Cover Image: Empire of Ice and Stone

Empire of Ice and Stone

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Member Reviews

This was an absolutely gripping story of the Karluk. Having already read and loved Buddy Levy's previous book Labyrinth of Ice, I was approaching this one with high expectations and I was not disappointed. This is very well written and researched. I am not sure what it is about survival stories that I find myself drawn to but I will read just about every single one that I come across. It is both heartbreaking and inspiring to know what the circumstances and courage these men went through. Anyone who wants to learn about this tragic moment and/or who has interest in survival stories will not be disappointed in this one.
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This is a survival story, a piece of history that I knew nothing about. The ship is the Karluk and Bob Bartlett is the captain. It was part of an Artic expedition that was headed by  V. Stefansson. Stefansson is selfish, self-centered, and he is seeking personal glory. He doesn't want to answer questions and supplies are disorganized. Artic clothing is not ready as they depart. Bartlett encounters the first ice August 1st. Stefansson manages to leave the Karluk, they won't miss him. He shows no concern for the people he left behind. Once you get to the survival story, you won't want to stop reading. These people went through so much. How they were rescued was quite a process. At the end, the author writes of the lives the survivors return to. I read an electronic version courtesy of Net Galley.
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Content warnings: Starvation, depictions of mental illness, period-accurate slur against Inuit and northern indigenous people (explained, but present), animal slaughter, alleged death by suicide, dog on dog violence & cannibalism, corpses, graphic depictions of surgery & infection

Levy returns again with an incredible account of several boats and two dozen people trapped in and around the Arctic circle. Anthropologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson organized a scientific and geographical expedition to the Arctic on The Karluk, a ship vastly unprepared for Arctic sea ice and manned by a crew composed largely of scientists with little experience in that treacherous territory. It goes well, with Stefansson abandoning ship to go on a caribou hunt and leaving everyone else in the charge of its captain, Robert Bartlett. Death, mental illness, desperation, and long, long treks across ice pack into Russia around the onset of World War One ensure.

If you enjoyed Labyrinth of Ice, you are in for a treat with incredible characterization and a reverence for the snow and ice many have tried to traverse in previous expeditions, you’re in for a treat. The audiobook does come with supplemental materials like photographs, a timeline, and additional reading.

A note on the content warnings related to animals: if you like cats, there is a cat who survives and lives for several years after the Canadian Arctic Expedition. If you like dogs, however, you might want to skip this one as many do not survive and Levy does not shirk away from descriptions.

This is the tale of essentially two crews, the one that stayed behind and the other went on a caribou hunt. Were the caribou? Debatable, still. Same goes for the alleged suicide of one of the members. But Levy saves the speculation and attribution of motives for once the final fates of the crews are decided. During the events of the expedition, he really focuses on attitudes as recorded in personal diaries and the play-by-play with some of the most beautiful imagery of the harsh icy wastelands I’ve ever read. The allure of such explorations and expeditions is clear. The harshness of that reality is not avoided, and the details can be hard to get through sometimes.

I think what impresses me most about this book is how geographically easily it was to follow. Yes, the appendix that came with the audiobook has a map, but I didn’t discover that until finishing the read. The distances are incredible, and the fact that people traveled and survived the ordeal is equally impressive. There is a good amount of human hubris to be found here, especially when it comes to the details of planning the expedition. Between this one and the Donner Party, make sure you leave your point of origin on time with the correct materials.

The human element of this book is so good and is ultimately what kept me strapped in for yet another disastrous trek through the Arctic Circle. There’s camaraderie, there’s great upset, there’s harrowing escapes and ceaseless winter. With greater historical contexts like the outbreak of World War I being one of the things that greeted the seamen upon their return home, this account leaves few stones unturned and offers a comprehensive bibliography for those wanting to keep reading and researching.
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An amazing story
I first listened to the audio version because I expected it to be a bit tedious to read the book.  To my surprised after listening I grabbed the kindle version and reread the whole story. The Narrator Will Damron did an excellent job in having you visualize what was happening. The author Buddy Levy did an enormous amount of research to present the facts of this voyage.  The contrast between Stefansson (the leader and organizer of the expedition) and Bartlett (Capitan of the Karluk) was sharply defined.  You got to know the members of the crew and researchers.  Noticed how the events brought out the best and worst in people.  That anybody survived was mostly thanks to the determination of Captain Bartlett and the Inuit people that had joined the expedition.  Their understanding of the living conditions, hardships of surviving and continued willing to help with cooking, hunting and providing of appropriate clothing for the arctic cold.
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I read an eARC of this book. While it was thoroughly footnoted; no appendices, illustrations or index were included. I do not know if this additional information will be included in the actual book. 
This was a fascinating, well-written story of a disastrous Arctic expedition in the early part of the 1900s. The author created the setting and circumstances so vividly, I could see the landscape. I felt so sorry for these poor people who suffered during this expedition. After reading an account like this one, it is a wonder anyone would want to explore anywhere. That is truly a credit to the author's ability to bring this story to life.
Although this is a work on nonfiction, the characters were well-developed. The author included information about how the survivors spent the rest of their lives, which I really appreciated. It brought closure to the story. 
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Having read books about the Shackleton expedition, I was equally intrigued by the voyage of the Karluk into the Artic frigid waters. And this book does not disappoint. The bravado of the men involved in the expedition, the icy waters and intolerable conditions, the betrayals, not one thing about this book leaves the reader disappointed. I don't think "enjoyed" is the correct word for how it felt to read this book, but although it is written about historical events, it is told through a narrative that completely immerses the reader into the events and the atmosphere. I could picture the conditions and the people so well through the author's writing style. Exactly what I want from an historical book. I am always amazed at the ability for reasonably intelligent people, such as the scientists who participated in the voyage, to overlook the incredible risks involved in such a trip. It reminds me of early space exploration and the "tin cans" that passed as adequate vessels for such exploration. 
For anyone who loves narrative historical works, this is one to pick up. Highly readable and highly recommended.
#EmpireOfIceAndStone #NetGalley #StMartinsPress
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Two men: Vilhjalmur Stefansson and Robert Bartlett. Both have egos but much different moral compasses. Stefansson, a self-styled Arctic explored prioritized his personal success and claim to fame above the mission. Bartlett, an experienced captain of the Arctic, focused on the survival of the men onboard the ill-fated Karluk. 

The mission was sanctioned by the Canadian government after much lobbying and politicking by Stefansson. The Captain for the scientific mission was Bartlett. Even from the beginning there were hints that the two men did not share a similar world view, nor did they trust in each other’s competence.

When the Karluk excursion becomes imperiled, the factual storytelling describes the strengths and weaknesses of  the men onboard.  The reader is invested in their fates.  Who will make it? And how? Wrong decisions can have disastrous implications and sometimes sheer luck can shift someone’s future. Buddy Levy has no need to invent any detail to heighten what transpired. Adventure and danger lurked throughout. The author also updates the reader as to what happened after the voyage and the lives men led afterwards.

This is a long and exciting journey and book. Readers will be rewarded. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing this title.
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Empire of Ice and Stone is a well-written account of a failed historical mission to the arctic. It recounts the many missteps along the way as well as the book's many characters to life. One finds themselves rooting for the journey and the survival of its participants and hoping the ill-fated journey will come to a positive conclusion. If you love history, stories of long journeys, and places far away you will love this book. Thanks to #netgalley#Empireoficeandstone for the opportunity to read an review this book.
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In 1913: Karluk, a wooden hulled ship left Canada to go to the Arctic Ocean.  Captain Bob Bartlett was known as the world’s greatest living ice navigator.  The leader of this expedition was Vilhjalmur Stefansson.  Six weeks later the Karluk had giant ice floes surrounding her.  Stefansson decided to go on a Caribou hunting trip with five of the team.  He never came back,  Captain Bartlett decides to take one of the Inuit hunters to go with him to save the shipwrecked survivors.  It will be a 1,000 mile trip. 

The author’s nonfiction book story is entertaining more or less what happened.   On this expedition, there is suffering  and heroism.  It is a miracle that as many of anyone surviving this expedition.  The author maps and a list of characters.  There is also a timeline of of “Relevant Arctic Exploration, Expeditions, and Disasters.”. I am glad that I read this book as it amazed me that anyone would go though such a dangerous expedition.  It’s a fascinating read.
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The book interesting and informative. Levy achieves his thesis and writes in an easy to understand and easy to follow manner. 

I did have a little bit of trouble with this one. I felt, even though it was something new to me, that I had read this before.  I toyed with this for a while, which is why I took a bit longer to write the review. This doesn't make it a bad book, and I can see the benefits and enjoyment that others can get from reading this. In fact, I purchased a copy for a friend for the holidays. 

Thank you NetGalley and publisher for the dARC in exchange for my honest review.
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Unfortunately, this book is going to be a DNF at 20% for me. Despite going in with hopes of really enjoying this historical tale, I found the pace of the book to be excruciatingly slow and the writing to be bland and boring. There was not much incentive to keep reading and I had to push myself to get through the first fifth of the book. The story, though biographically told, is simply not presented in a way that is enticing to readers. It lacks the plot points that make up a good story. This book wasn’t a fit for me, though perhaps it will be for others.
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This book is the story of the ill-fated 1913 Canadian Arctic Expedition and the two men who defined it.  When the ship became locked in the ice, Vilhjalmur Stefansson, set off with several companions to hunt for caribou.  He never returned.  The remaining people are left with no leader, little food, and no way to move.  This is just the tip of the "iceberg".  Can they survive?
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Empire of Ice and Stone is just, wow! The grit and determination of the crew and scientists on the Karluk, Arctic expedition, is astounding. The author illuminates the ingenuity and leadership that led to their rescue. I find it amazing that anyone survived. A harrowing and groping true story.

**Thank you NetGalley for an electronic ARC of this novel.
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What a tour de force of determination and perseverance!  The Karluk, a ship exploring the Arctic Ocean in 1913, becomes icebound and eventually sinks.  I so enjoyed getting to know the men and one woman, Auntie, on that ill-fated ship.  At first I was confused as so many were introduced, but then they all were brought to life within these pages.  As I would not have been able to live given their harrowing stories, I was, at times, crying and sobbing for them, especially Mamen.  
I so appreciate the wealth of knowledge Buddy Levy has about polar expeditions and can only imagine the time he spent poring over the diaries these men kept in order to so seamlessly tell their story.  The suffering they endured made me feel so guilty throwing any scrap of food away.  
The original head of this particular expedition, in my humble opinion, should have gone directly to jail instead of receiving awards and leading future expeditions.  His life was all about himself.  His successor, Bartlett, was the polar opposite leader and never gave up, even faced with insurmountable odds, eventually finding those stalwart survivors.
Many many thanks to Buddy Levy for sharing the crew of the  Karluk’s incredible fate, St. Martin’s Press for publishing this tome, and NetGalley for affording me the opportunity to read an arc of this just published book.
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Gripping and mesmerizing!

I absolutely LOVED this book! The artic exploration undertaken by Vilhjalmur Stefansson was doomed from the start. Although Captain Bob Bartlett had some misgivings about how things were being done, he continued through with the commitment that he had made - not only to the trip, but to the men that were along on the fated voyage. 

As the Karluk became encased in ice, Stefansson departed, taking the cowards way out of the situation, and leaving the men on the ship to their fate. He never thought about going back for them, or looking for survivors. He was only thinking of himself and the glory that he was so fleetingly chasing. Bartlett saw the mission through, although he spent months worrying about the people he had left behind in the ice. He had to find help, and fast. If he was not able to get help, then everyone would perish.

This book was amazing from start to finish. The compelling story gave an inside account of the men, their thoughts, and the occurrences that happened as they waited for rescue. The amazing fortitude and will to survive their predicament was palpable, and you could almost feel their desperation as you read through the pages.
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5 captivating epic stars 

I had not heard of the Karluk, its crew, or the Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913. Empire of Ice and Stone was a fascinating read/ listen. Non-stop adventure and problems, fighting for one’s life in the unforgiving arctic, hunger, travel, cold and pain: Buddy Levy’s extensively researched account captivated and entertained. Though details from diaries and first-person accounts abound, the narrative remains lively throughout. Like the best books, it made me want to learn more – and I looked for photos of the ill-fated voyage and survivors.  (I wish a few had been included in the book.) I particularly appreciated the follow-up on what happened to the main protagonists. 

I appreciated the author’s list of resources, the index, NOTES, etc. Buddy Levy has outstanding writing and organizational skills. A huge amount of resourced material flows into a superb narrative. Highly recommended for men and women who enjoy well-told tales. I hope they make a documentary of this. 

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for accepting my request to read and review Empire of Ice and Stone.

Author:  Buddy Levy
Published: 12/06/22
Genre:  History -- Nonfiction (Adult)

Ice versus ego, okay the book involves a bit more than that.  More than one hundred years later, we can sit back with hindsight and judge men and their thirst for discovery.

The Karluk and its crew was one of a few ships who set off for the Arctic Ocean.  The results are devastating.  By today's standards their equipment was less than primitive.  Surprisingly, not everyone dies.  The cold, ice, food supplies, clothing and accommodations are so bad, at times it's embarrassingly awkward to read.  And yet, as a reader, like the men I forged on.  Scientists were able to collect data under these extreme circumstances that is used today.  There are heartbreaking details of illness and the primitive medicine they had at their disposal.

I found the battle of their minds the cruelest parts of the journey.  The ice plays tricks on them, their own brains scatter what they know to be true. Inside the men on the Karluk, as well as other ships around that time, was a strength to be respected and never forgotten.  

Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for accepting my request to read and review Empire of Ice and Stone.

Author:  Buddy Levy
Published: 12/06/22
Genre:  History -- Nonfiction (Adult)

Ice versus ego, okay the book involves a bit more than that.  More than one hundred years later, we can sit back with hindsight and judge men and their thirst for discovery.

The Karluk and its crew was one of a few ships who set off for the Arctic Ocean.  The results are devastating.  By today's standards their equipment was less than primitive.  Surprisingly, not everyone dies.  The cold, ice, food supplies, clothing and accommodations are so bad, at times it's embarrassingly awkward to read.  And yet, as a reader, like the men I forged on.  Scientists were able to collect data under these extreme circumstances that is used today.  There are heartbreaking details of illness and the primitive medicine they had at their disposal.

I found the battle of their minds the cruelest parts of the journey.  The ice plays tricks on them, their own brains scatter what they know to be true. Inside the men on the Karluk, as well as other ships around that time, was a strength to be respected and never forgotten.  

This is not a novel.  This is well-researched and documented account of history.  The historical era is one of personal interest to me; the author mentions Madhouse at the End of the Earth by Julian Sancton (My best read of 2020.) this shows the mental fight as well.  Both are impressive reads given what they knew, what they had, and what they hoped to achieve.
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What would prompt grown men to want to sail into the Arctic poorly clothed! This book reminds me of the adventures of Ernest Shackleton! Captain Bartlett is a true hero. He led his crew to safety. Unfortunately some of the members wanted to have their own way and this resulted in their deaths. Bartlett’s journey across the ice saved the remainder of the crew. What A great read! and a must read... fascinating, harrowing, and truly one of the greatest adventures I had Never! heard of. It's an education, reading this story, for anyone who loves true life tales! Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin's press for the arc. I LOVED THIS BOOK!
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Empire of Ice and Stone is a historical nonfiction book by author Buddy Levy.

Wow, what a great book. As I read this book with ease I realized I had never heard of the Karluk. The author takes the reader on the eventful voyage as if the reader were part of the crew. Leaving nothing out. Even including the amputations of toes and legs.

I believe the author’s purpose in writing the book is to inform the reader. At the beginning of the book is organized the names of the crew and their age at the time of expedition departure in June 1913. Also included are the scientific members, Inuit members, Steffansson’s Caribou hunting party, Advance shore party, party seeking land via sleds, and the Wrangel Island party. There is also a timeline of arctic explorations, expeditions, and disasters.

Empire of Ice and Stone is the true story of Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s and Robert Bartlett’s expeditions in the northern territory. It is a slow read but well worth reading.

I give Empire of Ice and Stone 4*/5*.

Disclaimer: I receive complimentary books from various sources, including, publishers, publicists, authors, and/or NetGalley. I am not required to write a positive review and have not received any compensation. The opinions shared here are my own entirely. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255
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Buddy Levy delivers a well-crafted true story that reads like an action-adventure novel. This meticulously researched book follows Captain Bob Bartlett and the scientists and crew of the Karluk, part of the Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913, under the leadership of the entrepreneurial explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson. As with many early Arctic adventures, things did not go to plan.

The Expedition set off, in part, to explore the Arctic waters north of Canada in search of potential new lands between the mainland and the north pole. As envisioned by Stefansson, the Expedition would split into two parts. The Karluk would support the Northern Party exploring the seas and ice. Other ships would support a Southern Party that would mostly do anthropological and geological research among the northern islands of Canada’s Coronation Gulf (off the northern coast of today’s Nunavit).

Six weeks after launching from Victoria, with Stefansson aboard, the Karluk was caught in converging ice floes and beset. Trapped in the ice and unable to steer or maneuver on her own, she was subject to the movement of the ice floes. 

At that point Stefansson decided, despite protest, that he should take a small group of men (including two of the best hunters, and the cameramen meant to record the Northern Party), and twelve of the best sled dogs on board, and set off. He headed landward, purportedly to hunt caribou to provide meat for the beset ship. The very next day a storm came up and pushed the ice surrounding the Karluk out to sea, putting an ever-widening gap between the ship and Stefansson. This was not an altogether unexpected result. By leaving when he did, Stefansson essentially abandoned the ship to its fate.

From that point the author tells the story of the heroism of Bartlett, the peril of those aboard the Karluk, and the cavalier carelessness of Stefansson. It is an extraordinary story.

Bartlett kept the people aboard the ship alive (all men except for one Inuit woman and her two children) and delivered all he could to landfall on Wrangel Island. He and Kataktovik (an Inuit hired to the crew as a hunter) then ventured back on to the ice to cross the sea in an attempt to communicate their peril to the world and find rescue.

Stefansson on the other hand, reasoned that the lost ship and all aboard were already dead, or if not then beyond rescue. Once on land he reunited with the Southern Party and chartered a new boat and crew to reconstitute his Northern Party. He made no attempt to determine the fate of the Karluk and did nothing to initiate a search or rescue operation.

Levy has done his research, and that includes scouring the diaries and written accounts of many of the Karluk survivors. Reading this book, you really feel as if you are right there alongside them as they adapt to conditions in order to survive - at first on the Arctic ice, and later on Wrangel Island. Some did not make it, and the fate of at least one crewman is still a subject of controversy to this day.

This is a fascinating account offering a clear contrast between the heroism of the captain and the selfish carelessness of the Expedition Leader. Even those who are not typically nonfiction fans will find a lot to like about this book. 

RATING: I’ve read a diverse set of nonfiction books this year, and this one is near the top of my favorites. Five Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

NOTE: I received an advanced copy of this book from St Martin’s Press and NetGalley, and am voluntarily providing this review. The book goes on sale December 6, 2022.
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