Catalog: Hell on Ice

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Hell On Ice Book Cover

Hell On Ice: The Saga of the Jeannette
by Commander Edward Ellsberg

Hardcover, 344 pages w/ CD
ISBN 978-0-9718303-1-8

One of the Most Incredible Stories of Human Endurance Ever Written. 
On July 8, 1879 the USS Jeannette left San Francisco on a voyage to reach the North Pole via the Bering Sea. Upon reaching the Arctic Ocean the ship became locked in the ice and drifted helplessly for twenty-one months before it was crushed and sank. Of the thirty-three men aboard the Jeannette, only eleven survived the 250-mile trek to Siberia.

The failure of the voyage and the heavy loss of life were an embarrassment for the U.S. Navy and prompted congressional hearings. Further casting a shadow over the tragedy was the involvement of James Gordon Bennett, the flamboyant publisher of the New York Herald, who saw the Jeannette Expedition as a means of selling newspapers. Bent on repeating the success he realized in sending explorer/journalist Henry Morton Stanley to Africa in search of the missionary Dr. David Livingstone ("Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"), Bennett wielded his influence to have the U.S. Congress pass legislation to put the Jeannette Expedition under the Navy's jurisdiction while he footed the bill and generated publicity.

Accompanying this Special Edition on compact disc is Orson Welles' popular "Mercury Theater On The Air" radio adaptation of Commander Edward Ellsberg's best selling Hell on Ice.

                                              Acclaim for Hell On Ice

"The book is destined to be widely read. It is a thrilling yarn, packed with drama from beginning to end."

--Lincoln Colcord in the New York Herald Tribune

"An artistic achievement of no small proportions, the telling of the story - and what a story there is to tell."
--Herschel Brickell in the New York Post


About Edward Ellsberg

The son of Jewish immigrants, Edward Ellsberg was born in 1891 in Connecticut, but his family moved to Colorado when he was a boy. He entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1910 and graduated first in his class in 1914. After varied service on the USS Texas, he was ordered to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for postgraduate work in Naval Architecture and graduated in 1920. One of Ellsberg’s more notable assignments during his early career was solving boiler and ventilation problems aboard the passenger liner Leviathan, the former German liner Vaterland, following her conversion to oil.

In 1925 he led the salvage efforts to raise the sunken submarine USS S-51, for which he became the first sailor to earn the Distinguished Service Medal in peacetime and was promoted to Commander by a special act of Congress.

Shortly after the raising of S-51, Ellsberg entered civilian service but remained in the naval reserve. He returned to active duty briefly in December 1927, to assist with the salvage of the submarine USS S-4, which had been rammed and sunk off Cape Cod by a Coast Guard cutter.

In the late 1920s Ellsberg began his long and prolific career as a writer of naval history and fiction. On the Bottom, first published in 1929, is his account of the raising of the S-51. During this time Ellsberg wrote a novel about World War I submarines called Pigboats, which was later made into the movie Hell Below; and the important Hell on Ice, about the ill-fated U.S. Navy Jeannette expedition to the North Pole.

Ellsberg re-entered the Navy on December 8, 1941, and his World War II accomplishments in Ethiopia, North Africa and invasion of Normandy are considered his most valuable work. He chronicled his war years in the books Under the Red Sea Sun; No Banners, No Bugles; and The Far Shore.

Edward Ellsberg retired from the Navy with the rank of Rear Admiral. He returned to private life as a consulting engineer and continued to write and lecture. He and his wife Lucy of sixty years divided their final years between Maine and Florida. He died in 1983 at ninety-one and was buried in the cemetery at Willimantic, Connecticut.

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