Tuesday, December 31, 2019

New Year's on Ice

Photograph of the Karluk locked in iceA quick search of our finding aids for things related to New Year's brought to light an amazing survival. This little program was typed up during the holidays on board the Karluk for the "Grand International Football Match to be held on the ice on New Year's Day, 1914." That is cool enough, but then when you set that into a little more context, it becomes amazing and terrifying. You see, the Karluk was the lead ship for the Canadian Arctic Expedition lead by Vilhjalmur Stefansson. At the time, it had been locked in the ice for several months, slowly drifting toward Wrangel Island.

Football match program cover
The crew was suffering. Food supplies were still adequate, but they drank the last of the ship's liquor that New Year's Day, and there seemed little hope that they would be freed from the ice that winter. And it was dark--almost all of the time.

Just 10 days after the football match that pitted the ship's Scots against the team of "all nations," the ice shifted and crushed the hull of the ship. It sank within hours leaving the crew stranded on the ice over 80 miles from the uninhabited Wrangel Island. Over the course of the winter, 11 crew members died before a rescue ship arrived to pick up the survivors.

Football match program interior showing list of players
We checked, and four of the twelve crew members who played soccer on the ice that New Year's Day didn't survive the winter. By the way "all nations" won the match 8-3.

You can see the original by asking for MSS-107, Box 1, Folder 53.