Ask a Bookseller: 'Empire of Ice and Stone'

Ask a Bookseller Podcast
Ask a Bookseller
MPR

What better way to escape the heat than to dive into a book about a polar exploration? Lee Post of Homer Bookstore in Homer, Alaska, says it was hard to stay warm reading Buddy Levy's beautifully written nonfiction book, “Empire of Ice and Stone: The Disastrous and Heroic Voyage of the Karluk,” about at 1913 expedition gone horribly wrong.

"As a bookseller, I'm putting this book right up there was probably my all time favorite Arctic or Antarctic exploration story ever, which was the [about] Shackleton expedition," says Post. "Like Shackleton, you had a likeable captain who was seemingly doing everything one could do to keep this crew alive. "

Ship on a book cover
"Empire of Ice and Stone" by Buddy Levy
Macmilan

That likeable captain was Robert Bartlett. Far less likeable in this account was the organizer of expedition, Vilhjalmur Stefansson. In 1913, the former whaling boat the Karluk set sail from Nome, Alaska with a crew of 22 men, 1 woman, 2 children, 16 dogs and a cat. Its goal was polar exploration, but within about a month of setting out, the ship was trapped in the ice.

Stefansson fled the under-provisioned ship under the pretense of going hunting for caribou. Bartlett was left in charge of the ship, which quickly began to drift toward Siberia. Leaning on the expertise of the Inuit members of the voyage, the members of the Karluk prepared for the inevitable moment when the ship would be crushed by sea ice and they would have to escape on foot.

Post says the members of the voyage are deftly realized on the page so that, as a reader, you feel like you were there.

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