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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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4.09  ·  Rating details ·  1,969 Ratings  ·  155 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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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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
John
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Marilyn
Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...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
Kristine
Jan 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Keith
Apr 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 13, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
...more
Neill Caldwell
Oct 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Amena
Jul 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Chrissie
Interesting, but none of the characters really "gripped" me and the maps were maddeningly insufficient.
Therese
In 1913 Vilhjalmur Stefansson had outfitted and purchased the Karluk for a bargain to go exploring in the Arctic, hoping to discover land, and in doing so achieve fame and fortune as other famous explorers had done. Unfortunately this was not the time to go bargain shopping, and this book also showed how crucial it is to have not only a good leader, but to choose your crew wisely. Men needed to be able to work together whether they were on the crew or the scientists that were hired, but this was ...more
Nikki Balzer
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
what a facinating read. Jennifer Niven has done a great job of tying this altogether from the various diaries of the men involved. what an amazing, epic and tragic tale in an era of adventure. i couldn't imagine having the will to live as these men did, beset over and over by life knocking the stuffing out of them. walking 50 miles and more through snow and ice then turning round at the end had doing it again towing a sled. do people like this even exist anymore ??
Anna
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cold-books
So good! I like the chronological order of this book from setting out to rescue (albeit with the Herald Island prologue and after). What a contrast of behaviour between Barlett's presence and absence. A perfect example of leadership making a difference (like Shackleton). Once Bartlett had left to seek help, the order of things completely falls apart - lying, stealing and maybe even murder.
Bill
Aug 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was the next to the last expedition to the Arctic in a wooden vessel. It left hurried and ill equipped. The expedition's leader deserted weeks into the voyage. Here lies the horrors of an Arctric shipwreck and stranding. Surprisingly many members survived to tell their story and this is it. A gripping tale.
Greynomad
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....
T.
No spoilers. Based on the wreck of the ice ship Karluk. Interesting read with plenty of pictures. Well-researched. I recommend it for anyone interested in shipwrecks.
Karen
Mar 19, 2017 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
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.
Ethan
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Ann-maree
Apr 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Tom Johnson
Jan 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jill
Oct 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sharon
Nov 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
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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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