Shipwrecked in the Arctic
In the summer of 1913 when the distinguished scholars and scientists of Canada’s First Arctic Expedition set out from Victoria aboard their flagship HMCS Karluk, an old whaler powered by sail and steam, loaded with provisions, dogs and a cat it was a moment of great optimism.
Under the divided leadership of Dr. Rudolph Anderson, academic and polar zoologist, and Vilhjalmur Stefansson, Arctic explorer and ethnologist, their three-year mission would chart unexplored landmasses of the Western Arctic and secure Canada a prominent position in the international geographic community. But it was not to be. Just a few months into their journey, the vessel became lodged in heavy ice, eventually sinking near the coast of Siberia.
With little northern polar experience among them but ample supplies salvaged from the wreck, the group of castaways were dependent on veteran Captain James Bartlett. On an epic quest for dry land and rescue they headed over drift ice and open water for desolate Wrangel Island. Meanwhile Bartlett and Inuk guide Kataktovik embarked on an heroic 1,100-kilometre trek along the cold Siberian coast in search of help and a ship back to America. By the end of the fifteen-month saga, eleven members of the original expedition would perish from frostbite and sickness, while the remaining twenty would survive to tell their tale. The Luck of the Karluk is a fascinating story about an important episode in Canada’s history and a revealing study of the strengths and weaknesses of human nature under treacherous conditions.
"Drawing off journals and accounts of the survivors, Cross offers an engrossing story. A smattering of photographs is also included. A longer telling might have been appreciated, but the brevity and style make it suitable for young adult readers. The Luck of the Karluk makes clear that this story deserves inclusion among the epics of Arctic calamities."