during certain points. I really could have skipped the beginning in my opinion as it was the most bland part of the book. The middle of the book just repeated itself with the unruly crew, bitter cold and low food ideas were continued constantly. I am not sure about the historical accuracy but it seemed sound to me. If I was to recommend any part of it I would say that the late middle was the most interesting with the urgency of the situation being expressed. Overall I give it a 6.5/10 with 3.5 taken off for the bland beginning and end which really ruined the book for me.