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The Ice Master: The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk [Paperback]

Jennifer Niven
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 10 2001
The Karluk set out in 1913 in search of an undiscovered continent, with the largest scientific staff ever sent into the Arctic. Soon after, winter had begun, they were blown off course by polar storms, the ship became imprisoned in ice, and the expedition was abandoned by its leader. Hundreds of miles from civilization, the castaways had no choice but to find solid ground as they struggled against starvation, snow blindness, disease, exposure--and each other. After almost twelve months battling the elements, twelve survivors were rescued, thanks to the heroic efforts of their captain, Bartlett, the Ice Master, who traveled by foot across the ice and through Siberia to find help.

Drawing on the diaries of those who were rescued and those who perished, Jennifer Niven re-creates with astonishing accuracy the ill-fated journey and the crews desperate attempts to find a way home.

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The Ice Master: The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk + Fatal Passage: The Story of John Rae, the Arctic Hero Time Forgot
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Product Description

From Amazon

Eighty-five years after a famous but ill-equipped Canadian Arctic expedition of 1913 had sacrificed 16 lives, some artifacts appeared on an Internet auction site. They had originated at a "ghost camp," discovered in 1924, where four of the expedition's 28 men, one woman, and two children had perished. Jennifer Niven has completed the unfulfilled mission of survivor William McKinlay to produce a "more honest and revealing account" of the wreck of the Karluk and its aftermath.

The explorers became split into several dispersed groups living "in the shadow of death." Their simultaneously grim and gruesome experiences are interwoven in this minutely detailed and atmospheric retelling, created by combining and comparing firsthand accounts and other sources. The characters are vividly re-created, from the expedition's self-interested leader, whom McKinlay called "a consummate liar and cheat," to the heroic ship's master, who struggled over 700 miles to organize a rescue. Supplemented by haunting and fascinating photographs, The Ice Master makes for harrowing and compulsive reading. This is a momentous story of the Arctic; of adventure, misadventure, and the heights of human endurance. But it is also a story of human failings and the waste of young lives, as poignant now as it was when it was big news in 1914. --Karen Tiley, --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The 1913 Canadian Arctic Expedition was perhaps the worst-planned arctic exploration in history. The captain declared the ship unfit for the voyage upon seeing it, and the crew consisted of young sailors who had no arctic experience, and scientists who would be better off teaching in a classroom than searching for an undiscovered arctic continent. Niven's first book, unlike the voyage, is well-researchedDand it's thorough. Screenwriter Niven captivates with her reconstruction of the doomed crew's efforts to survive the harshness of the polar winter, disease, hunger and their own clashing personalities. She expertly captures the feelings of the crew about their situation and about each other, and meticulously recounts the daily activities of the 25 crew members (11 survived), during their long stay as castaways on a small arctic Island. The story does read slowly at points, especially near the beginning of the book. The pace picks up as the book progresses, with the most exciting part being the heroic account of the captain's 700-mile trek from the crew's camp to Siberia in search of a ship that he could use to rescue his men.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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The island was a no-man's-land, little more than a mountainous slab of rock high above the Arctic Circle. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping Tale Of Stranded Arctic Explorers July 7 2002
It amazes me how ignorant and unprepared some of the early artic explorers were.
The 1913 voyage of the Karluk north fits that mold. Many of the crew were not trained and had never been in harsh winter conditions. Supplies were bought and stowed haphazardly. The very ship worried the captain as being unworthy and not suited to travel in the ice. The leader bought second hand winter gear at rummage sale prices to save money and cheap pemmican that was not tested for purity.
After the ship stuck fast in the ice north of Alaska, the leader, a shameless man named Steffansson, abandoned the crew to head over the ice toward land. He did not go for help, but left so that he could continue to pursue his own egotistical goal of finding new lands above the Arctic Circle. That left the men (and one woman and two children who were part of an Eskimo family) at the fate of Captain Bartlett.
Fortunately, the Captain was a man of courage and character. His one great flaw happened early on, but was fatal. He knows his ship was not up to the journey north. Why an experienced captain like himself agreed to proceed is a mystery, but it was fortunate for the eventual survivors that he did. (Had he chosen not to captain the ship, Steffanson would have found another captain, probably made of lesser stuff than Bartlett.)
Bartlett would provide the authority, example and leadership that allowed half the crew to survive a winter on the ice and many months camped out on the most god-forsaken island in the world, Wrangle Island.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Man - What They Had to Eat April 22 2002
Books like this make me wonder what is in the head of some people. To leave your perfectly warm and comfortable house and job to spend two years tromping around the arctic in a cramped old boat, eating food that mostly resembles dog food, and being permanently cold - are you kidding me? I must just be a wimp, because this is exactly what this group does and of course the plan goes sour about as soon as they are out of reach of any help. I guess the book would not be that interesting if everything worked.
So the boat is stuck and then crushed and these guys all build little icehouses and hope to tough out the winter eating this horrible meat cake stuff they brought with them. Well you guessed it, about a day into this situation they start to fight, separate into different groups and finally just head off in different directions. What surprised me is that so many of them lived to tell about it thus the documents the author used for the book.
The book really moves along very well. She describes the cold so well you get chills just reading about it. The richness of her descriptions lets you really understand what happened, but the detail does not slow the book down at all. It moves fast right up to the end. This is an interesting book that any adventure reader will enjoy.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping tale of survival March 7 2002
Those TV "survivors" have nothing on these guys! An amazing true story, "The Ice Master" details the misadventures of the ill-fated Karluk and her hapless crew on an early 20th century scientific research expedition gone awry. Searching the Arctic for a phantom continent, the expedition leader abandons his entire company when their ship becomes icebound off the Alaskan coast. Left to fend for themselves with limited supplies, few resources and not quite sure where they are, the crew quickly reduce to their true natures. Some are gallant, some are less so and some are downright nefarious. How each man plays a part in his own fate, as well as the fate of others, is the most captivating part of the story.
It is unimaginable to me that men, women and children could be stranded on an ocean of ice with limited resources and yet still survive. This is an incredible story of human ingenuity and pure force of will defeating circumstance and nature. Niven takes care with her documentation and cites books, diaries and personal interviews in her notes. A well-written and compelling read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent tale of human endurance Feb. 11 2002
Author Jennifer Niven's first non-fiction work is a welcome and worthy addition to the library of polar expeditions and tragedies.
Niven managed to bring to life a doomed expedition that occured almost nine decades ago, based on various different sources well-documented in the bibliography at the end of the book. The brief yet informative backgrounds of the characters provide much insight to the reader as to their individual personalities. This in turn led to a greater understanding of how these personalities clashed later on as the hope of rescue got dimmer.
This book will be enjoyed by all those who are into accounts of polar adventures and survival. To me, this book was as good as Alfred Lansing's ENDURANCE. At least Shackleton's men had the good-fortune of a relatively close crew plus a strong leadership to hold them together. The survivors of the Karluk had neither. This book was enlightening as to the worst things that adversity can bring out in man, as well as the instinct for self-preservation. Reading of all the personality clashes evident, it was amazing that any of them survived at all.
If this account of the Karluk tragedy is to be believed, then its importance cannot be stressed enough. Blame needs to be laid upon Steffanson for his wanton disregard of the welfare of those who set out on this expedition with him. Captain Bartlett should be absolved of Steffanson's accusations and lies.
Ultimately, ICE MASTER is worth its weight in gold if only to illustrate human endurance at its highest level. Highly recommended!
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The story of a deserter and a hero
The Karluk's story really is one of a deserter and a hero. The expedition leader Stefansson, realizing his old and run-down vessel will not carry him to the promise land (being... Read more
Published on Dec 25 2009 by Marc Ranger
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely riveting!
Think you've had a hard day at work? Think again! Have a read of this wonderfully written book and may you never complain again.

Spellbinding in tale and composition... Read more
Published on June 24 2008 by M. Pack
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than fiction.
This is one of those books where you can't put it down until you read one more page, and then it becomes two, and then ten. Excellent book. Read more
Published on Sept. 9 2006 by Melvin Scott
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible Tue Survival Story - well told!
I haven't read a book from cover to cover in years. I picked this one up and could not put it down. Read more
Published on April 4 2004 by John D. Hillmer
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible Tue Survival Story - well told!
I haven't ready a book from cover to cover in years. I picked this one up and could not put it down. Read more
Published on April 4 2004 by John D. Hillmer
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! No other Non-Fiction work like it!
I was mesmerized from the first page. Jennifer Niven's narration and superior writing skills have brought this piece of history alive in this fantastic book. Read more
Published on April 22 2003 by Chris E. Asay
4.0 out of 5 stars Karluk or Endurance ?
Great read for any artic Exploration or adventure reader. Comparison to Endurance and the Shackleton story are incredibly interesting. Read more
Published on Feb. 10 2003 by rusgc
5.0 out of 5 stars Awe inspiring!!!
This book was absolutely fabulous!!! Ms. Niven is truly an incredible writer. Her descriptions of the men, the families and the conditions tugged at my heart like no other story... Read more
Published on Jan. 31 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put the book down.
Really well written book. Even though it is non-fictional, it reads as good as any novel.
Published on Jan. 27 2003 by James W. Brandt
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply unforgettable
This book tells the amazing true story of a doomed expedition to the Arctic.
There is much to recommend about this book, throughout you wonder why anyone would ever venture... Read more
Published on Oct. 28 2002 by Louise Kolbeinsen
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