Ada Blackjack


Rations ran out and the team was unable to find enough game on the island to survive. One member died on the island and three others disappeared after attempting to go for help. Interestingly Ada did not profit from the many books published about the expedition. Diane Glancy once again puts Indigenous women at the center of American history in her account of a young Inupiat woman who survived a treacherous arctic expedition alone. Ada Blackjack is more than a rugged tale of a woman battling the elements to survive in the frozen north – it is the story of a hero. In September 1921, four young men and Ada Blackjack, a diminutive 25-year-old Eskimo woman, ventured deep into the Arctic in a secret attempt to colonize desolate Wrangel Island for Great Britain. Two years later, Ada Blackjack emerged as the sole survivor of this ambitious polar expedition. This young, unskilled woman – who had headed to the Arctic in search of money and a husband – conquered the seemingly unconquerable north and survived all alone after her male companions had perished. After all that, we didn’t even talk much about Ada herself! Well, Ada is quite a unique and remarkable character, finding the courage to do things she never thought she could in order to survive the Arctic winter. Niven’s book offers a look inside the life of a woman who could have been easily disregarded by history.

The next day they landed briefly in Russia, and although they didn’t tell the Russian authorities the true nature of their mission, they did tell them they were headed for Wrangel Island. The Russians made it clear to them that Wrangel was Russian territory, but merely laughed at their intention to go ashore, a plan they felt was physically impossible.

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Now more than ever, the world is recognizing how strong women and girls are. In the early 1920s, Aboriginal Alaskan expeditioner Ada Blackjack survived for two years as a castaway on an uninhabited island in the Arctic Ocean before she was finally rescued. Wrangel Island, only 7300 square kilometres, is squarely north of Siberia. The castaways of the Karluk disaster took refuge on wild and barren Wrangel, living there for six months awaiting rescue.

Stefansson could not find the money to finance a relief ship, let alone a continuation of the Canuck occupation of Wrangel Island. Five days later, with some difficulty, the group made it to Wrangel, and made it onshore. Virtually the first thing they did was raise the Union Jack, claiming the island for King George, the British Empire, and the Dominion of Canada. The American ship that had taken them there returned to Nome, and the news got out. Soon Canada had not one, but two, infuriated neighbours — the United States, and the Soviet Union. Cloudbet offers the highest limits in crypto betting. Cloudbet is the ADA sportsbook of choice for high rollers. After a difficult four-hour search using a drone and underwater robot, police have located the body of a man who ended up in the pond of a York Region golf course. Douglas, the eldest son, told the BBC his father had made few preparations for the trip, though he had been in the British merchant navy. For 17 months at sea, the family faired well, sailing from port-to-port and seeing the world.


Unfortunately for us curious readers, Ada’s life after the expedition was less documented than the families of the three men. On August 19, a relief vessel, the Donaldson, arrived to pick up the abandoned party. Harold Noice, in charge of the rescue, was shocked to discover that all the men had died, that only Ada survived. Ada in turn was stunned to learn that the party of three who had left for Siberia had never reached Nome. Ada was acclaimed as “the female Robinson Crusoe” and, by the Toronto Mail & Empire, as “the first Eskimo heroine in history,” but she was always very uncomfortable about the media circus that surrounded her. She drifted through a long life, mostly in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Stefansson promised her a share of the royalties of his book The Adventure of Wrangel Island, but it was not a big seller and he never paid her. Ada Blackjack died, aged 85, in Palmer, Alaska in 1983. Remarkably, though, Stefansson did find buyers — two brothers named Carl and Ralph Loman, who purchased the ‘title’ to Wrangel, in return for an agreement to pick up the new colonists Noice had left on the island. The Lomans attempted to do this the following summer but were again thwarted by the icepack.

  • The Teddy Bear left Nome on August 20, 1922 but once it made it into the Russian Arctic it soon encountered pack ice.
  • They had to wait through the long autumn for the sea ice to harden and thicken enough to take the weight of their heavy sledge.
  • Robertson had documented their adventure which inspired his book Survive the Savage Sea.
  • He also recommended against buying much winter clothing.
  • He appealed to the president of the University of Toronto to ask if there were any likely candidates with good health, a strong disposition, and some scientific training.

The six men landed on an uninhabited part of the island so their last hope was to cross 26 miles of treacherous mountains and glaciers until they finally reached a whaling station where they found help. Already being a close knit group, the family demonstrated remarkable survival skills and were able to survive 38 days on their small dinghy. They collected rain droplets for drinking water, caught turtles and flying fish for food and sailed their way towards Central America to be rescued. By their 38th day, they were sighted by a Japanese fishing trawler heading towards the Panama Canal. Robertson had documented their adventure which inspired his book Survive the Savage Sea. They endured temperatures as low as -47 C, they had a very close call with an attacking polar bear, and their food supplies began to dwindle. But at least Ada’s unrequited love affair with Crawford subsided.

While sailing to the Galapagos Islands from Panama their boat was sunk by a pod of killer whales. Which is why stories of real life castaways never cease to amaze us. These are just some of the many incredible stories of survival and people who defeated all odds, overcame the deadliest obstacles, alone stranded on an uninhabited land. Ada Blackjack Johnson was part of an expedition that attempted to claim the island of Wrangel on behalf of Canada and Great Britain. Join our email list to get exclusive offers, the best in books, and more.

ada blackjack

The sole American died in custody; the Inuit were eventually shipped home by the Red Cross. He was convinced that Canada would soon financially support his expedition, and he was glad, knowing that he would face big costs when it came time to extricate his explorers from Wrangel Island. Meanwhile the controversy about the expedition continued to swirl through London, Washington, and Ottawa, and Stefansson continued to stoke it to promote his grand plans to colonize the island. The British wanted nothing to do with this harebrained scheme and so for once left the decision-making to the colonials on the Rideau. Considering how badly the expedition had turned out, it was remarkable that Stefansson even considered sending another group of adventurers to the north, let alone that he succeeded in doing so. His plan was to send a group of young explorers back to Wrangel Island to plant the flag and claim it for Canada. He began recruiting and found three enthusiastic volunteers — two of whom were veterans of the Karluk debacle. Unfortunately, all three were of the wrong nationality — all were American.

It also means respecting our history while creating positive change for the future. And the best way for me to bring about that change for Indigenous Canadians is to get as many people wearing Manitobah Mukluks as possible. We share our success with the communities and individuals we work with. We’re keeping traditions alive while celebrating our shared values and history. By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses.

ada blackjack

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