Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Quit: "The Ice Master" by Jennifer Niven

Quit: The Ice Master: the doomed 1913 voyage of the Karluk by Jennifer Niven, 2000, 0786865296.

I read a recent review about a new Niven book and did an author search and found this. I really enjoyed the Arctic setting of The Terror and tried this.

Niven did a lot of work and research on this but the story was taking too long to get anywhere. There were many elements for a good story in here. Conflict between the crew and scientists. A negligent Norwegian heading the expedition. A capable and stout captain. Rebellious scientists wanting to strike out on their own. Awful weather conditions and dangerous ice that quickly breaks apart. So on. So forth.

One interesting part of the story is when the crew and scientists - almost all of which had no Arctic experience - have to traverse the massive ice flow they are stranded upon. The men have to bring everything of value and are doing so on heavy wooden sleds. Jagged pressure ridges of ice as high as 70 feet have to be crossed. Ice leads cause long delays as teams would try to find paths around.

Improper gear hampers their efforts and leaves their clothes wet from sweat and freezing as they cool. The dogs are highly valuable as labor and possible emergency provisions but are vicious and kill one another. The cold leaves men with frozen feet, fingers and faces.

The story just drug on too long. I quit a little before halfway. Niven did some fine research with primary and secondary materials. She relies on several diaries and after action reports by those involved.

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