The Ice Master: The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk and the Miraculous Rescue of her Survivors

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9780786865291: The Ice Master: The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk and the Miraculous Rescue of her Survivors

In 1913 an expedition party sailed out of British Columbia in search of an undiscovered Arctic continent. Filled with hope and excitement, the twenty-five people on board had no hint of the tragedy that lay ahead. Imprisoned in ice, abandoned by their expedition leader, and blown off course by polar storms, the Karluks crew was eventually forced to abandon ship on the ice-pack somewhere in the remote, treacherous Arctic. While the captain set off on foot on a 700-mile trek to search for help, the castaways left behind had no choice but to wait, and to struggle against hypothermia, snowblindness, and death from mysterious disease, starvation, or exposure to the brutal Arctic winter. Finally, after being stranded for nearly twelve months at the top of the world, eight men, one woman, and two children were rescued. Until now, their amazing story has never been fully told. Bringing together first-hand diary accounts, original documents, news reports, and interviews with a variety of sourcesincluding descendants of expedition members and the one living survivorThe Ice Master is a true story that rivals the most dramatic fiction. It is a tale of adventure and exploration, of cowardice and heroism, of brutality and hardship, of betrayal and redemption. It is a story about unlikely heroes and unexpected villainshuman beings reduced to their primal needs by the infinite power and mystery of nature.

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Review:

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, Amazon.co.uk

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Jennifer Niven

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