The crew of the PN9E were spotted in a few weeks and resupplied by airdrops, which eased some of their misery; still, extricating them would prove maddeningly complex. The icy terrain around the wreck was riven with menacing crevices that would hamper any rescue attempt, whether by air, sled, or snowshoe. It was a prison.
Enter famed arctic aviator Bernt Balchen, a Norwegian-born Army pilot who devised a daring plan to land amphibious Catalina flying boats belly down on the ice. No one thought it possible, but Balchen, like Sapienza, refused to take no for an answer: “If I’m to crawl in on my hands and knees, I’ll get the boys off the Ice Cap,” he avowed. Needless to say, very little goes according to plan — the US Army and Navy sent men, dogs, sleds, and planes to bring Monteverde and his men home. Weeks stretch into months, but the pages fly by as you eagerly read on. Will they ever get home safely? Zuckoff’s mastery keeps readers wondering all the way to the end.
Matthew Price is a regular contributor to the Globe. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.