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The Impossible Rescue: The True Story of an Amazing Arctic Adventure

3.76  ·  Rating Details  ·  291 Ratings  ·  79 Reviews
Whaling in the Arctic waters off Alaska’s coast was as dangerous as it was lucrative in 1897. In that particular year, winter came early, bringing with it storms and ice packs that caught eight American whale ships and about three hundred sailors off guard. The ships were imprisoned in ice with no hope of escape. With limited provisions on board the ships that hadn’t been ...more
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published September 11th 2012 by Candlewick (first published February 14th 2012)
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Community Reviews

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Jan 17, 2014 Sesana rated it really liked it
This is one instance when the title isn't hyperbole. To save the crews of several whaleships stranded by ice off the coast of Alaska, in the middle of winter, and to do so by trekking hundreds of miles across land, herding reindeer... It's audacious, desperate, and very nearly impossible. This definitely belongs in the list of daring adventures.

Sandler spends much of the book letting the men involved speak for themselves. That works, because they tended to be good writers, and no one knew bette
A good, quick look at a thrilling tale of daring rescue. I bought it during a Youth History sale on Amazon and it looked interesting (I love tales of the Arctic and Antarctic) and I thought it would be appropriate as winter falls on the Midwest.

I have to give praise both to the men who blazed the path and to the author, for neither forgot to mention frequently how vital the knowledge, hospitality, generosity, and skill of the indigenous Alaskan peoples was. Often, the white men (inevitably) that
In October 1897, a whaling ship arrived in San Francisco Harbor bearing the news that eight other whaling ships with crews totaling 300 men had become embedded in ice in the northernmost part of Alaska at Point Barrow. An early gale had caught the whalers off guard. The ice surrounding the ships ranged from 30 to 40 feet thick. Unless help could reach them, the crews were certain to face starvation over the long Arctic winter. In response to public demand, President William McKinley ordered a re ...more
Jim Erekson
Apr 23, 2013 Jim Erekson rated it really liked it
Ever since being drawn in by the opening scenes of Frankenstein with the icebound ship, this kind of bleak setting and desperate narrative has been something I enjoy in books. I was dragged on enough winter camps as a scout in the 80s to know that I would absolutely hate it. Butterfield Canyon in the Oquirrhs, 1982, was the worst--we couldn't even nail down the corners of the tents because the snow was so deep, and everyone just stayed up all night with their feet up to the fire. In the morning ...more
Apr 12, 2013 Kimberly rated it liked it
Shelves: teen-booktalks
It’s 1897. There are no phones. No GPS. Nothing but the people who went before you to provide information. And sometimes, you didn’t even have that.
Eight American whaleships set out into the Arctic waters off the Alaskan coast. But winter came early that year, and 300 sailors were trapped in the Arctic ice. Warmer weather was at best, 10 months away. They were in almost 24-hour a day darkness, and temperatures were easily 60 degrees below zero. If the ice moved, it would crush anything it held,
Jake Cannady
May 01, 2014 Jake Cannady rated it it was amazing
This book is amazing only if you are the type of person that loves and craves survival because this is the ultimate survival book come true while I was just starting this book I instantly felt like I was apart of the book, almost like I was exactly inside the ultimate survival. If you are the survival type then this book has your name written all over it. A captain by the name of Benjamin Tilton also know as "Captain Tilton" had just recently been in a horrible collision with an enormous ice ber ...more
Tessa Joy
Dec 01, 2015 Tessa Joy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
In September 1897, eight whaling ships get iced-in just off the northern coast of Alaska. Word spreads to the Whitehouse of the plight awaiting the 265 marooned whalers. President William McKinley orders the captain of the Bear, a ship in the Revenue Cutter Service, to send three officers overland to gather reindeer herds and drive the animals 1,000 miles to the whalers’ location near Point Barrow, Alaska. Three men are chosen for the mission: First Lieutenant David Jarvis oversees the Overland ...more
James Korsmo
May 30, 2014 James Korsmo rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is an interesting chronicle of a daring and determined Arctic rescue during the early days of Alaskan exploration. A whole fleet of whale boats are sealed in by heavy ice and inbound winds, and they will be trapped on the northern coast of Alaska for the whole winter. A vessel of the predecessor-service to the Coast Guard knows of their plight and, after a refit in Seattle, heads north on a daring rescue attempt at the direct order of the president. But it will require an overland journey o ...more
Edward Sullivan
A harrowing, true story of shipwrecks, survival, and daring rescue. Great use of period photographs.
Nicola Mansfield
Dec 05, 2012 Nicola Mansfield rated it really liked it
Reason for Reading: This book covers many of my interests; the time period, true tales of survival and life in the Arctic. I had not hear of this true story and it appealed to me.

When first setting eyes upon this book, the thing that strikes one is the coffee-table book appeal. The book is an over-sized square and illustrated on almost every page with contemporary photographs taken by one of the rescue members, Dr. Call, from start to finish. This is an amazing photographic memorial to this amaz
Dec 29, 2014 Beverly rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: 12-16 year olds
Recommended to Beverly by: Best Books for Young Adults/
The Impossible Rescue is an amazing true story of leadership, teamwork, survival and selflessness. In 1897 eight whaling ships and three hundred crewmen were entombed in ice when an early, fierce winter bombarded them with freezing storms and no way to escape. President McKinley ordered a rescue, but the mission was so dangerous and success so remote that he said no one could be ordered to participate. Three men stepped up to create a plan and excute the rescue. The logistics involved are mind b ...more
Engaging read aloud for grades 5-8.

The Impossible Rescue: The True Story of an Amazing Arctic Adventure
Martin W. Sandler. 2012. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press. 176 pp. US$22.99.

Imagine. Alaskan terrain. Winter. 1898. You have 400 reindeer and 1600 pounds worth of provisions you need to move 700 miles in less than eight week. To rescue 300 whalers whose ships are frozen at a standstill and who will starve if you don’t get there soon. Add to that the unpredictable weather of the Arctic. Blizzard
As the year begins to wind up, I'm trying to catch up with all of the notable children's non-fiction from 2012. This was the first of those such books I began while in the middle of a vacation I took leading up to Thanksgiving. This little known rescue of stranded whalers off the coast of Alaska in the late 1890s was filled with first-hand accounts from those directly involved with this harrowing rescue. Conditions were terrible, but the rescuers had much help along the way from the various peop ...more
Dec 26, 2012 Adrienne rated it really liked it
In September 1897, winter came early in Alaska, and eight whaling ships became stuck in the rapidly-forming ice at the northern tip of Alaska, leaving 265 whalers trapped with few supplies and little food. When word got out about their predicament, none other than U.S. President William McKinley ordered that they be rescued and provided the outline of just how that was to be undertaken: three men were to land on the Alaskan coast--as far north as they could go--and then cross the 1700 miles to t ...more
Vera Godley
Dec 29, 2012 Vera Godley rated it really liked it
When so very much of our reading takes place in the realm of fiction - young and old, it is refreshing to read a non-fiction accounting of a true adventure involving insurmountable difficulties and incredible hardship and accomplishment.

In 1897 three hundred crewmen from eight whaling ships were trapped in the Arctic ice and then a winter storm entrapped them further locking them in the throes of ice. Rescue of the trapped men was ordered by President McKinley, but he would not order individual
May 10, 2013 Renee rated it liked it
Shelves: booktalks
It’s winter, but it’s not a Midwest winter- it’s the Arctic. The people involved in this harrowing story didn’t have warm homes to bundle up in. In fact in the beginning they weren’t even on land they were in ships. They were on whaling ships that waited just a little too long to head home and ended up getting stuck in the ice on the far northern shore of Alaska.
While the captain and crews from the ships were able to make a 60 mile trek to the closest town they’re still trapped. There’s not eno
Jenn Estepp
2 1/2. The real-life events behind this book are fascinating and, while this book is beautifully designed and the maps + actual photographs are great additions, I didn't always feel that the narrative did the story justice. Even with a teeny bit of knowledge regarding whaling, I thought a little more background on the profession would've been helpful, as would a cast-of-characters at the start of the book. It took me a while to get the who's who straight and I frequently had to go back and rerea ...more
Bethany Miller
Oct 10, 2012 Bethany Miller rated it liked it
The Impossible Rescue tells the story of the mission to rescue eight whaling ships stranded in the Arctic off of Point Barrow, Alaska. Temperatures dropped and ice formed early in September of 1897, trapping the ships as ice formed around them. When news of this reached the main land, people demanded that something be done to help the over 265 men on board the ships who would surely die before the ice melted in spring. Word reached President McKinley, and he ordered a rescue mission which seemed ...more
When winter comes unexpectedly early in 1897, eight whaling ships and 300 sailors are stranded in the ice. Although a scientist, a whaling station owner and some of the indigenous peoples provided shelter and food, supplies would certainly run out before the ships could be freed. This engaging nonfiction title describes the journey of three men who traveled across the frozen Alaskan territory driving herds of reindeer ahead of them, a sort of Meals on Wheels to keep the whalers alive. It's hard ...more
If the writing had been less dense, I think this book could go more places than it will. The story is truly amazing and was impossible, but it was done with brave men, indigenous people, animals, and a sense of heroism and accomplishment.

The pictures are intriguing and add to the understanding of the terrain and horrific conditions as well as the scarcity of resources and how much the rescue fell to the small whaling camps, native communities, and the luck of the weather (and in most cases how i
Nov 06, 2013 Jenn rated it really liked it
You cannot read this book (mostly journal entries) and deny that God's hand was guiding this rescue. In 1897 three men were ordered by the president to carry out an overland rescue covering 1500 miles across rugged Alaska in the dead of winter--it was basically a suicide mission, but someone had to try something. I love that these men and those who participated with them were willing to put their own lives on the line in what they knew would just be an attempt to save 300 others. The odds were a ...more
As an adult, I really enjoyed this book. The story of the trip over thousands of miles of Alaskan shoreline during the winter was amazing. The men who accomplished what many thought to be impossible were very brave and heroic.

As I was reading, though, I kept wondering if this story was written with enough excitement to entice my fifth graders to try to read it. The prose is very matter-of-factual. This, after all, is nonfiction. I guess I was hoping for some of the excitement that the reader ca
Mary Fran Torpey
Apr 22, 2013 Mary Fran Torpey rated it really liked it
It’s 1897 and eight American whaling ships are locked in Arctic ice--that means 300 sailors are stranded with few supplies and dwindling hopes of surviving the upcoming winter. There’s no telephone, no email, no GPS--and the President sends three men on a rescue mission over 1,500 miles of frozen landscape--while driving food “on the hoof” (that means reindeer) with them. The action takes a few chapters to get going--just as the rescue mission itself took a while to unfold--but patient readers w ...more
Kim Kanofsky
Oct 29, 2013 Kim Kanofsky rated it it was amazing
I think it means a lot that throughout this book, I just kept getting colder and colder - especially when they were stuck in 40 below weather! Sandler did an excellent job telling this amazing (and yet, little known) story of the rescue of stranded whalers. Although the whalers appear quite contemptable in this book, you still cheer for the many heroes throughout. From those who simply helped along the way to those who were in it from the very beginning, many of these men (and women) were true h ...more
Mar 31, 2013 Lisa rated it it was amazing
When a harsh winter came early to Arctic Alaska in 1897, eight whaling vessels and nearly 300 crew were stranded in the ice around Point Barrow. This is the story of a remarkable and seemingly impossible rescue across land and ice, through the winter storms against all odds. Complete with quotes from diaries, official U.S. Government documents and photographs taken during the expedition, this is a gripping detailed account of the men who were waiting, the natives who acted as guides and the brav ...more
Feb 24, 2014 Janet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is another book that turned out to be geared towards kids. Adults shouldn’t let that keep them from reading it though. It’s an awe-inspiring, gripping, edge-of-your-seat read that practically demands a warm blankey and mug of cocoa to go with it. Suddenly our Chicagoland winter doesn’t seem nearly so bad by comparison.
Jan 03, 2013 Dagmar rated it really liked it
I thought the topic of this book was fascinating. Three men going overland in the Arctic in 1897 to save hundreds of whalers and their ships stranded by ice. Unfortunately, the narrative, although telling the story of each man's experience, begins to run together. Bitter cold, driving blizzards, mountains of ice, tipping dog sleds, etc. are experienced by all for ten Long months as they struggle to reach the stranded men. I thought the repetitiveness took away from the book and might hurt its ch ...more
Sep 30, 2015 Laura rated it really liked it
Harrowing, gripping tale. Considering this event happened in 1898, I found myself repeatedly surprised (and thankful) at how beautifully it was all photographed; the visual design of the whole book is captivating. Also, as one of my GoodReads friends mentioned, the repeated use of the map to show progress was fantastic.

While I was reading, I found myself repeatedly comparing this to Jennifer Armstrong's Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, which I found more engagingly written than this one. St
Dec 05, 2015 Morgan rated it liked it
I read this for class and, while it was slow at times and now always the most captivating story, I did find it very interesting and I was longing to know what happened by the time i reached the end.
Dec 27, 2012 H rated it really liked it
Such an interesting book! I'd never heard of this story before, and I thought it was narrated very well. Very inspiring; it's too bad it didn't get greater coverage in its time. I loved the inclusion of the all the photographs and how the author used the writings of those directly involved in the rescue as the bulk of the narration. I liked how quickly it moved--it never felt like it dragged at all--but at the same time I wish there'd been a little more elaboration; that might just be the fictio ...more
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Martin W. Sandler has written more than seventy books for children and adults and has written and produced seven television series. He has twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and has won multiple Emmy Awards. He lives in Massachusetts.
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“Adventure, suspense, almost unimaginable heroics – these are just some of the ingredients of a story made even more remarkable because it really happened.” 0 likes
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