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

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4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  1,088 ratings  ·  109 reviews
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- ...more
Hardcover, 402 pages
Published November 1st 2000 by Hyperion
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,203)
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K.D. Absolutely
I bought this book because of two reasons: there is "ice" in the title and the day I bought this, the temperature in Manila was averaging 36 deg Centigrade. Teethering below fever temperature. So, I said why not read something that is set in a snowy or icy land? When I saw this book being sold at P45 ($1), I bought it right away and cracked it open after few days. But tough luck, it took me two weeks to finish this and when I was winding down, the rainy season has just started and the weather wa ...more
Toni Morrow Wyatt
From beginning to end, this well researched and haunting tale, brings the reader into the unforgiving arctic along with the ill fated crew of the Karluk. The audacity of Vilhjalmur Stefansson goes beyond what any person with a moral conscience can conceive. If not for the level headed and knowledgeable Robert Abram Bartlett, all hope would have been lost from the outset.

Using the actual journal entries from the members of the Karluk, Jennifer Niven has painted a vivid and long lasting picture o
...more
Michael
Great book. Amazing. Incredible. Marvelous. I couldn't put it down. Matter of fact, even though I finished reading it, I still don't want to put it down. I want to carry it around and show it to strangers and say, "Hey! See this book? You should read it." It's that good. Remarkable. Oh.... And I liked it.
Keith
On Tuesday, June 17, 1913 a whaling boat named The Karluk set out on a scientific exploratory adventure that it was destined to never complete. At thirty-nine meters long and 250 tons this wooden hulled fishing boat was ill prepared to face the travails of arctic water and her newly hired master had grave concerns about her abilities as a freighter let alone as an ice-breaker. But a glory seeking explorer Named Vilhjalmur Stefansson found her to be cheap and available and thought she would do ju ...more
Linda
My grandfather Babb spent a great deal of time traveling and lecturing, and I assume that is how he acquired an autographed photograph of Vihjalmar Stefansson, a polar explorer. As a child I was fascinated by this picture of the famous man that my Grandpa knew – a man with a strange name, dressed in fur and skins. Now that I have read this book, I have a rather different picture of the man. The Karluk was one of three ships in an expedition poorly organized by Stefansson, planned to survey the ...more
Lori
This account of early western-arctic exploration and misadventure is marred by Niven's transparent bias toward some crew members and against others. She details the transgressions of her villains in exquisite relief, even hinting broadly at murder without a shred of forensic evidence, while glossing over or conspicuously failing to recount the daily behavior and disposition of her chosen "good guys". The discrepancy is even more glaring as her principal source is the written - and rewritten - re ...more
Pete daPixie
There are so many plus points to Jennifer Niven's 'The Ice Master'. Primarily the author has meticulously researched a long lost polar epic that should not have been forgotten or ignored in the first place. Also the author has embellished her narrative with a descriptive excellence that is of the highest quality writing in the field of historical non-fiction. To learn that Niven has been employed as a screenwriter for ABC television is not a surprise. The reader is gripped in this compulsive pag ...more
John
The year was 1913, polar expeditions had become the Last Great Adventure, and the names of Scott, Peary, and Shackleton were household words. Vilhjalmur Stefansson, a lesser-known Arctic explorer, persuaded the Canadian government to fund an expedition that he hoped would raise him to the same pantheon, for he meant to discover the vast continent he was sure lurked beneath the polar ice cap. Stefansson was one of those figures in history who are too sincere to be considered con men, too impressi ...more
Neill Caldwell
Excellently told tale of an incredible story. Amazing detail for something that happened 100 years ago. Jennifer is a very talented young writer and I look forward into reading all of her books.
Unwisely
This book was a little out of my usual arctic grouping. Much like the Jeannette, they got stuck in the ice pack, the ship went down, and they ended up on Wrangel Island off Siberia.

The expedition was relatively late (1913-4), so they had learned some things from the other expeditions...but not nearly enough. Another fascinating arctic story.

I had some concerns with the accuracy of the book - she seemed to imply that no one survived the Jeannette expedition, which isn't true, and also repeated a
...more
Ann-maree
Brillantly written, truely a harrowing read of epic proportions. In 1913, the H.M.C.S Karluk embarked on what was to be the most elaborate Artic expedition in history with the largest scientific stuff ever taken on such a journey. Out of twenty two people who boarded the doomed Karluk that day, twelve survived.

The Karluk eventho, before her journey she underwent four thousand dollars worth of additional repairs she was not ice worthy to say the least. The captain warned by the naval service the
...more
Jill
Loved it! Amazing nonfiction showing tenacity of these men to survive. Whether it be the camping out on the ice, the trek to the desolate Wrangel Island or the ultimate rescue mission across Siberia...I'm just amazed.

I appreciated the conglomeration of "just the facts" from the Karluk men directly. The mystery between Breddy's death remains just as that...a mystery for you to determine from the facts.

I also loved learning the survival tactics utilized by the Eskimos. What a test of adaption for
...more
Rick
After reading, Endurance, Unbroken, Island of the Lost, and The Lost City of Z, it seems I should be sick of reading about people getting shipwrecked, marooned on deserted islands, stranded on the ice, and scrambling to survive in hostile environs after all plans go awry -- so far, I haven't. In part it's the thrill of the narrative and finding out what men are capable of under duress. Another attraction is the mental gymnastics and introspection that go with placing yourself in a similar situat ...more
Marilyn
The Ice Master: The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk by Jennifer Niven. I have to say that I have been putting off doing a review on this book. I am not certain that I have the ability in me, to express how this book affected me. Jennifer Niven most certainly developed the story line in such a way, that I could see what was happening, in my mind's eye. I could also feel the harsh cold, in my imagination and either experience the darkness, or the midnight sun.

This was not an expedition that I wa
...more
Sharon
Dec 03, 2012 Sharon rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes an adventure story
I am not normally drawn to books like this, but have enjoyed Niven's fiction writing so much, I wanted to see how she handled non-fiction. This was Niven's first book and one for which she has since received much acclaim. With the help of journals, historical documents and conversations with family members of the survivors, Niven chronicles the doomed voyage of the H.M.C.S. Karluk which set sail in June 1913 on the most elaborate Arctic expedition in history. Due to delays and all-around poor ti ...more
Amerynth
I am a huge fan of polar exploration stories and Jennifer Niven's book "The Ice Master: The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk" fits right in among the great books I've read on the subject.

The Karluk expedition occurred after the North Pole was already discovered and appeared to have little purpose, except to get the organizer out onto the ice, as he left 20 other men to fend for themselves. More than half of the crew died after the ill-fated Karluk got trapped in the pack ice.

Niven mostly tells t
...more
AdultNonFiction Teton County Library
Teton County Library Call Number: 919.804 NIVEN
Suzy's rating ****'s
This is one of my most favorite epic arctic maritime disaster story. The characters are rich, in this story of the Karluk. There is the self interested expedition leader, who abandons the expedition as soon as the ship is caught in the ice, and skis back to Canada. In contrast, there is the ship's heroic captain who struggles over 700 miles to save the ship's crew stranded on Wrangel Island after drifting, caught in icepack. I wo
...more
Carla
Apr 20, 2014 Carla marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up in Alaska and read it on an Alaskan cruise. I couldn't wait to get back to my cabin after dinner to continue reading. Just a really exciting true story! This is so much better than many adventure books that are on the 100 top non-fiction lists. If you are an adventure lover (not just history) I can't imagine your being disappointed.
Lee
What an amazing story of courage and survival. I cannot imagine surviving on such meager supplies or surviving in the cold of the arctic but a few of the crew of the Karluk did. It is even more amazing since it happened in 1913. A year out in the wilds of the arctic - unfathomable to me.

Jennifer Niven did a wonderful job of compiling the diaries and accounts of the men who left records.
Steve
Niven has taken the diary evidence of one of the survivors of this doomed Arctic expedition to produce an enthralling account of how the courage of one man and the self-absorbed cowardice of another decided the fate of a crew whose ship becomes trapped in the Alaskaan ice. The survivors become trapped on Wrangel Island. The leader of the expedition, Steffanson, failed to adequately equip and resource the expedition, and then fakes a hunting party to arrange his own abandoning of his forlorn crew ...more
Martha
Oh my goodness, a solid 4.5 stars for me! What a story and so well writting that I cried at the end. Jennifer Niven has a way of writing that got me interested in the fates of these people stuck in the arctic ice. This is a story of a voyage to the arctic circle that was doomed practically from the beginning. An old, ill equipped ship set forth to discover uncharted lands within the arctic circle. It left too late in the year and encountered ice it couldn't escape. What follows is the story of t ...more
Heather
I think this might be my favorite book on arctic exploration so far. Jennifer Niven's myriad descriptions of frozen, and half-frozen limbs never get old.
The book is based on the journals, and manuscript of a member of the "Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk", and Niven completely adopts his irritation with fellow members. The caption below a portrait reads, "Chief Engineer John Munro who, though lazy and ineffectual, was left in command on Wrangel Island by Captain Bartlett."

What I learned from th
...more
linnea
This is a piece of journalism about the 1913 sinking of the Karluk as scientific vessel sent out to try to find the mythical northern polar continent. I love this kind of book: the hardships, the dying of frostbite and scurvy, the long wait for rescue which may never come, but although I enjoyed this book somewhat, I wouldn't read another by this author. Her research was very thorough and I felt that she recreated some of the characters very well, so that when they start to die, I really felt th ...more
Dad
An amazing story of both courage and human fallibility. Before reading this book, I had never heard of the 1913 Arctic exploration of the ship Karluk. Their story is full of ingenuity, stupidity, generosity, and selfishness. The lure of adventure could catch people that had no business signing on for these expeditions. However, the author could have told this story in half the pages. She gave us the grisly details to a level that was difficult to stay with. The telling of almost daily events tha ...more
Dawn
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kate
I checked this book out of the library because I had just read a book on Antarctica and wanted to read more, then when I got it home I realized it was about the Arctic. So I didn't necessarily want to read it, but I went ahead and started it...and got completely hooked. For several nights in a row I meant to read just a little while then go to sleep, but when I looked up I saw that I'd read for a couple of hours! The details and storytelling are amazing, and she makes her purpose clear from the ...more
Barbara
Even though this was the worst winter and coldest that I remember here in Indiana, reading this book made me feel warm.
Laura J
What a harrowing tale. Sometimes I was exhausted and despondent while reading it, the survival part on Wrangel Island. It did get repetitive in that part, but then, their lives were repetitively horrible at that time.
This book was on the suggested reading list for an expedition cruise I took to the Chukchi Sea in 2011, which included a day on Wrangel Island and setting foot on Herald Island. I wish I had read this before that trip. I would have had more awe and reverence about them.
Well worth r
...more
Nicole Kapise-Perkins
I started this at 10:00 Monday night, and finished it at 3:30 this morning. Astounding.
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45592
By the time I was ten, I had already written numerous songs, a poem for Parker Stevenson ("If there were a Miss America for men, You would surely win"), two autobiographies (All About Me and My Life in Indiana: I Will Never Be Happy Again), a Christmas story, several picture books (which I illustrated myself) featuring the Doodle Bugs from Outer Space, a play about Laura Ingalls Wilder's sister en ...more
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