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The Ice Master

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  1,888 Ratings  ·  149 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published October 10th 2001 by Hachette Books (first published November 1st 2000)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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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 Wyatt
Jun 03, 2013 Toni Wyatt rated it it was amazing
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
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.
Jul 20, 2009 Unwisely rated it liked it
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
Jul 07, 2014 John rated it really liked it
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
Sep 03, 2012 Marilyn rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Therese
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, and in my imagination, I was able to experience the darkness, as well as the midnight sun.

This was not an expe
Nov 01, 2013 Lori rated it really liked it
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
Jan 01, 2015 Kristine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Ever wonder what would happen if you compiled a group of arctic explorers and added in an abnormally high number of nefarious ones? I think you'd have what happened to the Karluk, starting with the captain abandoning her as soon as he possibly could to starving men stealing from other starving men. There is definitely worse to mention, but I won't spoil.

The struggle for survival, what the human mind and body will do, is fascinating and Niven did an excellent job telling the story of these men. F
Apr 05, 2012 Keith rated it really liked it
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
Apr 13, 2010 Linda rated it really liked it
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
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
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
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
Neill Caldwell
Oct 11, 2011 Neill Caldwell rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 14, 2015 Amena rated it really liked it
I first heard this book read aloud on NPR and I was hooked. Enjoyed it just as much when I sat down to read it myself. Adventurous, emotional and compelling tale.
May 06, 2008 Chrissie rated it it was ok
Interesting, but none of the characters really "gripped" me and the maps were maddeningly insufficient.
Jun 05, 2017 Greynomad rated it liked it
I am just surprised that someone didn't find Stefansson and make that asshole disappear.

A good read but a bit long especially of the ship life as they were locked in ice....
Mar 19, 2017 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I couldn't put this book down. I was drawn to the story of the Karluk and her crew, and how they fought to survive following her shipwreck.
Joanna Kafarowski
Jun 05, 2017 Joanna Kafarowski rated it it was amazing
In 1913, Canadian ethnologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson embarked on the Canadian Arctic Expedition to discover new lands, gather scientific data and re-assert Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic. Despite high hopes, the ill-prepared leader soon ran into trouble. 'The Ice Master' is a masterful tale of the tragedy that befell Stefansson's crew and flagship, the Karluk. Jennifer Niven has done an impeccable job both in her research and in presenting this absorbing true-life story.
Jan 27, 2016 Ethan rated it it was amazing
Jennifer Niven has done an exceptional job telling the story of the doomed Karluk and it's crew. It's an excellent companion piece to Alfred Lansing's Endurance, about Shackelton's similar voyage to Antarctica at almost the same time. It's the differences between the voyages, how they were planned and what happened after they became trapped in the ice that I found fascinating.
If you have read Endurance, you know Shackleton was extremely well prepared, the Endurance was maybe the strongest woode
Apr 21, 2012 Ann-maree rated it it was amazing
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
Tom Johnson
Jan 15, 2015 Tom Johnson rated it it was amazing
unrelenting hardship - after 200 pages I started to feel beat up myself - Stefansson was a grifter for the ages, he would have made a fine Republican - Niven's next book, ADA BLACKJACK was even better - because of ADA I had to read her account of the doomed voyage of the Karluk - scoundrels aplenty with a few heroes which unsurprisingly included the 5 natives - learned about nephritis (caused by the survivor's exclusive diet of poor quality pemmican) - be sure to read the ACKNOWLEDGMENTS, JN's m ...more
Dave Archer
This book took a long time for me to finish because it took a long time to get going. It could have been shorter by 100 pages and those pages were the first of the book. The tagline: Into Thin Air meets Titanic in this truly chilling adventure, sure did rope me right in. Unfortunately the writing is terribly disorganized and the aspect that stands out the most from Into Thin Air is the lack of geographical knowledge of the writer, and the missing scientific facts that go alongside a true nonfict ...more
Oct 11, 2011 Jill rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 22, 2012 Sharon rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 21, 2011 Rick rated it really liked it
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
I preface this review by saying I didn't finish reading this book. There were many reasons for this which I feel I should disclose.

First of all, I've not had a lot of time to devote to reading this book. Reading in little chunks makes it difficult to remember the plot and where I left off in the story.

Secondly, the beginning of the book was kind of difficult to follow. The author presented an interesting premise, but then skipped around so much between characters and times that I was having tro
Oct 19, 2015 Alison rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
Usually I reserve 5 stars for books with prose that blows my mind, but this is a rare exception. I wasn’t too wowed by the writing itself (though, she did manage to describe the bone-chilling arctic conditions over and over without being redundant), but the story was so fascinating that I instantly knew it was going to be a favorite. (Disclaimer: I do have a thing for harrowing tales of survival and unrelenting hardships, though.)

This one had sinking ships, survivors living on frozen, constantl
Glen Shuld
Aug 07, 2015 Glen Shuld rated it liked it
This book made me aware of yet another amazing true story of people surviving the harshness of nature. The story is mostly from diaries and letters kept by both the survivors and those who were lost, so it would appear there was little conjecture.

This tale, like life, has characters that range from noble to despicable. Unimaginable challenges seem to bring out the best of humanity in some, and the worst in others. And, not always do the good guys survive. There is no ignoring the role that luck
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
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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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