Thursday, March 10, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Ada Blackjack

In which I share vague recollections of books I read long ago that have stuck with me.

In The Winter Rose, one of the characters is a budding explorer and even manages to talk his way onto an expedition with Ernest Shackleton. Although I don't read many books on the subject, I'm fascinated by harrowing journeys of exploration. This novel reminded me of one of the few true accounts I have read, Ada Blackjack: a true story of survival in the Arctic by Jennifer Niven.

I mentioned it briefly once before in this post after being led to it by a knitting book, of all things. It recounts a 1921 attempt by the British to colonize Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean. Ada Blackjack was an Inuit woman hired as a seamstress for the expedition, and she was the only member to survive. She didn't even want to go on the expedition; she did it because, as I recall, she needed the money. She wasn't an explorer, just a very practical-minded woman who managed to outlive every man on the expedition.

What I remember most about this story was when one of the men was dying of scurvy. It was described in such vivid detail, I became instantly thankful for the abundant supply of citrus fruit we are able to enjoy today. There was much more to the story, of course, much of which is taken first-hand from Blackjack's journals. After the expedition a great deal of controversy surrounded Ada and her role on the trip, and suspicions about why she was the only survivor. It's a fascinating story from beginning to end.

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