||The Karluk just
before she sank, showing, supended below the bowsprit,
the umiak or walrus hunting boat mentioned by Hadley.
Image courtesy Dartmouth College.
||Click to enlarge
The Canadian Arctic Expedition (1913-1918)
With the goal of finding a continent
north of the Canadian Archipelago, Vilhjalmur Stefansson organized
the Canadian Arctic Expedition. Stefansson had already distinguished
himself as an explorer and ethnologist by spending 18 months
with the Inuit of the Mackenzie Delta, learning their language
and customs during the Anglo-American expedition of 1906-1907.
Furthermore, during an expedition from 1908 to 1912, he made
notoriety by discovering a group of fair-haired natives on Victoria
Island that he claimed might be offspring of Europeans, although
critics ridiculed this idea.
For the expedition in 1913, Stefansson chose a retired wooden
whaling ship, the Karluk, and assembled a group of
international scientists, only two having prior polar experience.
When the Karluk became locked in the ice north of Alaska
after only three months into the voyage, Stefansson and a small
group left the ship to hunt for food, but never returned to
the vessel, which drifted away as the ice moved west. The Karluk
was eventually crushed by the ice and the survivors made their
way to Wrangel Island. Most of the party were rescued after
the ship's captain, Robert Bartlett, journeyed with a dogsled
and one Inuit to Siberia and Alaska for help. Of the twenty-eight
people who departed on the expedition, eleven died in "the greatest
Arctic disaster since the Franklin Expedition."
Meanwhile, Stefansson and his small group drifted on ice floes
and explored Northern Canada. They discovered the world's last
major landmasses and returned in 1918. While hailed as Canada's
greatest Arctic explorer, Stefansson has also been severely
criticized for abandoning the Karluk. In 1922, he organized
(but did not participate in) an expedition to colonize Wrangel
Island with four men and one Inuit woman, which also ended tragically
in the deaths of all of the men.
Francis, D., Discovery
of the North: The Exploration of Canada's Arctic, Hurtig Publishers,
Edmonton, Canada, 224 pp., 1986.