Loss of the Karluk and Wrangel Island
The tragedy of the loss of the CAE flagship
Karluk and eleven of the men who sailed
on her has been recounted in five books published between 1916 and 2000.
So here there is given only a brief account of the loss of the Karluk
and the fate of the various members of the CAE who were
When the Expedition set out from Victoria, B.C. in June 1913,
most of the men, supplies, and equipment were on board the Expedition flagship,
the ex-whaler Karluk, under the command of Captain Robert Bartlett. At
Nome, Alaska, Karluk was joined by the two schooners, Alaska and
Mary Sachs, purchased to handle the increase in men and supplies due to
the expanded aims of the Expedition. After extensive shifting of gear and men,
and the loading of additional supplies, the three vessels set off for the Beaufort
Sea, hoping to rendezvous at Herschel Island. The ice conditions off the north
coast of Alaska were severe in 1913 and Karluk, along with several other
ships, became trapped in the ice. Stefansson, with five others, left the Karluk
to hunt caribou in September 1913. The two smaller Expedition schooners were able
to navigate in shallow water as far as Collinson Point, Alaska, where they were
forced to overwinter.
Karluk remained frozen in and drifted first to the east,
then was swept back westward with the pack ice, and was eventually crushed and
sank in January 1914 near Wrangel Island (Ostrov Vrangelya), off the Siberian
coast. Although most of the twenty-five people on board reached Wrangel Island,
eight members of the crew and scientific staff died trying to reach Herald and
Wrangel Islands. Four men died after after splitting from Captain Bartlett's party
and struggling independently across the ice. The lost men were Alistair Mackay,
Henri Beuchat, James Murray, and Stanley Morris. Four others, sent ahead by Bartlett,
managed to reach Herald Island but died there soon after of uncertain cause, possibly
from fumes from a faulty stove. The Herald Island party included Alex (Sandy)
Anderson (First Officer of Karluk), Charles Barker, John Brady, and A.
Golightly. Their fate was not discovered until eleven years later, in 1924, when
Captain Louis Lane discovered their remains!
After reaching Wrangel Island, Bartlett and Kataktovik, one
of CAE's Alaskan Inupiat hunters, crossed the treacherous ice to the Russian mainland
and travelled east toward Alaska to arrange the rescue of the others. At Emma
Harbour Bartlett was picked up by Captain Pedersen and the Herman in May
1914 and taken back to Alaska. There he arranged for the rescue of the Wrangel
Island survivors and met them just off the coast with the USS Bear.
The rest of the shipwrecked party had spent an uncomfortable
winter on Wrangel, barely surviving on pemmican and limited game. Before they
were finally rescued in the fall of 1914, three additional men had died. Geologist
George Malloch and his assistant Bjarne Mamen died of nephritis, likely due to
a starvation diet based on faulty pemmican. Seaman Breddy died of a gunshot wound,
probably self-inflicted, but there is some suggestion of manslaughter, as Breddy
had been accused of stealing food from the others.
The loss of Karluk and her men forced Stefansson to
purchase additional ships and supplies at a significant cost, and to hire men
for the Northern Party from other ships in the area. John Hadley was the only
member of the Karluk's surviving complement who later rejoined the