'Infiltrating the System' is an annual bookmark project co ordinated by Sarah Bodman. (www.bookarts.uwe.ac.uk/bkmks13/index.html ) My contribution for 2016 pays homage to the men of the 1913 Canadian Arctic Expedition. The Karluk was one of the last old historic wooden ships. The vessel sailed North in August 1913 at a similar time Shackelton's Endurance went to the south. Both vessels met a similar fate and involved strenuous journeys of seven hundred miles in order to be rescued. The Endurance story ended happily and is well documented while the Karluk ended tragically and has been neglected until recently.
The Ice Master by Jennifer Niven is a story of adventure, betrayal and survival. Ill prepared and in a rush to be underway, serious reservations were raised about the Karluk's sea worthiness. the crew were young and largely inexperienced. Expedition leader Stefansson was ambitious, and ignored these issues at great cost. Soon after setting out the ship became trapped in ice (August 1913). The men were to spend the next year trying to survive extreme conditions before finally being rescued in September 1914.
Extreme circumstances bring out the best and the worst in men. It is a remarkable story of survival.
" We were drifting, drifting - we knew not to what haven, in the silent, icy fastness of the North"
Ernest Chafe, Messroom boy, age 19.
Diary entry Bjarne Mamen, Assistant Topographer age 22.
"Yes, the time goes, 1913 is gone and will never return. New Years Eve is quiet for us... but I have chosen this life myself and will have to be content with it. Well, I am content although it looks dark many a time ; the perils threaten one continuously and one has to be wide awake and vigilant, but I hope everything will be well and ...that the new year of 1914 will bring us better luck than the last one did"
While the new year did bring eventual rescue for some of the men, Mamen was among those that did not return home. Sadly he died. His words are so touching. Those that did come home returned to find a world at war.