rologue: Baptism by Ice
n a misty morning in late April 1873, the
a steam barkentine out of Conception Bay, Newfoundland, was pushing through the loose ﬂoes and bergs off the coast of Labrador, heading for the seasonal seal- hunting grounds. Late in the morning, the
encountered something strange: A lone Inuit in a kayak was hailing the ship, waving his arms and screaming at the top of his lungs. The native man was clearly in some kind of trouble. He had ventured much farther out into the perilous open waters of the North Atlantic than any Eskimo ordinarily would. When the
pulled closer to him, he yelled, in accented English, “American steamer! American steamer!”The crew of the
leaned over the railings and tried to decipher what the Inuit was talking about. Just then, the fog parted enough to reveal, in the middle distance, a jagged ﬂoe piece, on which more than a dozen men and women, plus several children, appeared to be trapped. Seeing the ship, the marooned party erupted in cheers and ﬁred guns into the air.The
’s captain, Isaac Bartlett, ordered rescue boats put in the water. When the stranded people— nineteen in all— were brought aboard, it was immediately apparent that they had suffered a horriﬁc ordeal. Emaciated, ﬁlthy, and frostbitten, they had haunted looks in their eyes. Their lips and teeth were greasy from a just- ﬁnished break-fast of seal intestine.