The Ice Master: The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk

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9780786884469: The Ice Master: The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk

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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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

About the Author:

JENNIFER NIVEN's first book, The Ice Master, was named one of the top ten nonfiction books of the year by Entertainment Weekly. Her second book, Ada Blackjack, was a Book Sense Top Ten Pick. Her memoir, The Aqua Net Diaries, was optioned by Warner Bros.  Her bestselling debut novel, Velva Jean Learns to Drive, was followed by the sequel Velva Jean Learns to Fly.  Her novel Becoming Clementine will be released in September.  She lives in Los Angeles.

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