A captain, his nephews, and his son journey into the frozen tundra and icy waters of the North Pole regions. After their ship gets stuck in the ice, they must accept the help of a giant Eskimo, Chingatook. Singularly thoughtful and noble, Chingatook serves as a guide and counselor, though he cannot understand why they are searching for "This nothing, this 'Nort Pole'!"
Despite icebergs, avalanches, fierce animals, and a war-minded native tribe, the explorers struggle forward, using all their ingenuity and many clever inventions to bring them to the North Pole itself.
The white men are sincere, peace-loving Christians who seek to act in accordance with the Bible. They occasionally use their tools (such as electricity) to scare the natives, but always for peaceful purposes.
Ballantyne lived in a racist age, and this is slightly reflected in his writing:
There is kindly condescension toward the Eskimos and the black "wooly" cook. One Eskimo is held up as being much wiser than the others, and it is suggested that this is because he has a Scottish ancester.
On the other hand, Chingatook is considered to be unusually noble and intelligent, and the others are clearly seen as fully human. Ballantyne occassionally points out the Eskimos' similarity to civilized nations, such as that all mothers love their babies and that civilized nations have sometimes been even more foolishly warlike than these natives.
The white men teach the Eskimos about the peace-loving God of the Bible. Chingatook eventually realizes his need for a Savior and believes in Jesus as that Savior.
The characters pray.
Some men are killed in an accident. There are a couple of fistfights and much hunting. The characters are often in danger, whether from the elements, animals, or other people. War is threatened and it is mentioned that the women and children would suffer. The Eskimos believe that insults must be washed out in blood.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Some of the white men smoke tobacco.
An Eskimo girl is almost forced into marriage but is rescued. She is courted by another Eskimo, who brings her gifts.
Crude or Profane Language or Content
The Eskimos eat raw meat.
This story of the discovery of the North Pole is interesting and fun, but it is merely conjecture, as Ballantyne wrote it before the true discovery of the North Pole. It is his imagination of what that region might be like.
The characters are fun-loving and have strong integrity, and the white men and Eskimos each learn to respect the other. The captain's inventions also are ingenious and interesting to read about.