The Last Voyage of the Karluk: Flagship of Vilhjalmar Stefansson’s Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913-16.

The last voyage was in 1913 which found the ship trapped off Flaxman Island and finally sinking off Wrangell Island.

Introduction (Leslie in 2001 edition): p. vii-viii: From his grandmothers, both liberal-minded Anglicans, he [Bartlett] developed a love of music and books. At the end of his life, living in a New York City hotel room, he was still collecting poetry volumes and attending concerts. It is not surprising that as the Karluk slowly sank, Bartlett alone remained on board playing records on his Victrola.

p. xv, 1925, on his own fishing schooner: There were so many books and magazines piled on his bunk that, in an ironic reflection of his adolescence, he slept on the floor. In the 1930s he wrote a third book (Sails over Ice), gave lectures, and managed to stay afloat during the Great Depression.

p. 53-54: We were then about twenty-five miles south of where Keenan Land should have been, according to the map of the Arctic Region prepared by Gilbert H. Grovenor, director and editor of the National Geographic Society, for Peary’s book “The North Pole,” a copy of which we had in the ship’s library.

p. 64: The young Eskimo widower, Kataktovick, came to me the next day and asked me for a fountain pen, to write letters to his Eskimo friends, I presume. Some weeks before he had asked me for a book to read; after a fortnight he brought it back, said that he had read it and asked for some magazines. We had a good many and the pictures were interesting so I let him have them gladly. [There is more about Kataktovick’s need for pens and black notebooks.]

p. 78 has a typewritten menu for Christmas dinner.

p. 82, on a New Year’s Day football game: I had forgotten a good deal about the association game but I refreshed my memory from the encyclopedia in the ship’s library and armed with a mouth-organ in lieu of a whistle took my place as referee, umpire and time-keeper. I soon found, however, that the cold would make it too dangerous for me to use the ‘whistle,’ for it would freeze to my lips and take the skin off, so I had to give my signals for play by word of mouth.

p. 90-91, on the day of the ship’s sinking: No more water was coming in; the ice was holding her up. I would play a few records—we had a hundred and fifty or so altogether—and then I would go outside and walk around the deck, watching for any change in the ship’’ position. It cleared off towards noon and there was a little twilight but the snow was still blowing. As I played the records I threw them into the stove. At last I found Chopin’s Funeral March, played it over and laid it aside….

About a half past three she began to settle in earnest and as the minutes went by the decks were nearly a-wash. Putting Chopin’s Funeral March on the Victrola, I started the machine and when the water came running along the deck and poured down the hatches, I stood up on the rail and when she took a header with the rail level with the ice I stepped off. It was at 4 p.m. on January 11, 1914, with the blue Canadian Government ensign at her main-topmast-head, blowing out straight and cutting the water as it disappeared, and the Victrola in the galley sending out the strains of Chopin’s Funeral March, that the Karluk sank, going down by the head in thirty-eight fathoms of water….

p. 92, copy of page of Bartlett’s diary.

p. 95, Quote of Nansen about the Fram expedition and the purposes of polar exploration: man wants to know, and when he ceases to do so, he is no longer man.

p. 101-04, at Shipwreck Camp: There was plenty to occupy our minds. In addition to our sewing and other daily tasks, there was time for games of chess and cards and frequently of an evening we would gather around the fire and have a ‘sing.’ Sometimes, too, we would dance; I remember one night catching hold of some one and taking a turn or two on the floor when we tipped over the stove. It took some lively work to get it set up again.

The Karluk had a good library and we saved a number of books which enabled some of us to catch up a little on our reading. We read such books as “Wuthering Heights,” “Villette,” and “Jane Eyre,” besides more recent novels. My own constant companion, which I have never tired of reading, was the “Rubaiyat” of Omar Khayyam. I have a leather-bound copy of this which was given me by Charles Arthur Moore, Jr., who, with Harry Whitney and a number of other Yale friends of his, was with me on a hunting trip in Hudson’s Bay on the sealer Algerine in 1901. This book I have carried with me everywhere since then, until now, if it had not been repaired in various places by surgeon’s plaster, I believe it would fall to pieces. I have had it with me on voyages to South American and other foreign parts on sailing vessels when I was serving my years of apprenticeship to get my British master’s certificate in 1905; on both of my trips with Peary as captain of the Roosevelt; on my trip to Europe with Peary after the attainment of the North Pole; on a hunting trip in the Arctic on the Boeothic in the summer of 1910, when we brought home the musk-oxen and the polar bear, Silver King, to the Bronx Park Zoo in New York; on various sealing trips; and now the self same copy was with me on the Karluk and after wards on my journey to bring about the rescue of our ship’s company. I have read it over and over again and never seem to tire of it. Perhaps it is because there is something in its philosophy which appeals to my own feeling about life and death. For all my experience and observation leads me to the conclusion that we are to die at the time appointed and not before; this is, I suppose, what is known as fatalism.

p. 103, has picture of Bartlett’s Khayyam.

p. 111: Beyond its representation on our charts, we knew little about Wrangell Island, the chief source of our information being a short section in the American “Coast Pilot,” which read as follows: "This island was first seen by the exploring party under the Russian Admiral Wrangell and named after the leader, though he himself doubted its existence; its southwestern point lies due North (true) 109 miles from Cape North. It must have been known to the whalers, who, about the year 1849, commenced to visit this sea, and did so for many years in great numbers. The Jeannette’s people also saw it for many days in their memorable drift northwestward; but the first person to land on it, of which we have any authentic information, was Lieut. Hooper of the U. S. S. Corwin in 1881, and later in the same year it was explored by parties from the U. S. S. Rodgers, these two vessels having been sent to search for or obtain in formation concerning the Jeannette, the remnant of whose crew were perishing in the delta of the Lena at the very time this island was being explored.

p. 118, the sun returning was celebrated with poetry recitations and singing on the ice: Gathered around the big stove in the box-house we went through a varied and impromptu programme of song and recitation. Some one recited "Casey at the Bat," another "Lasca," while Munro gave us poems by Burns, of which he had a goodly store in his memory. With or without the accompaniment of instrumental music on a comb, we sang about every popular favorite, old and new: "Loch Lomond" and "The Banks of the Wabash," "The Heart Bowed Down" and "I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now," "Sweet Afton" and "The Devil’s Ball," "I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls" and "Maggie Murphy’s Home," "Red Wing" (the favorite), "Aileen Alana" (another favorite), "Put on Your Old Gray Bonnet," "Alexander’s Rag time Band," "The Wearing of the Green," "Jingle Bells" (which might have been appropriate if we had used the dog harness which we had with bells on it and had ridden on the sledges instead of walking) and many another song, good, bad or indifferent. The Eskimo woman sang hymns and the little girl sang nursery songs, such as "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," in which her mother joined.

p. 205: In the Karluk’s library had been a copy of Nordenskiold’s “Voyage of the Vega,” but it was in German, a language which I am unable to read. The picture indicated that woods extended in places down to the shore and that reindeer lived in the woods….

p. 243, in an Eskimo arranga: When we had finished our tea the old man made signs that he wanted to see my chart; clearly the men who had gone on ahead of us, the previous day, had told him about us, and he wanted to see for himself. I brought out the chart and showed it to him [see p. 205 for chart]. He examined it carefully and made signs about the crushing of the ship. Presently he went to a box and produced a number of magazines, perhaps ten or a dozen in all, most of them about two years old. There were copies of The World’s Work, the National Geographic Magazine, The Literary Digestand The Illustrated London News. The day’s march in the cold wind, following the long succession of such days, with the hours of searching through the swirling snowdrift for the right path from Wrangell Island and the glare of the sun along the tundra, had affected my eyes more and more severely. By this time, besides being pretty tired and sleepy, I felt more like giving my eyes a rest than trying to read. I could hardly make out the print and it hurt my eyes a good deal, so I made signs to our host and he understood at once and did not urge the magazines upon me.

p. 244, the same Eskimo host gave Bartlett a concert of 42 selections, in Russian and English including Caruso and John McCormack.

p. 266, in Siberia: My stay here was made pleasant by the opportunity I had, when my eyes became more nearly normal, to read the magazines which Mr. Charles Carpendale, an Australian-born trader, with a station at the same place as Mr. Caraeiff’s, brought me. These had been sent across from Nome the previous summer and were not what might be described in the language of the train-boy as “all the latest magazines,” but they were a pleasure to me, just the same, as they are to all the traders who are scattered up and down the Siberian coast.

p. 269: Before I began to recover from this swelling of the legs, I developed an acute attack of tonsillitis. It was the first trouble of the kind that I had experienced in all my Arctic work. I recall that on the North Pole expedition, while we were encamped at Cape Sheridan and most of us were away on hunting trips, Macmillan and Doctor Goodsell opened a case of books and both came down with violent head colds. The books were brand new books, too; apparently they had been packed by a man with a cold….

p. 271: During the day I read a good deal. Mr. Carpendale had given the baron some books and now, as later on in the journey, when I could not sleep I would read. I recall that at this time I was absorbed in Robert Hichens’s ‘Bella Donna.’ The light inside the aranga was poor so I bundled myself up in my furs and sat in the outer apartment among the dogs and sledges where I could see.

p. 276, on an Eskimo transvestite who acted wholly as a woman.

p. 281, aboard a vessel waiting out a storm to get into Nome: For three days we lay there, while my patience underwent a severe test; all I could do was to read the magazines and gaze at the shore, twelve miles away.