This true story takes place in April 1908 in northern Newfoundland, by St. Anthony. It’s just as the title suggests, the author gets stuck on an ice-pan that is floating out to sea, with his komatik and sled dogs. What would you do? Would you consider harikari, like the author did? Clearly he chooses differently… However, I will tell you a couple of the dogs don’t make it. He needed their skins for warmth and waterproofing, as well as their limbs to create a crude flag pole in order to wave down help.
What is crazy is that although he felt utterly alone throughout this ~ 24 hour ordeal, the village on shore actually knew what was happening. They felt just as helpless, because they were not sure if they would be able to reach him at all. The bay was that treacherous. They couldn’t go out at night and even in the daytime the ice was dangerous enough to crush their own boats. Thankfully, they do end up successfully rescuing him, after he miraculously survives the night. There is even a charming appendix written by one of the rescuers in a Newfoundland dialect.
I will also note that the author hardly ever complains. Perhaps this is just a character trait of men of that day or if he is just a very analytical person. That said, shouldn’t he have known going out on that ice was a bad idea? Could this all have been avoided in the first place??
Side Note: I don’t recall where I bought this book, perhaps a bookstore on Whyte Avenue. It contains a handwritten inscription that reads, “To- Mr & Mrs Baird From- Don Buchanan”. I don’t know who they are/were, so I thought I would release those names into the universe to see if anything boomerangs back to me.
komatik (n): an Inuit sledge with wooden runners and crossbars lashed with rawhide
“Don’t take your komatik onto sketchy ice, you may have to sacrifice your dogs.”
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