cover image The Last Voyage of the Karluk

The Last Voyage of the Karluk

Robert Bartlett, , read by Frank Holden. . Rattling Books, $24.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-9734223-5-1

In this tale of Arctic exploration, narrator Frank Holden turns in a masterful performance as Robert Bartlett, captain of the ill-fated Karluk , which sank off the Siberian coast in 1914. From the Newfoundland accent to the fortitude of a polar adventurer, Holden inhabits his subject. Some, including expedition leader Vilhjalmar Stefansson, later blamed Bartlett for the disaster that left 11 dead and dozens stranded on Russia's Wrangell Island. Defending his competency, Bartlett delivers painfully detailed accounts of food stores and physical conditions, especially during his 700-mile trek for help across the frozen ocean and Siberian coast. Holden handles this subtle defensive posturing with aplomb, keeping the tone even and matter-of-fact. Holden manages to render fresh Bartlett's descriptions of igloo building, dogsledding and polar bear hunting. Rattling adds nice atmospherics, too—the crunching of ice and snow bookends the tale. Bartlett played Chopin's Funeral Waltz as the ice claimed his ship, and the music accompanies Holden's recounting of the event. The narration soars as the typically reserved Bartlett reunites with his rescued crew, an emotional breathiness imbuing Holden's voice. Based on the 1916 book. (July)