"Trial by Ice" Two Disasters In One

By Rachel Thomas

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This is a map of the expedition in 1871.


Background Information

Trial by Ice by Richard Parry is about the United States Expedition to the North Pole. Now, this actually happened, everything in the book is true, even dialogue. At the time, America had just come a victorious win from the Civil War, and they felt like they could do anything. President Grant let the expedition be put forth, and sadly, it took a nasty turn. This is a historical nonfiction book, and it was published in 2001. If you would like to read the synopsis of the book, go to the very bottom of this page.

What is the Point of This Article?

This was the book I chose for our novel unit, I read it, and now I have to creatively show what I learned. Those of you in Ms. Grassi's Purple Class, know what I am talking about. Everyone else, you will see as you read on!
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What I Learned/Connected From "Trial by Ice"

1. Contradictions and Contrasts

In Trial by Ice, there was a lot of arguments, but there was one that stuck out to me. On page 208, and the crew had been separated. Part of the crew, which included Sidney O. Buddington, who arguably became the captain, after Captain Hall died, saw the crew. Then, for some reason, he didn't go and at least attempt to rescue them. I thought that Buddington, and the other three people that were with him, would at least attempt to find them, but they didn't.

2. Aha Moment

This book was made to be a "roller-coaster" ride book, so the plot changes where you least expect it. On page 224, which was where I thought it really changed the plot, the men who are stuck on the ice, have only a few ounces of food left. Now, the Inuit keep "white men" weapons, it is very rare for them to give them up. Ebierbing, one of the Inuit on this trip, gave George Tyson (who also was arguably the captain) a pistol. In the text, it says, " 'I don't like the look of out of the men's eyes,' Ebierberg whispered darkly...Cannibalism?" I thought this was ridiculous! I mean, who would really want to eat a human? Though, they were stuck on an ice floe with very little food left. Anyway, this changed what all of the sailors thought, which can very odd.

3. Tough Questions

Everyone asks questions in life, whether they are complicated questions, or simple questions. I was supposed to find a question where a character stops and asks themselves an "I wonder..." or "Why..." type of question. In this book, there wasn't any direct questions, so we had to do a little inferring on this. On page 216, it says, "Finally the lead of frigid water widened beyond any hope jumping the gap, and Tyson slumped helplessly onto the snow to watch the current catch the other piece and swirl it into the mists." Since Trial by Ice is a historical nonfiction book, you don't know what is going on inside their heads, but you can imagine the Tyson would ask a "Why..." type of question right now. They just lost part of their belongings, in the ARCTIC. That is a hard loss.

4. Words of the Wiser

You would think that there was at least some wise person on this expedition right? WRONG. In this book, everyone was so divided that it was ridiculous. There was literally no older, wiser person there to even give advice. Because Captain Hall had died, he was no longer the main character. He was all the way to chapter six, and after that, there wasn't a main character. It kept jumping from the conflicts between the sailors and their troubles surviving the cold. So, I chose a piece of information that was unusual, but important to both the characters and the plot. Right before page 210, it talks about how the Inuit turn their backs on helping people. "Normal people" thought that this was crazy, but that is their way of life. Anyway, on page 210, it states, "Blood ties, friendship, or camaraderie all will cause a man to risk his own life for that of another." This shows how much humans can love, and it can be a beautiful thing, but no one really remembered this later on in the book.

5. Again and Again

Many things repeat over and over again, but they are not always good. In this part of the plot (remember the drawing activity with plot) everyone is trying to save the ship from sinking, because of their misdoings. On page 205, the same thought of sinking and drowning and freezing to death keeps coming up. For instance, on page 205, it says, "Chips of snow and ice showered onto the deck as the danger floated past...Worse than that, they could not even jump onto the ice should the ship sink." Even though the iceberg had just floated past, they are still in danger of dying because the ship is slowly going under.

6. Memory Moment

Everybody has flashbacks at the most inopportune times. In this case, it is not one of those, thankfully. That would have made everything worse. On page 203, the Polaris, which is there boat, had just come around a bend, and it looked like it was going to come and save Tyson and part of the crew from the ice floe. It ended up not doing that, and it went in the other direction. Later in the text, Tyson thought he saw the Polaris in working condition, and it would come and rescue them. At the time, when I read that part of the plot, I didn't think it would be super important, but it obviously did, when it looked like the story was going to have a happy ending when Tyson saw their beloved boat again.

The Second Disaster

This book was downright awful. Awful in every part of the definition. First of all, this story, which is all true because it did happen, is so twisted it's absurd. First of all, when Captain Hall died, it was mystery that he dies because he was perfectly fine, and Emil Bessel, who was the surgeon on the ship, is happy and giddy about it. I didn't understand that. Second, the two doctors who were interrogating Emil Bessel weren't even experienced in his field! Emil Bessel got away with something, and it wasn't until 1968 till they figured out that Hall was poisoned with arsenic (Chapters 15-Aftermath). Connor Bosco, also agreed with this, and I quote him, "I thought it was a little fishy with those doctors." Also, the ironic thing is that all of the people that were chosen, were the big celebrities in their field! Not everything is as they seem...Anyway, in our book club that we had, most of the people had read the book, and the ones that did all agreed that this was stupid! Valerye thought it was peculiar that a doctor would try to kill somebody, and we all agreed. It was a second disaster alright.

Final Take

If you have any comments, please comment on the Kidblog Post. For those of you who have read the book Trial by Ice, if it's okay with you, I would like you to tell me if you agreed or disagreed with my opinion. Thank you for reading!