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Karluk: Great Untold Story of Arctic Exploration Hardcover – 13 Jan 2000

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 181 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; New edition edition (13 Jan. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297643681
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297643685
  • Product Dimensions: 15 x 2.5 x 22.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,029,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

The heart can't help sinking when a subtitle reads "the great untold story of Arctic exploration". In the last 10 years the two Poles have become the destination for any number of wannabe explorers, all of whom come pre-packaged with publishing contract and television crew. And of course they all have to be doing something new. So we get the first with no air support, the first women to reach both Poles and in due course there will no doubt be the first to do it backwards, and the first to hop the whole way. Even for those of us who rarely venture out of Britain, the Poles have lost some of their mystery. But with Karluk, the hype for once is justified. In fact, if anything, it severely undersells the story. The Karluk was the leading ship of the Canadian explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson's five-year expedition to the Arctic that began in 1913. Unfortunately, for those on the Karluk, the expedition was over almost as soon as it began, as the ship was caught in an ice floe and carried away from the main fleet before being crushed and sunk a few weeks later. All 25 crew members escaped on to the ice. The captain, Robert Bartlett, and an Eskimo headed off on a 700-mile, six-month journey across the ice to Siberia to get help. By the time he got back, 11 men had died; 8 fell through the ice trying to escape across melting floes, two starved to death and one committed suicide.

The book, first published in 1976, is written by one of the survivors. William McKinlay, a 25-year-old Scot, hadn't even handled a gun and knew nothing about hunting before the expedition set off--the living embodiment of an old-school explorer. Thankfully, there is nothing old school about his prose. He doesn't lapse into hyperbole but he has none of the idealised sentimentality that characterises much of the early Polar writings. In short, he is not afraid to put the boot in where necessary. He criticises Stefansson for his lack of planning and training, and for his inability to hand-pick the right people for the job. So throughout the six months that the crew were stranded on Wrangel Island, there was lying, cheating and stealing as the survivors cracked under the pressure. McKinlay's book is a welcome antidote to much of the product placement ethos of late-20th-century exploration. He reminds us of the uneasy coexistence between frailty and courage and, as with Shackleton's account of the Endurance, returns a sense of mystery to a terra that has become all too cognita. Sometimes the old ones really are the best. --John Crace

Book Description

The extraordinary account of Stefansson¿s Arctic Expedition of 1913-18 and the incredible survival of the crew members of Karluk, its leading ship.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Donal A. O'Neill on 25 Oct. 2001
Format: Hardcover
A totally gripping true-life adventure, written in 1976 by an 88-year old Glasgow schoolmaster who, prior to serving as an officer in WW1, was one of the survivors of a horrifically mismanaged Arctic expedition. The "Karluk" was one of three vessels involved in an exploration of the Canadian Arctic in 1913, master-minded by one Vilhajalmur Stefansson, a monomaniac fixated on the idea of the Arctic as a friendly environment in which abundant food could be soured. In the event however none of the expedition members received any relevant training in survival skills before setting out. The ships' crews did not expect to winter in the Arctic while the scientific staff, of whom McKinlay was one, were almost all young men straight from University, with no previous Arctic experience. Steffanson's callousness in deserting the Karluk once it was ice-bound, and starting an independent five-year exploration journey without making any attempt to arrange rescue of its crew, almost beggars comprehension. McKinlay's story of misery, squalor, sickness, death, cowardice and heroism over the following year is at times depressing reading, but is always gripping. Of the Karluk's complement of twenty five, eleven died following the break-up of the ship in the ice north of Siberia, during attempts to reach land and during the subsequent struggle to stay alive under conditions of extreme privation. That any survived is due to the heroism of the Karluk's captain, Robert Bartlett, who with one Eskimo companion managed to reach the Siberian mainland to seek help while the other survivors attempted to eke out an existence on the bleak Wrangel Island.Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 1 review
Exciting Adventure 30 Jun. 2015
By Dr Art - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great read for anyone who likes early Polar exploration. First hand reporting from a seaman who was part of the ships crew.
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