The Friendly Arctic: The Story of Five Years in Polar Regions
January 1, 1922
"An epic of adventure—moving ice packs, snow houses, polar bears, the crossing of open leads...fine, fat seals and juicy caribou." -Bulletin (1922)
"An adventure of a lifetime. He lived in the Canadian Arctic with the Inuit and ate only what they ate." -Dr. Colbert's Keto Zone Diet (2017)
"Stefansson knows how to face and overcome every problem of the North–the ability to live off the land itself." - New Outlook (1922)
"This book becomes immediately a milestone...epoch-making enterprise...ended in triumph." N.Y. Times, 1921
"Stefansson began the study of life in the Arctic by living with the Eskimos and learning to live off the land." - Air Sea Rescue Bulletin (1944)
"No single person is more responsible for the world's enlightenment on the Arctic." -Across the Top of the World (1947)
"The Stefansson parties depended so largely on hunting that they seldom had occasion to use substitutes." -U.S. Army Arctic Manual (1940)
Vilhjalmur Stefansson was counted as dead, even by experienced polar travelers, after his expedition's ship Karluk became crushed in the ice and he had set off with one sled, six dogs and one months' food on a journey that would take at least a year over the Arctic ice.
Pinning his faith to an untried theory, he would rely on finding both food and fuel in the bewildering mazes of the shifting ice pack. Food and fuel in the midst of a frozen ocean: The thing was unheard of. Eskimos and whites agreed this man was crazy!
At the very beginning of his interesting 1921 book, "The Friendly Arctic," covering over five years of arctic exploration, Stefansson strikes a keynote to which his whole story is attuned:
Anyone of sound body and mind with fair arctic experience, a reasonably good hunter, and possessed of average common sense, can tramp at will almost indefinitely over the top of the earth and find ample food, clothing, and shelter without the necessity of suffering any hardships or encountering any greater danger than he is likely to meet in New York City.
Stefansson left Karluk when it became stuck in the ice in August 1913, to hunt meat for the crew; however the ship was ultimately crushed in the ice after it drifted away. Despite losing all expedition supplies, Stefansson pushed by sledge over the Beaufort Sea, leaving Collinson Point, Alaska in April 1914. A supporting sledge turned back 75 mi. offshore, but he and two men continued onward on one sledge, with a plan of living largely by his rifle on polar game.
In describing a fight between his dog team and a polar bear on this trek, Stefansson writes:
"We had one or two dogs which had been bought from the Victoria Island Eskimos....The one Victoria Island dog was admirable...if the bear faced in his direction, he would make a strategic retreat and keep a distance of at least 5 yards. But the moment the bear turned away towards another dog, he would run up and nip him in the heel, not viciously as an excited dog might have done, but sharply and skilfully like a good workman at once confident in his skill..."
Stefansson's foolhardy death was said to have been corroborated several months later when Eskimos found a broken sled and a team of drowned dogs that had drifted ashore from the ice.
When Harold Noice "rescued" Stefansson, Noice was shocked, as "by every precedent he should be haggard and emaciated with hollow cheeks and sunken eyes telling a tale of starvation and horror. But I saw instead health and every sign of cheerful well-being...When asked what he would like to eat, said he was not hungry. Not hungry! A year and a half in the arctic wastes, and not hungry!"
In addition to being considered an expert on Arctic survival, Stefansson's discovery of the benefits of Inuit's all meat diet would make him a pioneer of the modern Keto diet.
Other books by Vilhjalmur Stefansson (1879–1962) include:
•Hunters of the Great North
•My Life with the Eskimo
•Not by Bread Alone
•The Fat of the Land