Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Excerpt: The Last Voyage of the Karluk by Captain Robert Bartlett (Captain Bob), setting: January 10, 1914

The following excerpt is from The Last Voyage of the Karluk An Epic of Death and Survival in the Arctic, 1913-1916 as related by her captain, Robert A. Bartlett and here set down by Ralph T. Hale (published in 1916 by Small, Maynard and Company, Inc.; unabridged audiobook edition narrated by Frank Holden published by Rattling Books).

...At five o'clock on the morning of the tenth I was awakended by a loud report like a rifle-shot. Then there came a tremor all through the ship. I was soon on deck. The watchman, who for that night was Brady, had already been overboard on the ice and I met him coming up the ice gangway to tell me what he had found. There was a small crack right at the stem of the ship, he said. I went there with him at once and found that the crack ran irregularly but in general northwesterly for about two hundred yards. At first it was very slight, although it was a clean and unmistakable break; in the course of half an hour, however, it grew to a foot in width and as the day wore on widened still more until it was two feet wide on an average.

By 10 A.M. there was a narrow lane of water off both bow and stern. The ship was now entirely free on the starboard side but still frozen fast in her ice-cradle on the port side ... The ship felt no pressure, only slight shocks, and her hull was still untouched, for the open ends of the pocket fended off the moving ice especially at the stern. It was clear to me, however, that as soon as the moving ice should grind or break off the points of these natural fenders there was a strong probability that the moving ice-sheet would draw nearer to the starboard side of the ship and, not unlike the jaws of a nut-cracker, squeeze her against the sheet in which she was frozen on the port side, particularly as the wind was attaining a velocity of forty-five miles an hour.

Everything indicated, therefore, that the time was near at hand when we should have to leave the ship. We must have things ready. I gave orders to get the snow off the deck and the skylights and the other walls of the cabin to lighten her. ...

At about half past seven in the evening I chanced to be standing near the engine-room door. The lamps were lighted. The labors of the day were over and now, after dinner, the men were playing cards or reading or sewing, as usual. All at once I heard a splitting, crashing sound below. I went down into the engine-room and found the chief engineer there. We could hear water rushing into the hold and by lantern-light could see it puring in at different places for a distance of ten feet along the port side....

I went on deck again and gave the order, "All hands abandon ship."