Cover image for The ice master : the doomed 1913 voyage of the Karluk
The ice master : the doomed 1913 voyage of the Karluk
Niven, Jennifer.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Hyperion, [2000]

Physical Description:
xiv, 402 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Corporate Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
G670 1913.K37 N58 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
G670 1913.K37 N58 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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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.

Author Notes

Jennifer Niven writes both fiction and nonfiction books. Her novels for adults include American Blonde, Becoming Clementine, Velva Jean Learns to Fly, and Velva Jean Learns to Drive. Her first book for young adult readers, All the Bright Places, was published in 2015. Holding Up the Universe is her second young adult book. Her nonfiction books include The Ice Master, Ada Blackjack, and The Aqua-Net Diaries.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

In 1913, famed scientist Vihjalmur Stefansson organized a mission to the Arctic to discover uncharted land. In an attempt to save money, he purchased a less than adequate ship, the Karluk, and skimped on supplies. After only a month, the ship becomes trapped in a giant ice floe, and Stefansson abandons most of the crew and scientists, leaving them to fend for themselves. Led astray by the ice flow and brutal winds, the 25 remaining people are eventually forced to abandon the ship after it is crushed by ice and begins sinking. From this point, their real troubles begin. They camp on the ice but, with spring approaching, are forced to hike along the shifting ice floes to the barely habitable Wrangel Island. Once there, the captain and one Inuit man begin a trek to Siberia in hopes of finding a ship to rescue the stranded men. Meanwhile, the survivors on Wrangel Island face harsh weather, illness, and dissent among their ranks. Drawn from the diaries and firsthand accounts of the scientists and crew, Niven has skillfully written her narrative with a genuine sense of immediacy. Her straightforward prose, along with the excerpts from the men's diaries, reveals the men's characters, both good and bad. The survivors cover the entire spectrum of human nature, from noble self-sacrifice to bitter selfishness. While some men resorted to stealing and lying, others went so far as to risk their lives for the survival of the group. Niven's narration transcends the adventure genre and can ultimately be looked at as a study of how the human character is revealed under extreme duress. An amazingly powerful book. --Kristine Huntley

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Prologuep. VII
Aboard the Karlukp. XIII
September 29, 1924p. 3
August 1913p. 7
September 1913p. 47
October 1913p. 57
November 1913p. 77
December 1913p. 90
January 1914p. 108
February 1914p. 154
March 1914p. 180
April 1914p. 208
May 1914p. 237
June 1914p. 263
July 1914p. 294
August 1914p. 312
September 1914p. 333
The Wakep. 357
Epiloguep. 368
Notesp. 371
Plan of Lower Deck of HMCS Karlukp. 395
Plan of Shipwreck Campp. 396
Wrangel Islandp. 397
Photo and Map Creditsp. 398
Acknowledgmentsp. 399