Frozen in Time is a gripping true story of survival, bravery, and honor in the vast Arctic wilderness during World War II, from the author of New York Times bestseller Lost in Shangri-La.
On November 5, 1942, a US cargo plane slammed into the Greenland Ice Cap. Four days later, the B-17 assigned to the search-and-rescue mission became lost in a blinding storm and also crashed. Miraculously, all nine men on board survived, and the US military launched a daring rescue operation. But after picking up one man, the Grumman Duck amphibious plane flew into a severe storm and vanished.
Frozen in Time tells the story of these crashes and the fate of the survivors, bringing vividly to life their battle to endure 148 days of the brutal Arctic winter, until an expedition headed by famed Arctic explorer Bernt Balchen brought them to safety. Mitchell Zuckoff takes the reader deep into the most hostile environment on earth, through hurricane-force winds, vicious blizzards, and subzero temperatures.
Moving forward to today, he recounts the efforts of the Coast Guard and North South Polar Inc. – led by indefatigable dreamer Lou Sapienza – who worked for years to solve the mystery of the Duck’s last flight and recover the remains of its crew.
A breathtaking blend of mystery and adventure Mitchell Zuckoff's Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II is also a poignant reminder of the sacrifices of our military personnel and a tribute to the everyday heroism of the US Coast Guard.
About the Author
Mitchell Zuckoff is the author of Lost in Shangri-La, a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Winship/PEN New England Award. His previous books include Robert Altman: The Oral Biography and Ponzi’s Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend. He has written for national and regional publications and is a former special projects reporter for the Boston Globe, where he was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for investigative reporting. He is a professor of journalism at Boston University and lives outside Boston.
Read an Excerpt
Frozen in Time
By Mitchell Zuckoff
HarperCollins PublishersCopyright © 2013 Mitchell Zuckoff
All rights reserved.
G R E E N L A N D
2 0 0 0 BC TO AD 19 42
GREENLAND MAKES NO sense.
First there's the name, which as most schoolchildren know
should be Iceland, but that was already taken. Almost nothing
green grows in Greenland, where more than eighty percent of the
land is buried under deep ice. Deep, as in, up to ten thousand
feet, or two solid miles. If all of Greenland's ice melted—a worst-
case scenario of climate change—the world's oceans would rise by
twenty feet or more.
Greenland's colorful name is blamed on a colorful Viking
called Erik the Red. Erik went to sea when he was exiled from
nearby Iceland in the year 982, after he killed two men in a
neighborhood dispute. In addition to being an explorer, a fugi-
tive killer, and a lousy neighbor, Erik was the world's first real-
estate shill. He christened his discovery Greenland in the belief
that a “good name” would encourage his countrymen to settle
there with him. The ploy worked, and the community that Erik
founded on the island's southwest coast survived for more than
1 0 F R O Z E N I N T I M E
Unlike the Pilgrims who came to North America, Erik and
his band found no nearby natives to trade with or learn from. So
they relied on themselves and on imports from Europe. But by
the Middle Ages, decades passed between ships. The once-robust
Vikings grew smaller and weaker. Eventually they died out alto-
gether, leaving ruins but little else. Erik the Red is perhaps better
remembered for siring Leif Eriksson, who sailed to North America
some five hundred years before Columbus. Leif called his discov-
ery Vinland, or Wineland. But Icelanders wouldn't be fooled twice
by the same family, and no lasting settlements followed.
A competing but equally odd theory says that the name Green-
land was bestowed by the native Inuit people, formerly called Es-
kimos by outsiders. Their sporadic presence on Greenland traces
back some four thousand years, starting with travelers believed
to have crossed the narrow straits from North America. The Inuit
clustered near the rocky coastline and in the words of one me-
dieval historian, Adam of Bremen, had “lived there long enough
to have acquired a greenish tinge from the seawater beside which
they dwelt.” Under this theory, anyone who looked vaguely green
must have come from Greenland.
If Greenland had to be named for a color, white seems the ob-
vious choice. But blue was viable, as well. Although white at the
surface, glacier ice on much of Greenland comes in translucent
shades of blue, ranging from faint aquamarine and turquoise just
below the surface to indigo in the depths of crevasses. The phe-
nomenon is caused by countless years of snow being compacted
into ice. Snow contains oxygen, which scatters light across the vis-
ible spectrum, making it appear white. Compacting squeezes out
the oxygen, and the compacted ice crystals that remain absorb
long light waves and reflect short waves. The shortest light waves
are violet and blue. And so, the ice at the cold heart of Greenland
G R E E N L A N D 1 1
GREENLAND'S STRANGENESS IS compounded by its great but
politically inconsequential size; its almost complete emptiness;
and its unconscionable weather.
In a world where size generally matters, Greenland's doesn't.
The island is globally overlooked despite being enormous: more
than sixteen hundred miles from north to south, and eight hun-
dred miles at its widest point. Greenland could swallow Texas
and California and still have room for a dessert of New Mexico,
Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, and all of New England. It's three
times the size of France, and it occupies more than twice the area
of the planet's second-largest island, New Guinea.
Yet Greenland is the world's loneliest place. With fifty-eight
thousand residents, it has the lowest population density of any
country or dependent territory. Only Antarctica, with no perma-
nent residents, makes Greenland seem crowded. If Manhattan had
the same population density as Greenland, its population would
One way to picture Greenland is to look at a world map and
find the blank white spot to the northeast of North America. An-
other way is to imagine an immense bowl filled with ice. At the
outer edge of the island, jagged mountains that rise as high as
twelve thousand feet create the bowl's rim. The land between the
coastal mountains, the bowl's concave middle, is filled with ice
that built up over tens of thousands of years, as yearly snowfall
exceeded melting. The more the ice accumulated, the more the
land in the central part of the island became depressed from the
weight. Hence the ice-filled bowl that is Greenland.
A closer look reveals that the bowl's rim has cracks—spaces
between the mountains. Driven by gravity, large bodies of ice
called glaciers flow toward the sea like slow-moving rivers.
When a glacier's leading edge runs out of land, it fulfills its des-
tiny by hurling itself piece by piece into the water. The process,
1 2 F R O Z E N I N T I M E
called calving, is loud and violent and magnificent. Big pieces of
glaciers are reborn as icebergs, some big enough to sink an un-
sinkable ship. In summer 2012, a glacier in northwest Greenland
gave birth to an iceberg the size of Boston. The smallest icebergs
are known to Coast Guardsmen as “growlers” because they make
sounds like snarling animals when trapped air escapes from in-
Most photographs of Greenland's glaciers and their iceberg off-
spring fail to capture their grandeur. They look on film like frothy
meringue in a cookbook. In reality, they are unstoppable giants
that have conquered the world multiple times, and they wouldn't
hesitate to unleash a new ice age if given the chance.
Although the bowl-of-ice analogy
Excerpted from Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff. Copyright © 2013 Mitchell Zuckoff. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
A Note to the Reader xi
Prologue: The Duck 1
1 Greenland 12
2 "A Mother That Devours Her Children" 27
3 Flying in Milk 42
4 The Duck Hunter 55
5 A Shallow Turn 67
6 Man Down 94
7 A Light in the Darkness 109
8 The Holy Grail 127
9 Short Snorters 145
10 Frozen Tears 159
11 "Don't Try It" 175
12 "MOs-Quick!" 201
13 Taps 222
14 Glacier Worms 236
15 Shooting Out the Lights 254
16 Snublebluss 266
17 Outwitting the Arctic 287
18 Shitbags 307
19 Dumbo on Ice 323
20 Iceholes 342
21 Crossed Wires 363
22 The Ten-Meter Anomaly 377
23 "Some Plan in This World" 401
24 Down to the Wire 422
Epilogue: After Greenland 449
Cast of Characters 475
Select Bibliography 541
What People are Saying About This
“You would think that all the World War II stories have been told by now. But Mitchell Zuckoff has a remarkable knack for finding new ones, and he has done it again, with a gripping, moving tale, suspensefully told—whose final act takes place today.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It's a terrific adventure story that keeps you riveted to your seat. My only caveat with the book is that there is a modern day tale interspersed within every other chapter. This should be at the end because it's neither compelling nor that interesting.
This book is written extremely well. The author held my interest throughout the entire story. Absolutely amazing true story. COULD NOT PUT THE BOOK DOWN!!!!! Highly recommend!
THE WRITER SPENT YEARS IN ACCUMULATING THE FACTS. A TRUE STORY OF HUMAN ENDURANCE AND ENGENUITY. I ENJOYED EVERY MINUTE OF IT.
Amazing story extremely well written. Read this book in three days could not put it down!
Once again heart2heart ruins the book by revealing the ENTIRE book in their review. Please learn to write a review, not a book report, dissertation or blog, a simple review. Read the others here. They are simple, concise and to the point. If you feel the need to belabor each and every sentence, take it to a blog site, but stay off here. Ppl are sick and tired of ppl like you ruining books before we have a chance to read them.
This is an amazing adventure story.
This book is awesome! I speak for my wife and father who also read this book and agree with my assessment.
This is a terrific read! I love how the author weaves the drama of the stranded flyboys with the suspense of the modern-day efforts to find the long-lost plane "frozen in time" some seventy years ago. If you're a history fan, this book will not dissapoint!
Very good, HOWEVER, I recommend you 1st READ ONLY THE CHAPTERS FOR 1942/1943 SKIPPING the 2012 chapters until you FINISH ALL1942/43 and THEN READ ONLY the 2012 chapters OR IT BECOMES CONFUSING. The Editor SHOULD HAVE KEPT THE CHAPTERS BY DATE ORDER not going back and forth!!
An exceptional book.
Good reading. Excellent research. This is my first book from the author, it will not be the last.
a story well told, blending historical fact with a current day expedition of discovery.
This was a fabulous book and one I couldn't put down. If you love reading about true adventure and anything about the WWII time frame, you'll enjoy this book. I will be recommending this book to my "reading friends."
Interesting and well written. ~*~LEB~*~
This book grabbed at me and I just wanted everything to turn out okay. A pray and blessing that some things had been found okay, but others not. We need to bring our MIA home, to family and friends. Each and every one of them.
I learned a lot from this book and even at 68 years old and a woman, I was fascinated. I agree with another reviewer...read the history parts first then go back and read the recovery parts. Makes more sense that way. History buffs...please don't miss this one.
This book was my third by Mitchell Zuckoff, all three were good but I think this one may have been the best. I say that because in this book the author participated in part of the story. He was vested in the effort which gave the book a personal touch, the other books I read of his were written from an researchers perspective. I highly recommend this read.
Frozen In Time .I liked the book because it had a lot of suspense. One idea is they were informed that they were told to bring a big bomb but the planes keep crashing in Greenland but couldn’t get out. Another part is they were stranded with some planes that crashed and the crew members died by no help. Another part I liked was when they were traveling they crashed and the crews had to sent out a distress call all for some help but they waited months after they got the call the B-17 got rescued by their navy and the army bases. It was really cool when they were in Greenland the B-17 plane crashed the crew had to survive on a island Cold Hell and the C-57 plane had to do the same thing but tragic happened when they all crashed one by one they all went down.It was a suspensful book by the crew was trying to survive in greenland It was also great when the crews had to go on a journey that it was amazing when they were sent to deliver a bomb but it failed to reach them these are heroes from world war two crews that went all over that never came over but some did but some did not when they were traveling the crew couldn’t go away from the mission they all had to stay on task like the B-17 pane had to do a belly flop on the ice for safety it had to do this so none of the crew died but some men were injured this was suspenseful by I didn’t know that they were going to survive the big crash on ice in greenlandwhen they could have died by it some were okay this was saftey tips like Buckling up when they put their seat belts and had to land very hard but it was a good thing to let them have a seatbelt when they had landed.This book is good for High School and middle school students to read it if you are interested in a great journey and expedition around the world with world war two heroes, a survival kit when surviving in greenland or the different types of planes. ArianCHMS14
Very good read. Loved it and you should too! Do not hesitate to buy
This book was so captivating that I didn't want it to end. I have 2 boys, age 22 and 26. The soldiers in this story were their ages and I can not imagine either of my boys going through such a horrific experience. I highly recommend this book to those who like history, adventure, action and personal stories.
I can never ever say I am cold again. This and other books on people surviving artic cold are amazing. What the human body can endure! Also, the bravery, caring, and persistence of men who thought more of others than of themselves. Should be required reading in school for ethics and selflessness. This is the character of those who should be leading this country. Other two good recent reads like this are, We Die Alone and Endurance.
This is an exceptional books which weaves stories from two time periods into a cohesive, well-wrtten and engrossing work. I liked it even better than "Return to Shangra-la."