When the members of Canada’s First Arctic Expedition set out from Victoria aboard HMCS Karluk in the summer of 1913, it was a moment of great optimism. The three-year mission would chart unexplored landmasses of the Western Arctic and secure Canada’s place in the international geographic community. Little did the team of distinguished scholars and scientists realize, however, how their hopes would soon be brought to ruin. Just a few months into the journey, the vessel became lodged in heavy ice, eventually sinking near the coast of Siberia.
With little polar experience among them but ample supplies salvaged from the wreck, the group of castaways slowly made their way to solid ground on desolate Wrangel Island. There they would wait while the ship’s captain and an Inuk guide embarked on a heroic 1,100-kilometre trek along the Siberian coast in search of help. By the end of the fifteen-month saga, eleven members of the original expedition would perish from frostbite and sickness, while the remaining twenty would survive to tell the tale. The Luck of the Karluk is a fascinating story about an important episode in Canada’s history and a revealing study of the strengths and weaknesses of human nature under treacherous conditions.