A steam whaler of 321 tons with a 150-horsepower engine, Karluk
was built in Benicia, California in 1884, for the Alaska salmon trade. She was
rigged as a brigantine, with two masts, the foremast equipped with square sails.
In 1892 she was purchased to operate on the new whaling grounds near Herschel
Island and completed fourteen Arctic voyages, overwintering five times. She was
idle from 1911 to 1913 when Stefansson arranged for her purchase for the Canadian
Arctic Expedition. Purchased at San Francisco for $10,000, Karluk was sailed
to Victoria, B.C., and refitted at the Esquimalt Naval Dockyard. She sailed north
to Nome, Alaska as the flagship of the CAE in June 1913.
After leaving Nome, where additional supplies were loaded, Karluk was caught
in the ice near Cape Halkett, Alaska. Carried first to the east by ice and winds,
Karluk was then swept westward to the vicinity of Wrangel Island (Ostrov
Vrangelya) off the Siberian coast. Crushed by ice, she sank
in January 1914. Most of the people on board reached Wrangel Island, from where
the captain and an Inupiat hunter crossed the treacherous ice and travelled to
Alaska to arrange the rescue of the others.
Of all the tons of material and equipment on the Karluk,
it seems that virtually nothing
survived the sinking, the trip across the ice, the months on Wrangel Island,
and the rescue in the fall of 1914. One small sled was taken onto the rescue ship,
the King and Winge, as were the few surviving dogs and the ship's cat. Personal
diaries were saved.