Empire of Ice and Stone
The Disastrous and Heroic Voyage of the Karluk
by Buddy Levy
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Pub Date 06 Dec 2022 | Archive Date 20 Dec 2022
The true, harrowing story of the ill-fated 1913 Canadian Arctic Expedition and the two men who came to define it.
In the summer of 1913, the wooden-hulled brigantine Karluk departed Canada for the Arctic Ocean. At the helm was Captain Bob Bartlett, considered the world’s greatest living ice navigator. The expedition’s visionary leader was a flamboyant impresario named Vilhjalmur Stefansson hungry for fame.
Just six weeks after the Karluk departed, giant ice floes closed in around her. As the ship became icebound, Stefansson disembarked with five companions and struck out on what he claimed was a 10-day caribou hunting trip. Most on board would never see him again.
Twenty-two men and an Inuit woman with two small daughters now stood on a mile-square ice floe, their ship and their original leader gone. Under Bartlett’s leadership they built make-shift shelters, surviving the freezing darkness of Polar night. Captain Bartlett now made a difficult and courageous decision. He would take one of the young Inuit hunters and attempt a 1000-mile journey to save the shipwrecked survivors. It was their only hope.
Set against the backdrop of the Titanic disaster and World War I, filled with heroism, tragedy, and scientific discovery, Buddy Levy's Empire of Ice and Stone tells the story of two men and two distinctively different brands of leadership: one selfless, one self-serving, and how they would forever be bound by one of the most audacious and disastrous expeditions in polar history, considered the last great voyage of The Heroic Age of Discovery.
"Levy’s masterful storytelling put a chill in my bones and despair in my heart as the survivors of the Karluk tragedy struggled onward. Empire of Ice and Stone is a wonderful telling of a horrible voyage." —Jim Davidson, high-altitude climber and author of The Next Everest
“Against the backdrop of incomprehensible Arctic Ocean survival at the close of the age of exploration, Buddy Levy contrasts the consequences of men’s motives for leadership in a page-turning life-and-death epic that is so detailed and so well-developed that a reader can feel the frozen brine of an open lead in mid-winter pack ice, the gnawing pit of starvation, and the heart-warming compassion of a ship’s captain who will stop at nothing to save the men, women, children, and animals for whom he is responsible.” —Roman Dial, author of The Adventurer’s Son
"With a cast of eccentric and fascinating characters on a grand adventure - and misadventure - in one of the most extreme regions of the world, Empire of Ice and Stone ranks with the great exploration and survival epics in history. Hubris, jaw-dropping incompetence, callous self-interest and ultimately heroic determination and sacrifice all grapple for top billing. Buddy Levy’s writing and narrative sense is top notch and really brings this incredible story to life." —Stephen R. Bown, author of Island of the Blue Foxes: Disaster and Triumph on the World’s Greatest Scientific Expedition and The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen
"With Empire of Ice and Stone, Buddy Levy once again proves his mastery of historical journalism, spinning exhaustive research into storytelling gold. In vivid details and haunting images that graphically recreate often heroic, often horrifying events, Levy keeps us spellbound, turning page after page, breathless to see who, if anyone, can survive such unimaginable conditions. Whether a fantastic feat of human endeavor or the folly of man’s quest to conquer the final reaches of terra incognito, in Levy’s sure hands, the Canadian Arctic Expedition becomes a life-and-death drama of tragic proportions. Brimming with malevolence and malfeasance but also humble charity and true nobility, Empire of Ice and Stone is a triumphant exploration of the forces that drive the human heart to extremes." —Kim Barnes, Pulitzer finalist and award-winning author of In the Kingdom of Men
"Brace yourself for an edge-of-the-seat excursion not only through one of the more harrowing environments on the planet, but into an utterly vanished era, when exploration of the globe’s farthest reaches seemed to require equal parts bravery and lunacy. Buddy Levy relates the terror, travails, and sheer will to survive when such an expedition went disastrously awry. Expertly documented and beautifully described, Empire of Ice and Stone is a grand testament to the human impulse to risk adventure, seek new shores, and try to return again from the frozen beyond…" —Malcolm Brooks, national bestselling author of Painted Horses and Cloudmaker
"In his profoundly engrossing follow-up to Labyrinth of Ice, Levy brilliantly unveils new, terrifying dimensions of the Arctic’s cruel power, and further outlines the admirable folly of the men who dared to confront it. Like so many explorers of the so-called heroic age, Levy has been pulled back to that deadly landscape as if by magnetism. How fortunate we all are for it." —Julian Sancton, author of Madhouse at the End of the Earth
“With Empire of Ice and Stone, Buddy Levy brings the harrowing story of the Karluk to vivid life. The doomed ship and her crew face catastrophes beyond enduring again and again, and Levy skillfully keeps the reader dreading what will happen next.” —Andrea Pitzer, author of Icebound: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World
Average rating from 76 members
Empire of Ice and Stone: The Disastrous and Heroic Voyage of the Karluk by Buddy Levy is a great nonfiction and historical account of the infamous and ill-fated attempt of the Arctic expedition of 1913.
I always love a good naval, Arctic expedition. Stakes are high, the captians and crew either win big or drama ensues. Unfortunately, sometimes lives are lost. However, the historical and biographical accounts that are created from a time that seems so far gone, but yet are usually less than 150 years ago.
This is another great book by Mr. Levy. I loved learning more about the Karluck and the events (many that were polarizing actions and decisions) that occurred afterwards was fascinating. Learning more about Captain Bob Bartlett and Vilhjalmur Stefansson and their respective decisions after their ill-equipped ship became encrusted into ice had me engaged and desperate to turn each page.
Mr. Levy presents a great account and has clearly done his research. I really appreciate and admire all of his talent and effort.
Thank you NG and S. Martin’s Press for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion.
I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication on 12/6/22.
My thanks, and it's a huge THANKS to St. Martin's Press, Buddy Levy and Netgalley.
This was one fantabulous story! I was already a fan of Mr. Levy after reading another book of his about the Greely expedition.
Mr. Levy has a knack for making the reader feel as if they were there. He makes everything feel very fluid.
This read almost like a novel. I didn't feel bogged down in facts. The facts, dates and deaths were all here, but there was so much taken from diaries, and put into a readable form that I enjoyed every moment.
I've been reading these kinds of stories for years now, and I'm still often amazed at the heroism. Mostly though, some of these men had unbounded compassion.
Had I lived one to two hundred years ago, and been a man then I'd have signed on to a Polar expedition in a heartbeat!
In 1913, the adventurous Vihjalmur Stefansson who was looking for fame, put together an Arctic expedition to be headed by Captain Robert “Bob” Bartlett aboard the ship Karluk. At that time, Bartlett was considered the greatest arctic ice navigator. They left from Canada on their great adventure. The expedition was named the Canadian Arctic Expedition (CAE).
Mr. Levy inserts brief biographies of Bartlett and Stefansson. Stefansson undertook a whirlwind world-wide trip to seek funding for his voyage. Meanwhile, Bartlett was horrified by the condition of the Karluk and set about strengthening and improving the ship and its condition.
I got the distinct impression that Mr. Levy found Stefansson to be rather underhanded and manipulative. As the story continues, I see that Mr. Levy is correct in his assessment. Stefansson didn’t feel the need to be totally honest with the scientists, for they should just take his word as team leader. Sheesh! (Their lives were “secondary to the scientific work.”)
Bartlett was just about the polar (no pun intended), opposite. He was competent and went about his work with incredible drive. He was not condescending to the crew. He didn’t have much to do with the scientists. He took one of the younger men named Mamen under his wing and taught him about the ice and the sea. The young man was eager to learn.
Ostensibly proposing a caribou hunting trip, Stefansson takes the two best hunters, twelve dogs and some other men. He sets off in a blizzard. He, himself said there were no caribou earlier in the trip. The ship is anchored to a huge ice floe and not going anywhere for the time being.
New splinters appeared among the crew and the scientists. Some wanted to abandon the Karluk, others thought that would be mutiny and they were loyal to Captain Bartlett.
Somehow Stefansson and his men found their way to land and civilization. Now he had to scheme his way past the Canadian government officials and explain how he got separated from the Karluk and rescue his mission. He told the officials that the Karluk was probably lost, but the men aboard her could have made it to land safely.
Meanwhile Bartlett kept the men busy on the Karluk. He created a fire brigade, had the men make sturdy boxes for their Primus stoves and so on. They read, played chess and talked about a variety of topics. They played games.
As the story continues, the reader learns that not only was Stefansson underhanded and manipulative, he was also a liar, a swindler and extremely selfish.
When he made his way to civilization, he brushed off the Karluk as if she were of no consequence. He argued bitterly with the leader of the South contingent of the Karluk expedition that had been left in another place. Not winning that battle, he audaciously brought another ship with Canadian government money and fully outfitted it.
After seven months trapped against the floe, the Karluk broke up and sank. The men safely evacuated to the ice. Fortunately, Captain Bartlett’s planning ahead paid off.
Mr. Levy goes on to describe the hardships the men suffered after the sinking of the Karluk. Most of them finally make it to Wrangel Island. Bartlett and one of the natives set out for Siberia some several hundred miles away. They had a horrible journey, but eventually made it to a settlement. From there they journeyed so that Bartlett could make it to Alaska and set about trying to encourage a rescue for the remaining men.
Meanwhile, Stefansson set about exploring on his own with his new crew. He apparently did not give any thought to the Karluk and its survivors.
Stefansson published several books and articles, to his own benefit. He blamed the Karluk disaster as solely Bartlett’s fault. Bartlett declined to respond, but was hurt and very angry about the falsehoods put forth by Stefansson.
This book is brilliantly written and plotted. Mr. Levy has a real talent for making non-fiction read like a novel. The book is enjoyable and engaging. The descriptions of the hardships with the weather and the bickering among the men are first class. It was Bartlett’s sense of duty and perseverance that led to the survivors' rescue. While I truly enjoy reading about the polar regions, there is no way I could visit myself. I’m far too much of a wimp.
I want to thank NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for forwarding to me a copy of this wonderful book for me to read, enjoy and review. The opinions expressed here are solely my own. .
What a truly inspirational novel about the hardships and ordeal endured by the survivors of a shipwreck in the artic. What they were forced to go through for their survival is an amazing story that is a must read for all. The courage is unbelievable and you will not want to put this book down!
Thank you to #NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Buddy Levy has gone and done it again. He took a story I already knew and wrote a book I couldn't put down.
Empire of Ice and Stone is another great entry into the genre of Arctic exploration and adventure. The story revolves around the crew of the Karluk which is one of multiple ships put together for exploration by Vilhjalmur Stefansson. You will quickly learn not to like him. However, the captain of the Karluk, Bob Bartlett, will quickly become one of your favorite people. As with most Arctic exploration, things go horribly wrong. I won't spoil it any further.
This book is another example of what makes Buddy Levy such a great author. The book is thorough, but tightly focused on the men (and women!) of the expedition. Levy's eye for what you need to know keeps all of the extraneous information out. What's left is an adventure that focuses on people which make it so engaging.
And then what happens is you stay up too late on a weeknight because you don't want to stop reading. At least that is still better than being marooned on a giant ice floe.
(This book was provided as an advance copy by Netgalley and St. Martin's Press. The full review will be posted to HistoryNerdsUnited.com on 12/6/2022.)
I learned a lot about a topic I was unfamiliar with and I appreciated that the facts were presented and kept the story moving. I never felt bogged down or bored, and the story never got dry. The story features an ill-fated Arctic expedition. The Karluck and events that occurred around the expedition were fascinating. The main characters are Captain Bob Bartlett and Vilhjalmur Stefansson, who were presented in an engaging way. I think this is a great account and I recommend this book.
This is an incredible story of the Canadian Arctic Expedition, an ill-planned, ill-equipped, and unlucky foray into the Arctic that killed 16 people and left many of the survivors with lifelong injuries.
The description is the easiest way to summarize the events leading up to this futile misery.
"After a celebratory four-year polar expedition for the American Museum of Natural History that brought him fame, explorer and ethnologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson proposes an even bolder arctic mission. A charismatic, flamboyant impresario, he recruits a team of renowned scientists—including two who accompanied Ernest Shackleton aboard the Nimrod to the South Pole—and secures financing from Canada to journey into the high arctic to investigate the region’s resource potential.
Considered the world’s greatest living ice navigator, Captain Bob Bartlett was a veteran of three North Pole excursions with Robert Peary between 1898-1909, making him more than qualified for Stefansson’s Canadian Arctic Expedition. Commissioned to captain the Karluk, a more than thirty-year-old steam brigantine that served as a fishing tender and whaler, Bartlett found a vessel less than sea worthy and ordered a complete refit, putting him at odds with his impatient employer.
Once underway in June 1913, it became clear that even with extensive repairs, the Karluk was ill-equipped for Stefansson’s enterprise, as was its crew and scientist passengers. After six weeks of travel, the ship became icebound. Accompanied by five men, Stefansson crossed the floes to hunt caribou, and never returned. Responsible for the twenty-five souls left in his charge, Bartlett endured the sinking of the Karluk and traversed nearly 1000 miles of frozen wilderness to save his marooned shipmates—fighting to survive excruciating, frigid temperatures in makeshift shelters with scarce food sources as months pass with no sign of rescue."
The expedition was accompanied by an Inuit family composed of mother, "Auntie," father, and TWO children! Auntie saved the expedition by making clothing constantly, trying to make up for the poor planning of Stefansson. If she hadn't been along, they would have all been doomed.
A kitten also made the journey, cuddled by one of the children much of the time. Spoiler alert: the cat survived and came home to live with one of the surviving crew for the rest of her life. She actually outlived the man who brought her home, as he was killed on another expedition.
The suffering experienced by the members is horrendous. They had a pack of sled dogs, most of whom fought at every opportunity, caused a lot of work in their care and rescue when they got into trouble, and don't seem to have been that useful in this journey much of the time. Of course, the expedition never planned on being stranded in an ice pack and the many disasters that followed. One dog, Molly, did prove to be savior, companion, and a favorite among the travelers. She saved one man by towing him many miles to a distant camp.
One man may have been murdered late in the travails that kept dogging this expedition. Circumstances, purposeful or coincidental, resulted in the expedition leader leaving the ship relatively early on, making it to shore for a caribou hunt, and never managing to return. His further contribution - he survived, proceeded to launch ANOTHER expedition and never did much to rescue the shipload of travelers he left in the ice pack. It seems he wrote them off as lost early on, and expended little effort to confirm this.
Another expedition member, Bartlett, took over the ship, and while not all of his choices worked well, helped keep some alive. Auntie's husband hunted constantly. Most important of all, Auntie sewed replacement clothing from the hides and skins, repaired damaged items, and kept her children alive.
The few Inuit/Inupiat contacts made by expedition members were friendly, with the natives sharing their scant larders with the starving men at their doors. Even the Chukchi on the Russian side of the strait were hospitable to the strangers they couldn't understand.
As an expedition in quest of information, this adventure was largely a dud except as a handbook in what not to do in the future. One of the scientists fished for oceanic specimens and captured some that he felt were undiscovered. Regrettably, all of his data was lost when the ship sank.
The second from final chapter of this book is the best. The author followed the subsequent lives of the survivors, who were rescued just in time to participate in WWI. Some returned to the sea, or continued working for exploratory expeditions. Strangely, there are some men who do much better in the hardships of the ice lands than at home.
Auntie had more children. Her youngest daughter at the time of the expedition, Mugpi lived to be 97, receiving an award at age 90 for her family's contributions to Arctic science. The Spanish Flu claimed one survivor.
Bartlett and Stefansson continued a rivalry, sniping at each other regarding what each had done, or were perceived to have done during this doomed expedition. Stefansson even wrote a book entitled, "The Friendly Arctic," espousing that the land provided an adequate living for the prepared traveler, contrary to what was experienced by Bartlett and his group. This chapter is a relief after pages of frostbite, gangrene, illness and starvation. While "happily ever after" wasn't the case for all, some continued to seek adventurous lives.
Buddy Levy’s “Empire of Ice and Stone” is an excellent non-fiction tale of Arctic adventure and survival. Painstakingly researched and so very well-written, it tells the story of Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s Canadian-backed, ill-planned, ill-equipped, and ill-fated expedition to explore above the Arctic circle; of how its ship the “Kulak” became trapped in Polar ice; and of Captain Bob Bartlett’s month’s long journey on foot to bring rescue to stranded expedition members struggling to survive a world of ice, snow, freezing temperatures, and man-killing wildlife.
Based in part on contemporaneous journals written by expedition members, “Empire” gives vivid accounts of the challenges inherent in Arctic life and of the methods employed—especially by its indigenous peoples—to meet those challenges. Building igloos and yarangas for shelter; fashioning kayaks from driftwood; hunting birds, bears, seals, and walrus for food; traveling by foot and dogsled over treacherous, heaving ice prone to splitting open without warning to the freezing waters below; battling frostbite, exhaustion, rotted food, and strange, wasting illnesses; not to mention conflicts between and amongst expedition members—all these form part of the expedition's story. As does one leader’s self-centered perfidy and his subordinate’s self-sacrifice and absolute determination to rescue the men, women, and children he left behind.
My thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. The foregoing is my independent opinion.
Having never heard of this Canadian expedition to the Arctic, finding another story of incredible hardship, frostbite, starvation, bad behavior, good behavior, impossible ice, sled dogs, pemmican, and calls to abandon ship and build cairns was a pleasure. Given how our world and both poles are melting, these stories may one day read like fairy tales, but at least they won't make us long for life stuck in remote fastnesses where the winter temperatures drop to -50F!
Fans of Shackleton will meet some familiar faces, and the "Eskimo" family that comes along is worth twice its weight in gold and valuable survival skills. I would love to read a physiological explanation for how the native family survived so much better in the conditions than the explorers from the Lower 48.
Thank you to the publisher for the chance to review this book.
This is the remarkable and gripping account of the Karluk shipwreck and sinking in the Arctic. It is nothing short of a miracle that any of these people survived. Luckily they had Captain Bob Bartlett who is the hero of this story. This is one of the best adventure/survival sea tales I've ever read. The misery and hopelessness of the crew was palpable. I found myself cringing reading about the things these people had to eat and the bitter cold they had to endure is unimaginable. Highly recommend to anyone who loves adventure and survival stories or just a page turning fantastic read.
Thank you so much St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for the advance reader's copy. Buddy Levy's telling of the story of the Karluk's demise and the survival of most of her crew. A story I was not at all familiar with but truly brought to life in this book. It is so hard to imagine the hardships they endured and survive but the details and the style of writing brought it all to life. A superlative read!
Empire of Ice and Stone by Buddy Levy was spectacular.
This book is about the famous ship Karluk and its passengers. They set off to the Arctic on a mission of exploration and science, but before they even reach the first stop of their journey, they are trapped in ice and swept off into the middle of the Arctic Ocean. What follows is a harrowing journey to survive and get rescued. Along the way they lose many people, starve, run out of shelter, get frostbitten, and otherwise face extreme hardships. Eventually, some of them make it back home, thanks to their bravery and fortitude.
Empire of Ice and Stone is expertly written. It is almost written like a novel, keeping me absorbed, with not too many facts all at once. Levy did extensive research, and included many of the explorers' own words in the form of snippets of their journal. Not only does Levy cover the entire adventure, he also lists what happened to each adventurer afterwards, including the ship cat and dogs.
I grew to love these people, and feel distraught as bad things continued to happen to them. Levy wrote the characters in such a way that they felt very real, and caused you to care.
This book was awesome, and l would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the Arctic explorations. I feel like this is a must read, and easy for people who know nothing. Some of the descriptions, such as the descriptions of frostbite and decaying corpses, are gruesome and disgusting, so beware of that.
First read by this author. Ge makes you feel as if you are there. Fascinating and hard to put down. Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book
I enjoy reading non-fiction because it allows me to live vicariously through real people and this story definitely succeeded in that regard!
The novel begins with the organization of a scientific expedition to the arctic. Willie Stefansson, the mastermind behind the project, manages to secure funding from the Canadian federal government and recruits some of the best polar explorers of his time. They ready the Karluk and set out in 1913. Unfortunately, winter ice arrives early that year and they quickly run into trouble. It doesn't take long for the self involved Stefansson and his small entourage to abandon the ship and leave it's responsibility to Captain Bob Bartlett. As the ship is stuck in ice and drifting further away from land, the group starts to worry. The ship is in danger of being crushed by sea ice and if this happens, the chance of survival is dismal. Bartlett steps up and manages to keep people's spirits from drowning in despair. He assigns tasks to the crew, keeps an eye on their mental health and organizes a sporting event for Christmas to bring everyone together. The ship eventually succumbs to nature and the survival of its passengers is the sole focus.
The author did such a great job writing this book that I felt like I was right there, experiencing the hunger, cold, snow blindness and pain with the survivors. I felt invested in the people and hoped that they would survive, especially Bartlett, McKinlay, Mamen, Kataktovik, Kuraluk and his family. Overall, this was a great read!
While I have done a fair amount of reading about various polar expeditions, I am by no means familiar with even a large percentage of all that have occurred. That being said, I am always intrigued by tales of adventure and hardship undertaken by people pushing the limits of physical endurance and scientific discovery.
Buddy Levy's tale of the final voyage of the Karluk as part of the ill-fated Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913 was masterfully told. Centered around two strongly divergent individuals, nominally leaders in their own right, the story unfolds straight from the personal journals of those souls that set out to expand the known world. Buddy has very clearly done extensive research to pull relevant information together and artfully put it together so it reads like a novel while it instructs like a history book.
This book was very well done, and easily recommended for anyone that has an interest.
Empire of Ice and Stone by Buddy Levy
This five star account of an expedition ship frozen in Arctic ice and the race against time for survival will keep you on the edge-of-your-seat.
Robert Bartlett captained the Karluk, commissioned by explorer Vilhjalmur (Willie) Stefansson, to search the Arctic and map new lands for Canada. As it turns out, the Karluk and its crew were ill prepared for such a voyage.
Disaster strikes and the Karluk cannot escape the firm grip of the ice. Stefansson heads out with two crewmen to hunt caribou leaving Bartlett in charge of the ship and many lives. After a time, the Karluk sinks leaving the men and one Eskimo family alone on the ice. Boredom and hunger set in.
The bravery of all the stranded and their many hardships is astounding.You will cheer for their survival and rescue, as well as a proper punishment for Stefansson’s negligence.
The last chapter will tie up all the loose ends, and is a good finale to an exciting adventure.
Many thanks to #StMartinsPress and #NetGalley for this ARC.
I enjoyed this book. The plot was paced well and the characters were well developed. I would recommend this book to others and I look forward to reading more from this author in the future.
This is the true story of two men. One a great leader and one not so great.
With everything going on on the world stage in 1913, a wooden-hulled brigantine named Karlud departed Canada for the Arctic. Bob Barlett, who was considered a legend navigating ice manned the helm, and Vilhjalmur Stefansson, who just wanted to be famous.
About six weeks after they leave, they are surrounded by giant ice floes. Stefansson leaves the ship with five others and leaves for what he said was a 10-day hunting ship. Will they ever see him again?
22 men and an Inuit woman with her two daughters are now sitting on a mile-square ice floe, their ship and leader are gone. They make the best of the situation by building shelters and trying to stay alive.
Bartlett made the decision to take one of his hunters on a 1000-mile journey to save them.
This was such an interesting book. These men couldn’t have been any more different. And the conditions were awful. I have such admiration for the courage shown by this leader.
NetGalley/St. Martin’s Press December 06, 2022
This book follows a doomed Arctic expedition and explores the personalities and perils encountered. The story is true, but it rivals any work of fiction. While being a great read - incredibly well researched and written - the words transport you onto the ice in a fight for life. It is so hard to imagine the desire to embark on this journey considering the past failed attempts and the knowledge of limited communication once there, as well as the expected day-to-day rigors just to maintain your camp. The author does a fantastic job of portraying their hopes at the start, the interaction among the men, and even the loss of hope as the expedition falls apart. This is history, so there is no real surprise ending, yet I hoped with the men, cried with their challenges and results, and couldn't put the book down until I learned the final outcome. This book is an incredible read and needs to be on your TBR list!
I received an e-arc of this book through Netgalley.
I've never been a fan of cold weather so reading about arctic explorers rather than experiencing it firsthand was definitely the way to go, especially learning about all of the frostbite and malnutrition they experienced while waiting to be rescued. It seems amazing that any one would've wanted to go on these trips, but they did.
Mr. Levy has put together an incredible account that reads more like a well-crafted story that really kept my attention The attention to detail is quite amazing.
Empire of Ice and Stone by Buddy Levy is a superb read with a well-drawn plot and vivid characters. A read well worth the time. is a superb read with a well-drawn plot and vivid characters. A read well worth the time.
<quote>Stefansson told Bartlett that he expected to be gone about ten days, "if no accident happens" – he added rather ominously – and that he would leave written instructions for the captain to follow during his absence. It was all very sudden and to most on board seemed spontaneous, unnecessary, and ill conceived.</quote>
The story of the Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913 is a familiar tale of tragedy in the arctic, but with an unusual twist. Vilhjalmur Stefansson was already a well-known and charismatic arctic explorer when he proposed a scientific expedition to study the frozen north and hopefully reach the North Pole (Peary’s 1909 claim to having reached the Pole was questioned by some). The Canadian government gave Stefansson the approval to outfit the expedition, and he hired a veteran of previous expeditions, Captain Robert Bartlett, to lead the ships.
Bartlett had come close to reaching the North Pole with Peary and longed for another chance. But Stefansson’s plans for the trip seemed haphazard and poorly thought out. Although there were three ships altogether, the supplies for the excursion were not loaded on the right boats (this was to be sorted out later, according to Stefansson). Even worse, the Karluk, the flagship of the enterprise, needed extensive repairs and was not ideal for a voyage into the polar ice.
As was common with such expeditions, disaster struck. Even worse, Stefansson inexplicably abandoned the ship for a supposed caribou hunt when the ship became frozen in the ice. And when the Karluk drifted away, he wrote the crew and passengers off as dead and reorganized the expedition on the blank checks of the Canadian government.
This is a fascinating and well-written account of the Karluk and the disaster that befell those still on it. Captain Bartlett is the clear hero of the tale, with his cool-head and 1,000 mile journey to save his people, and it’s an amazing story! In spite of the suffering, the story never became bogged down in miserable details, although I found myself shaking my head at times. An inspiring read. (I received an advance electronic copy of this book courtesy of St. Martin's Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
4.5 stars. Buddy Levy's Empire of Ice and Stone: The Disastrous and Heroic Voyage of the Karluk is a great addition to the annals of Arctic exploration. The Canadian Arctic Expedition departed in 1913, organized by the vainglorious Vilhjalmur Stefansson, whose deficiencies as a leader included his rush to the sea in a thoroughly inadequate ship with an absence of planning, desertion of his crew when they became icebound, and heinous failure to attempt any sort of rescue effort once he returned to habitable areas. In contrast, the Karluk's captain, Bob Bartlett, heroically led most of his crew to Wrangel Island, crossed ice floes and ridges to Siberia, made his way to Alaska, and rallied forces for a rescue.
Levy's narration of the events, heavily reliant on primary sources such as letters and diaries, is clear and eminently readable. The text conveys the challenges faced by the expedition in both practical and human terms, treating the principal personalities with respect and authenticity. Bartlett's journey from Wrangel is harrowing, and Levy captures the tension and danger he and his Inuit companion Kataktovik.
This book is both a fascinating historical read and an intriguing character and leadership study, and Levy's authorship brings both to life.
The Empire of Ice and Stone by Buddy Levy is a very detailed account of the expedition to the Arctic in the early 1900s led by Vilhjalmur Stefansson for the Canadian Government. He draws from the accounts and diaries of many of the crew including Captain Bartlett who was hired to captain the Karluk and navigate the treacherous Arctic ice flows. It is also a story of extraordinary leadership by Bartlett and others and crew's incredible resilience and will to survive after the Karluk is stuck in the ice. There are both heroes and villains in this story and the descriptions of the conditions that they endured in this unforgiving environment are amazing. I enjoyed this book very much.
WOW! This book knocked my socks off. I loved the adventure, the stories of survival, and one mans determination to saving those he is in charge of. Captain Bartlett is a man that is a true a leader. He must lead his band of shipmates, scientists, and Eskimos to land after being stranded on the ice. He WALKS to Siberia to get help.
The entire story is one NONSTOP Thrill ride, that left me in disbelief. Yet its all true.
This is a MUST read for ANYONE who loves adventure and survival stories.
The only, and this is small....only critique is that I wished that I had a map to see where the locations were. But it could be that I received an ARC and not the full copy.
OVERALL...READ THIS BOOK! ITs so good!
The tale of the is truly an adventure that seems more fiction then fact. In 1913 a group of explorers left in search of a passage to the Artic Ocean. During this time one of the ships, the Karluk, runs into an unfortunate incident and the crew is left fighting for their lives against the elements.
This story of the crew fighting against the forces of nature both physically and mentally is one you just have to read to believe. The author has used diaries and other ways to create a story that is very hard to put down. The two main characters Bob Bartlett and Vilhjalmur Stefansson show how two different individuals can look at the same situation from two vastly different views.
I received this ARC from Net Galley for an honest review of the book. I highly recommend reading this book for not only the historical knowledge of this event, but how humans can overcome odds with many different backgrounds.
Page turner from page one! Not just another tragic adventure but a truly unbelievable story that Mr. Levy grabs you from the start and never lets you go. Very well written, the book moves along from one obstacle to the next.
You really can feel the cold, the snow and the wind. Book show how very hard life can be and how some rise above and others fall short. Levy does a great job building the different players in the book and you can almost feel their pain, suffering and in some case death.
The book reads like historical fiction with mother nature being the one that no one can control, you can only hope to survive. I could not recommend a book more.
Fascinating true story of an arctic expedition that ended in triumph and tragedy.
Entwined in this captivating novel are stories of leadership and courage, the ability to endure unspeakable mental and physical hardships, survival, heartbreak and the harsh nature of life in the arctic.
I couldn't put this one down, despite the aggressive size of the book. I also wouldn't have wanted any of it edited out. Couldn't recommend this one highly enough. It will stay with you for a long time after you turn the final page.
Buddy Levy always knows how to make what should be a fairly run-of-the mill story interesting! After his book, In the Kingdom of Ice, any time I see his name on a book I grab it! A great general non-fiction book with wide crossover appeal
I love a good disaster and survival story. I was excited to receive a copy of this book and it did not disappoint. As others note, you feel as if you are experiencing it with the people from the past. Absolutely well worth the read and I’ll be keeping an eye out for more of Levy’s work!
I received this book as an ARC and this is my review. This amazing story chronicles the hardships and heartbreak of the 1914 attempt to explore the Arctic Circle. The explorers and their efforts provide a gripping tale that is unputdownable. I totally recommend this book to any reader who appreciates a slice of history that is uncompromising and captures details so realistic frostbite seems inevitable.
Big thanks to St. Martin's Press, as well as NetGalley, for the opportunity to read and review an early copy of Empire of Ice and Stone.
This is the first book I've read by Mr. Levy and his mastery of storytelling was as remarkable as it was harrowing! I'm not sure an expedition could have been planned more quickly, or with less preparation, than this one. Nor could it have been the brainchild of a worse man than Stefansson, who was more hungry for fame than for the safety of those he was signing on for the expedition. At times I had to put the book down as I read the details of the doomed ship and the catastrophes the crew repeatedly endured. I had been concerned the book might read like a dry list of what happened and when, but the absolute opposite happened. I felt like I truly KNEW the survivors, and I cared about them with my whole heart. That any of them survived was an absolute miracle. The losses were heartbreaking.
The amount of research this author did boggles my mind but the end result was truly fascinating. After reading Empire of Ice and Stone, I'm going to think long and hard before I ever complain about anything again!!
Without a doubt, the best part of this story (for me) was the development of characters and the interactions between them. Just some random thoughts:
Stefansson is an awful person- callous and selfish, with no concern for his fellow explorers.
Bartlett is an excellent leader- always thinking ahead and doing what needs to be done, not only for his own survival but also for everyone else around him.
I love that Auntie is a willing participant, seemingly as hardy as any of the men, even with her little girls to look after.
Their diet is appalling to me. It simply goes to show that we will do anything to survive, but it’s hard to imagine having to eat (drink?) blood soup and chew and blubber for survival.
I don’t like to give away the ending to any book, but big kudos to this story for bringing both sadness and joy. It’s a true testament to the resilience of people.
Special thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for offering me an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review!
Last year I read The Terror by Dan Simmons and ever since I have been OBSESSED with the Arctic discovery missions from the 1800s and 1900s. When I came across this book I was excited to dive in! I have not read any other books by Buddy Levy but what I can say is he is an amazing author. I respect him for the research he did for this book, the time and effort he went into learning everything he could about this Arctic exploration mission in order to write this story CORRECT.
The story itself follows the early 1900s launch of the Karluk and her crew up in the cold waters of the Arctic. Like most of these stories, things go wrong and now people have to fight to survive. It is an incredible story on its own about how far we as humans will go to adapt and survive in harsh conditions. Buddy Levy took that TRUE story though, and turned it into an absolute masterpiece.
This book is incredibly written. The story is so enticing and the amount of detail and research pushed into it leaves you as a reader wanting MORE. I could not put this book down, I was so worried for every character...you truly do laugh when they laugh, cry when they cry; your heart breaks and leaps in joy all within this one story. I cannot express enough how amazing of a job Buddy Levy did...the details make you FEEL like you're there, and it is incredible to think this actually happened!
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a great adventure story, history buffs will also devour this text! A wonderful book to read to truly see what human beings are made of!
I really enjoyed reading this book. I was completely enthralled from the first even though I went into this book with no previous knowledge of the event. I found it extremely well written and informative and I am now thinking I haven’t read enough Arctic expedition books. I definitely have to look up more of this authors books. Thank you for the ebook ARC I truly appreciate this opportunity.
Wowzers! Why didn't I know about this author before? This was my first Levy book and I loved it! Can't wait to read his other works. This story was well researched
and beautifully written. Levy managed to keep this book very interesting and avoided the text book feeling I get from a lot of these types of stories. The topic of the Karluk expedition is also not over done. It's
refreshing to read about something new and interesting!
An exceptionally well-written, riveting account of human comradeship, courage and self-preservation at its finest. This true story of the 1913 Canadian Arctic Expedition is highly recommended.
Reading like a novel, instead of your standard historical nonfiction, Empire of Ice and Stone caught me with ice hooks and dragged me under from the first page. Between my grad school texts, introducing three cats to each other, and trying to have a life, it’s still been difficult to put this book down.
The expedition of the wooden-hulled brigantine Karluk departed Canada for the Arctic Ocean in the summer of 1913, with Captain Bob Bartlett at the helm, the world’s leading ice navigator at the time. After a catastrophic shipwreck, the journey shifts from exploring the Great North to surviving the bitter ice in the Arctic Sea as Bartlett sets out on a 1000-mile journey to save them all.
I’ve always been fascinated by the cold north, even if I haven’t wanted to deal with frostbite and gangrene myself, so true accounts of Captain Bob Bartlett and the crew of the Kartluk and other ships in this gripping tale have satisfied an urge I’ve been loath to indulge.
If you’ve ever read anything by Clive Cussler (think Dirk Pitt adventures and the movie Sahara starring Matthew Mcconaughey), you know the vibe this real-life adventurers’ tale provides. And the fact that it’s a true story makes it all the more exciting and breath-taking.
From the visionary leader, flamboyant and irritating at times, Vilhjalmur Stefansson, to the grumbling crew who forged ahead despite the dangers, the losses, and the shipwrecks, you’ll be held captive as I was, by the retelling of their incredible tale of scientific exploration, survival, and personal courage.
There are some dark details, of course, and some grown-up details and language, but it seems like a suitable book for teens and adults alike, as long as the readers can handle some vivid medical details about things like gangrene and frostbite.
I highly recommend reading this fantastic book, Empire of Ice and Stone, by Buddy Levy when it releases December 6, 2022.
Thank you Net Galley and St. Martin's Press for the ARC of Empire of Ice and Stone by Buddy Levy in exchange for an honest review. This is an amazingly well-researched non-fiction account of the 1913 Canadian Arctic Expedition arranged by Vilhjalmur Stefansson and captained by Robert Bartlett. As I was reading this book, I had to pause numerous times to remind myself that this is non-fiction because this account of the expedition was so extraordinarily difficult and almost unbelievable. To read about how the ship's crew and scientists had to adapt to the constantly changing ice floe conditions at a time without technology was just jaw-dropping. Capt. Bartlett has the impossible task to try to keep everyone alive and manage the vast stockpile of food and materials while Stefansson kept disappearing for one short jaunt or another. I was drawn in by the facts and figures of planning this expedition and kept engaged by the sheer determination of everyone to stay alive. There is a helpful list at the beginning of the book about all of the crew and scientists on the voyage plus details at the end about the author's research. I would have liked to have a picture of the Karkuk as well as a map of their journey so I searched for those myself. I could go on, but I'm still processing all the feels this book gave me about the men (and one Native woman) that made this incredible journey. I will encourage you to read this book if you like a detailed historical tale with inspiring people and their will to survive.
I love tales of Arctic (and Antarctic) adventure, and this one is a doozy! It kept me enthralled throughout.
Buddy Levy has clearly researched deeply, but displays great storytelling skills. Snippets of journal entries give us a window into the characters.
The book could also be a case study in leadership for business schools. One character embodies true servant leadership, the other abandons the people he leads and focuses on his own success. And it is a testament to human endurance and cooperation. I won't forget this one for a long time.
If you love polar exploration stories, don’t miss Empire of Ice and Stone. Seriously add this one to you tbr list! It was an in-depth, astutely researched account of what happened to the crew of the Karluk.
Polar explorer Stefansson was backed and funded by the Canadian government in 1913 to carry out an expedition to the Arctic in search of a passage and new land to be colonized. As it turned out, however, Stefansson’s flagship the Karluk, was an unsuitable ship for the arctic and his expedition preparation rushed and disorganized. As a result, the Karluk ended up in the middle of an ice block floating aimlessly in the ocean.
The book details the harrowing adventure and the tragic consequences that ensued because of Stefansson’s rush and I’ll preparedness. It also highlights the story of Captain Bartlet’s selfless leadership and heroic efforts. It is a tale of strength, greed, heroism, mutiny, perseverance and incredulity. It was a story that kept me reading into the wee hours of the night. Highly recommend!
Thank you to publisher and Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. #EmpireOfIceAndStone
I received an advanced copy of Empire of Ice and Stone through NetGalley in order to review. This is the second book I've read on arctic exploration and it really is a very interesting topic. The novel chronicles the sinking of the Karluk and the heroic expedition of Captain Bartlett to rescue the survivors. The book does highlight how Indigenous Peoples did assist with survival on arctic expeditions. Most of the story was focused on the daily life of the survivors, but would also follow Bartlett and Kataktovik on their rescue attempts and show where expedition leader Steffanson was during the times the rescue attempt was unfolding. I really liked the book and the author did a lot of research to try to make it as accurate as possible. The advance copy is missing photographs but the appendix notes that the final printing should have photograph inserts and a map. The story is broken up into digestable chapters which allowed me to read the book at my own pace without feeling lost.
In 1913, the Karluk expedition set up to explore the northwest passage. Stefansson, the expedition leader, put the trip together at the last minute, skimping on supplies. Captain Bartlett, at the helm of the ship, had extensive experience in the frozen north. When the ship became trapped in the ice, Stefansson and a small group left to go "hunting." They escaped over land back to civilization. Ignoring their expedition mates trapped, they continued without sending word about their plight. Captain Bartlett held the remaining group together, boosting their spirits and providing food and shelter. When the ship breaks up, the group hikes across the ice, splitting into multiple groups. Captain Bartlett takes off across the frozen land seeking help for those left behind.
This was a fascinating book. I could not put it down! The characters were well written and dynamic, I found myself wrapped up in their survival. Their frozen world was well described, I could picture their circumstances and the horrible odds against them. 5 out of 5 stars, highly recommended!
This is a fascinating story about exploring part of the world most people know very little about. It not only describes the trip but it puts it in historical context and makes the people involved come to life. Very informative but still easy to read.
A superbly written account of the Canadian Arctic expedition the Karluk. This is a subject I didn't know much about going in but I learned so much and was entertained in the process.
Buddy Levy does a great job at presenting the facts and history without writing dry un interesting chapters. I would suggest anyone with interest in arctic expedition, survival stories or disasters to pick this up, you won't be disappointed.
5 Huge Stars!!
Wow! This book is phenomenal! My first polar expedition book was Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage. Since reading that, I have been thoroughly hooked on arctic and antarctic nonfiction. In this one, Author Buddy Levy has pulled together a beautiful gem recounting the Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913 and the tragic yet heroic voyage of the ship Karluk.
This takes place in the northern waters around Alaska and Siberia. If you are like me, you don’t want to know any more details about what happens as that is most of the fun of reading—seeing where things go. I intentionally did not look up this ship’s history nor the history of its captain, Robert Bartlett, as I wanted to experience the adventure as it unfolded.
The author did an incredible amount of research (as noted in the afterword) to prepare for this book. Much of the narrative was based on the personal journals of the men on the expedition. This was wonderful for several reasons. First, it lent one the sense of actually being there, plus I was privy to the inner thoughts of the explorers. My favorites were Mamen and McKinlay who really bared their souls. Furthermore, I got the sense that I was getting the real truth about the details of the expedition. I learned a lot, including the beauty and wonder of the arctic; the myriad of dangers of such a mission; what the nutritional needs were and how food and drink were obtained; what the everyday lives of these people were like and how that affected them physically and emotionally; the lives of the inuit people; and perhaps most impressively, the horrors of what these explorers had to go through to survive. I was also struck by how disaster and desperate situations brought out the true nature of each individual in the expedition. I am a character lover and I thought Mr. Levy did an impressive job showing us what these people were really like in this nonfictional historical treatise. I loved that this book was also a rousing adventure with many tense moments and situations that made the over 600 pages fly. Finally, I truly appreciated the author’s brilliant epilogue covering most everyone, even the ship’s cat!
Congratulations, Mr. Levy, for a magnificent read. I will continue to seek out books like this. I encourage everyone to try at least one polar expedition book as an “out-of-the-box” personal adventure. This one as well as Endurance would be good choices. Who knows? You might get hooked too! If anyone has other polar or otherwise icy recommendations for me, I’m all ears. In the meantime, I will be looking for a copy of Mr. Levy’s Labyrinth of Ice: The Triumphant and Tragic Greely Polar Expedition.
I would like to thank Net Galley, St. Martin’s Press, and Mr. Buddy Levy for an advanced review copy. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way.
This was an interesting book. I feel like I spent a couple winters aboard the ships. I did think it was a bit too long and dragged in spots.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the early copy
historical-figures, historical-places-events, historical-research, historical-setting, explorers, nonfiction*****
I was surprised at the depth of character study. I was also pleased that this was not just another Publish or Perish but exhibited real readability (even if it did lead me down a few Wiki rabbit holes). I don't know how other ethnicities react, but we are Norse and have a tendency to devour all the extreme North forays and the documented absorption into North America of earlier times.
Although the book is quite long, it is well worth the effort to dive into it at odd intervals and learn more about this particular expedition.
I requested and received an advanced review e-book copy from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley. Thank you!
The book, “Empire of Ice and Stone” was an excellent read! This expedition to the North Pole lead by Vilhjalmur Stefansson and then Captain Bob Bartlett was one of many expeditions lead by brave sailors, One Captain was self serving and ambitious and the other was more responsible, true to his men and also ambitious. The crew of the Karluk comprised of scientists and sailors who were on their way to an adventure of a lifetime, funded by the Canadian government. Some will perish and some will survive. Survival depends on the Captain Bartlett! I highly recommend this book!
If someone had given me this book without any explanations, I would have sworn that it was a fictional adventure thriller! The real-life story of Canadian Arctic exploration is insanely fascinating and suspenseful. In 1913, a team of explorers and scientists went to the North Pole. Everything that could go wrong went wrong and they ended up stranded in a lifeless desert with very limited resources. Many died. When the survivors were rescued, they didn’t even know the Great War had started, that’s how isolated they were. If the story is fascinating, the characters are truly compelling. And they were real people! Not just men, but also women whose contributions were vital. As Shakespeare said, some have greatness thrust upon them, Captain Bob Bartlett had to step up and lead the teams when their original leader left them “to hunt caribou” and never returned. The book follows each party as they separated, came back together and eventually I was cheering when they reunited and cringing when something bad happened. Their injuries and diseases are explained in detail, so squeamish readers may want to be careful here. Same with animal lovers. It is understandable how the explorers needed to hunt to survive but, at some point, I had to skip all those parts. The book may be a little too long for my taste, with sometimes too many details for casual readers, but other than that it is a fascinating story.
I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thank you, #NetGalley/#St. Martin's Press!
I don't often read stories of arctic expeditions, but I knew that I'd enjoyed "The Endurance" years ago, so thought I'd give this one a try. It did take me a little while to get into it because I kept expecting the expedition's leader Vilhjalmur Stefansson to get his act together. Once I gave up on that expectation, the book really started moving.
What a journey! I can only imagine what the experience might have been like in real life, and I'm not eager to experience it firsthand. But this book provides a wonderful study in leadership lessons, especially when you compare the narcissism of Stefansson to the service-based leadership of William Bartlett and his raising up of another leader to replace him.
I'm glad I decided to give this book a go. It's truly a gripping tale, and one I knew nothing about before reading it.
Thank you to Buddy Levy, St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an advance review copy.
Empire of Ice and Stone
By Buddy Levy
This is a true story which could just as well be the story line of an adventure novel – or even a horror story. Indeed, such novels have been written.
Books about expeditions to the artic in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, by their very nature, are filled with trials and hardships which we would have struggle to comprehend today. Why men would choose to pit their courage and stamina – and indeed their very lives - against the harshest of landscapes is almost inconceivable. And yet they did it – some for the fame and glory, others to test their own abilities.
This is a very depressing – almost shocking – read. And yet, once it draws the reader in, it is impossible to put down.
I've always been interested in travels to places that most of us would never take.. Empire of Ice and Stone is a wonderful look into the 1913 journey that Vilhjalmur Stefansson and later Captain Bartlett set upon. Met with hardships as the ice flows blocked the ship, survival becomes difficult because of not enough supplies. After Stefansson leaves the ship to hunt caribou, Captain Barlett now has to lead the men so that they all have a chance at survival. Not everyone makes it.
Author Buddy Levy has written a harrowing account of the final sailing of the Karluk. The Franklin Expedition is the story that I believe more people have read about and so I am thankful to Mr. Levy for spotlighting the story of these brave people.
This book is long but every page is as interesting as the last. Wonderful read for those interested in the struggle of men in unforgiving places or for those just interested in history.
An absolutely engrossing survival story that reads like a novel, full of action, suspense and character development. Incredibly well-researched and well-written, never felt dry or dull or bogged down in boring facts.
This is the story of the Karluk and the Canadian Arctic Expedition. In 1913, the Karluk sets out to sail to the Arctic and discover what lands and people are there. However, the ship was not up to the task. It becomes set in ice and the leader, Vilhjalmur Stefansson, leaves the ship to "search for Caribou". This leaves Captain Bartlett to look after the remaining 24 crew members, scientists and Inuit members, plus a stowaway kitten and all the sled dogs.
The book starts off with a lot of background on both Vilhjalmur Stefansson and Captain Bartlett, but it becomes clear who the real hero is. While being stuck in the ice, the ship drifting and eventually sinking, you see the friendships and bonds of the shipmates really start to grow. Then the move to the ice and everyone learning to shelter and live through winter. Captain Bartlett takes one of the Inuit hunters and decides to trek to Siberia in order to get to Alaska and ask for help, leaving the remaining members there.
There is a list in the beginning of the book or who every is and I found this very helpful. As the book was very long and not a quick read, I found myself forgetting who some of the people where and what their function was. At the end of the book, it does give details about who survived and what they went on to do before their deaths. I didn't know anything about the expeditions in the Arctic and I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
I will post this review 10/30/22 to the following websites:
This is simply put, a terrific read. I thank St. Martins and the author of this advance reader copy in exchange for my honest review.
Mr. Levy has crafted a very entertaining (and interspersed with gritty and true realism) story of the Karluk and all that transpired amidst this tale of heroism in the early 20th century. When you approach this work, you may wish to do as I did and create a bit of a timeline and map showing the various components and players that took part in this adventure.
Most children go through school learning at least a bit of Robert Peary, and recent popular culture has spotlighted Sir Ernest Shackleton. Personally, this was my first venture in to the intrepid explorer Robert Bartlett and this expedition. A very readable account of non-fiction that is approachable by anyone who has an interest in the exploration of the most remote places on our planet.
A very good book on a part of history that is not well known, but is sure to be more important as interest in the Artic is increasing among nations. A true tale of endurance made possible with the knowledge and help of Natives.
This is a deeply researched history of the 1913 Canadian Arctic Expedition by writer and educator Buddy Levy, who has been writing about various historical adventures for over twenty years.
We’re introduced to Vihjalmur Stefansson, a self-serving and somewhat lazy “explorer” who convinces Canada to fund an elaborate exploration, and takes all the credit but doesn’t stick around for the tough parts. Luckily for him, his choice of a sea captain and ice navigator, Bob Bartlett, prevented the Arctic Expedition from being a complete and total failure.
Based on personal journals, news articles, and court records, Levy brings us up close and personal with the decisions and struggles of the leaders and each crew member on the fated ship Karluk. For history buffs and novice readers alike, this story brings it all back to colorful life.
A sincere thank you to St. Martin’s Press for an ARC in exchange for my honest review. The publishing date is December 6, 2022.
My thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read “Empire of Ice and Snow” written by Buddy Levy. The best thing about this story is that I was not familiar with the events behind the shipwreck and survival story in the Arctic Ocean in the early 20th Century. Levy writes in an easy to read style, yet provides a detailed description of what happened before, during, and after the sinking of an exploratory ship that didn’t stand a chance against the crushing pressure of Arctic ice flows.
We find the story has heroes such as Captain Bob Bartlett. We are stuck for miserable months on Arctic ice flows and/ or barren Arctic islands. And we even have the efforts to save the lives of the men and woman enduring freezing and starvation. An excellent telling of this true story that has equal parts tragedy as well as triumph.
After the disappointment of my last non-fiction book from NetGalley, I started reading this with a fair amount of concern. Fortunately, that concern was unfounded, and I ended up enjoying the book. I shook my head several times during the planning of the expedition, and wanted to knock some sense – and humility – into one of the men, all while being glad that *I wasn’t part of this planned journey into the Arctic.
The book could have read like a textbook, but it didn’t. The reader gets a good sense of who the men involved really were, and how strongly they believed in doing what’s right even when things are going terribly wrong. The things they went through just to survive were amazing, and it made me more than a little angry that the so-called leader of the expedition just wrote them off and went on his merry way, while the captain of the ship endured so much just to get help.
If we ever get this far north in our travels, I don’t think I’ll be able to avoid thinking about Captain Bartlett and the rest who endured so much when it seemed like everything was working against them.
Levy has written another gripping and well-researched account of a harrowing Arctic expedition. The beginning was a little slow as the main characters were introduced, but once the expedition was underway, the story of the Karluk and its crew was a real page-turner. It's remarkable that anyone survived this 1913 shipwreck, and it's clearly thanks to Captain Bob Bartlett's tenacity and leadership. At times, the graphic descriptions of frostbite and amputations were a little much for me, but overall I really enjoyed this book. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for a digital review copy.
Empire of Ice and Stone is the true story of the disastrous Arctic expedition aboard the sail-and-steamship Karluk. It is my first time learning of the Karluk, expedition leader Vilhjalmun Stefansson, Captain Bob Bartlett, and how Stefansson’s and Bartlett’s decisions determined the fate of the ship and all of its passengers.
It began with an aggressive timeline and an ill thought of plan to explore the Artic ocean. Unprepared for the worst that could happen, the Karluk became ice bound capturing with it the entire crew and scientists aboard. Eventually, the Karluk succumbed to the pressure from the ice floes, thus marooning all of the passengers in the middle of nowhere.
Under the guise of a caribou hunting trip, expedition leader Stefansson leaves the stranded crew and scientists with a handful of men, never to be seen or heard from again. Left behind were 22 men, Captain Bartlett, 1 woman, and 2 children. Most of the men would perish from sickness and injuries. And in the end, only 9 persons survived and were rescued. And it was due to Bartlett’s heroic effort of traversing 700+/- miles to civilization.
Author Levy has done an excellent job in capturing the essence of the desperation, and survivalist nature of the persons left behind to fight the perils of nature. With references from the crew members’ diaries, Levy has compiled a harrowing account of the dangerous environment hazards the remaining survivors had to face.
Empire of Ice and Stone is a tour de force novel. It is riveting, emotional, and unforgettable. Five masterful stars.
I received a digital ARC from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.
"Narra a bit o' bacca, narra a bit o' comfort!"
Buddy Levy is turning into one of those authors I could probably read on release and easily add it to my favorites list for that year. I read Labyrinth of Ice about the Greely expedition in 2021, and this was an easy pick when it showed up in my list of possible ARCs to choose from this year. He sets up the expedition quickly, gets you up to speed on the main players of the trip, and off you go on another adventure where you're not quite sure who's going to make it out on the other side. This one was no exception.
This one was different from the other polar expedition books I've read so far, in that the goal wasn't to strike out for the North Pole in competition with other people, but rather for scientific exploration. Vilhjalmur Stefansson set up the expedition to explore the islands and people of the northernmost regions, and whether he actually believed he could or just wanted to make a name for himself in any way he could, the expedition set out and very quickly things went south. The Karluk was separated from the other ships in the group, icebound, and without much of the supplies that the other ships had on them. Captain Bob Bartlett makes the most of a bad situation, and shepherds his group of sailors and scientists alike through a series of harrowing close calls. Stefansson, meanwhile, bailed out of the Karluk as soon as he was able, and wrote the ship off as being lost at sea, poor men.
Written from a collection of diaries, firsthand accounts, other books on the topic, and archived documents about the trip, this book really drew me in from the start. Bartlett was clearly the hero of the story, and, as with the other books on the topic I've read, I could never imagine willingly risking myself on a wooden ship in the ice. It's such a heroic, heartbreaking, and engaging read, I really had a hard time putting it down once I started.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance ecopy in exchange for an honest review.
Many thanks to St. Marten's Press and NetGalley for an ARC of this book!
I confess that I have been anxiously awaiting publication of this book for months, and it did not disappoint! I am fascinated with polar exploration in general and the Karluk specifically, and I've always felt that this story doesn't get enough love from other polar enthusiasts. It has everything-- a gripping survival narrative, a great leader, a complicated villain, big personalities, hubris (and HOW), a medical mystery, a mutiny, a possible murder... you get the idea. It's an incredible story, and Levy tells it very well, interjecting details about the crew and their lives into the more monotonous parts of the tale to keep the book going. The pacing is excellent, and even though this is objectively a long book, it doesn't feel long at all. I've read extensively about the Karluk and thought that I'd heard pretty much everything there is to hear about this story, but Levy still managed to surprise me with a few new-to-me details and anecdotes. I can't recommend this enough to polar history enthusiasts, but anyone with an interest in survival narratives will love it. I am excited for this book to introduce more people to the Karluk story, and I will certainly do my part by putting it in the hands of as many of my library patrons as possible!
This book is well written and reads more like fiction than history. It addresses the differences in the leadership styles of the Vilhjalmur Stefansson, the arctic expedition leader, and Bob Bartlett, the captain of the Karluk. Stefansson left the ship to founder in the ice using the need to hunt caribou as an excuse, but continued until he was safe leaving those in the ship to find a way to survive. Bartlett on the other hand did his best to first save the ship and then failing that, managed to save as many of the crew and scientists as possible. A very good read.
I received a free ARC of this book courtesy of Net Galley and the publisher with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Facebook and my nonfiction book review blog.
Empire of Ice and Snow took my breath away while reading it and also as I think about it this moment. Vivid and sharp, atmospheric and multisensory, it is written in stunning Buddy Levy style. He scrupulously gathered information and details on the Karluk Expedition's harrowing journey into the Arctic Ocean in 1913 and even includes a list of those involved as well as their ages. Many were very young but their heroism is out of this world. The photographs are etched on my brain.
Explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson had always been adventurous. But he also knew how to manipulate from a young age and enjoyed glory. Master Mariner Bob Bartlett also felt more at home at sea than on land but was fiercely loyal and reliable. Along with a motley crew of hunters, a seamstress and her two young daughters, scientists, a doctor and a skier Stefansson and Bartlett left British Columbia on the Karluk on a Canadian Arctic Expedition. But six weeks after things went terribly wrong which resulted in Stefansson and a few of the crew leaving the others on the pretense of a hunting trip to provide food. But they never returned. Bartlett was a remarkable captain and leader. After the Karluk was crushed by ice and sank, the rest of the crew's goal was to escape and survive. But survival was impossible for some. Daily life was rife with one horror after another.
Descriptions of the sounds of the ice, scrounging for scraps of carcasses to eat, threadbare clothing in frigid temperatures, frostbite, total darkness, a bear hug and bear attacks are lucid, raw and real. But the descriptions of the ski jump, courageous sled dogs, successful hunts, aurora borealis and Christmas sports are equally moving. Though in dire straits the crew relied on and respected their captain. He led them to Wrangel Island which probably saved them but their troubles didn't end there. The island was isolated and help was far away. Bartlett reluctantly left for aid out of necessity returned with rescuers. Meanwhile, Stefansson was living his life without remorse. There are so many layers to the story including a mysterious death. The photographs are etched onto my brain. I appreciate that Levy also included what happened to each person after the journey.
If you are even remotely interested in polar adventures, especially those which actually happened, do read this unmissable book. Be prepared to get utterly captured in the story and forget everything else. It is THAT good.
My sincere thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for the honour to read this phenomenal book, one which I will never forget.
This was the last of a lingering group of eARC's I had signed up for on NetGalley a few months ago. I wanted to make sure I fit this into November as if my memory serves me right it's scheduled to be released in December.
At this point I'm regretting the fact that I held off on this one for so long. I don't typically give full reviews of non-fiction reads as I haven't come up with a system that works yet for me. But one of the shining aspects to this book by Buddy Levy is the fact it doesn't read like non-fiction. If I didn't know better I'd think this was a purely fiction novel. The story told is fantastical and hard to believe that it truly happened. Now I can't truly contest to the validity of everything portrayed by Levy's story telling but worst case scenario this is at least one perspective of this tale.
Levy seems to have a knack in perhaps filling in the games from documentation to make it feel like we are hearing this tale from those who were actually involved rather than a dry text book style collection of facts as we know them. I did love the fact that he also included a rather large list of the documents he used to gather information for this book. Since I didn't know much about this historical tale prior to this book, these give me lots of other documents to look into if I so wish.
I think most of us even today realize just how deadly these regions can be. But reading what tools this crew had when they set out and what they used during their struggle to survive just makes even in more of a grand adventure of exploration! The crew dealt with so many physical and emotional struggles along the way but also finding ways to not only survive but triumph in the face of those struggles so many times.
From what I've since read from other reviews of Buddy Levy works, I need to pick up some more in the near future!
As far as recommendations, I can't recommend this enough for anyone who is interested in a bit of history regarding exploration of the artic in the early 1900's. But even beyond that, I would recommend this to just fans of fiction that include mystery, suspense and survival.
Empire of Ice and Stone: The Disastrous and Heroic Voyage of the Karluk by Buddy Levy is the very highly recommended true story of the 1913 Canadian Arctic Expedition.
When the Karluk departed Canada for the Arctic Ocean, Captain Bob Bartlett was at the helm and Vilhjalmur Stefansson was the leader of the expedition. The expedition set out in June and by early August the Karluk was icebound. Stefansson headed off with five men on a hunting trip and never returned, choosing to head for land and continue the expedition on his own. This left Bartlett in charge of the survivors. When the ship was crushed by the ice, they trekked 50 miles across the ice pack to Wrangel Island. Then Bartlett and an Inuit hunter set out on a 1,000 miles hike to Alaska to summon help to rescue the survivors.
Empire of Ice and Stone reads like a thriller. It is a fascinating, terrifying, and un-put-downable account of a polar expedition gone terribly wrong. Levy takes the facts and uses them to portray these people as real individuals facing a harrowing, impossible situation where a good outcome seems highly unlikely. He also clearly portrays the two different paths taken by Stefansson and Bartlett, with most of the focus on the crew trying to survive. Bartlett is legitimately the hero of this frightening true story.
Anyone who enjoys reading about Arctic expeditions will want to add Empire of Ice and Stone to their list of must read nonfiction. Included at the end is an extensive list of documents, collections, websites, etc. in a selected bibliography that showcases the research that went into writing this account. This is an excellent, well-researched book and one of the best nonfiction books of the year.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of St. Martin's Press via NetGalley.
The review will be published on Barnes & Noble, Google Books, Edelweiss, and Amazon.
The gripping account of a fatal polar adventure with a cast of eccentric and fascinating characters on a grand adventure - and misadventure - in one of the most extreme regions of the world. Empire of Ice and Stone reads more intensely than a thriller.
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