Karen Valby
December 15, 2000 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Ice Master: The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk and the Miraculous Rescue of her Survivors

Current Status
In Season
Jennifer Niven
ActionAdventure, Nonfiction

We gave it an A-

”One stares death in the eyes every minute of the day… so you must keep the eyes wide open if you love your life,” wrote a doomed crew member of the Karluk’s 1913 Arctic voyage in his journal. Jennifer Niven’s The Ice Master is a gripping account of the ill-fated voyage that left the hull of a Canadian expedition ship imprisoned by ice for five months and stranded 22 men as well as an Inuit mother and her two daughters on the ice for another nine. Thanks to Niven’s meticulous research, gleaned from shipmates’ diaries, government archives, and an interview with the only Karluk survivor still living, we become passionately invested in the fate of its luckless crew. Heroes (the captain who traversed hundreds of miles over ice and barren Siberian shores to seek rescue) and villains (a possible murderer lurked in the castaways’ midst) emerge as the adventure unfolds and tragedy mounts as the death toll rises. But it’s the ice itself, ”cracking ice, shifting ice, crushing ice, ice in motion everywhere,” that is the most compelling character. The Ice Master, both a celebration and a terrifying summation of the ferocity of nature, is a riveting read. But cozy up to this one with a quilt. A-

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