She Stayed in the Arctic for 5 Months All On Her Own

You know it’s just amazing — We humans
are exceptional creatures! Our bodies cansurvive falls from huge heights, extreme temperatures,
and even weeks without food. But some survivalstories literally make your blood run cold,
and such is the story of Ada Blackjack, ayoung woman who spent 2 years on a bitterly-cold
Arctic island, unprepared for such an ordealand mostly on her own. In 1921, 23-year old Ada Blackjack found herself
on an Arctic island, far away from civilization,in the company of four men and a female cat
named Vic. An unlikely scenario by all means,so how did Ada end up in that situation?
Life didn’t treat the petite, fragile womanparticularly well. A Native American Iñupiat,
she was born in Alaska in 1898 and broughtup by Methodist missionaries. She spoke some
English and knew how to cook, sew, and clean,which were the women’s main responsibilities
at that time. And naturally, nobody taughtAda how to hunt or survive in the wilderness
– skills she would have learned if she’dstayed with her native tribe.
Ada was 16 when she got married to Jack Blackjack,who was a local dog musher. Unfortunately,
this marriage didn’t bring the poor girl anythingbut despair. The couple lost two of their
three children, and, besides, Ada’s husbandturned out to be a cruel and aggressive man.
Eventually, in 1921, he left her and their5-year-old son alone. The woman had to walk
40 miles back home to Nome, carryingthe tired child on her back most of the way.
But when they arrived at her destination,it turned out that the woman’s life had more
hardships in store. Ada’s son, Bennet, fellill with tuberculosis, but she didn’t have
money for his treatment. She was forced toleave him in a local orphanage and set off
in search of a job to earn enough to takehim back home.
That’s when fortune smiled upon her . Ada heard about
an expedition heading for Wrangel Island. It was organized by Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur
Stefansson, and they needed an Alaska Nativeseamstress who could cook and maintain the
camp and also knew English. Ada seemed tofit this position perfectly.
But when she agreed to this offer, she didn’tknow what stood behind a seemingly well-organized
expedition. Wrangel Island is located about250 miles away from the coast of
Alaska and approximately 100 miles north of Siberia. Almost all year round, the
ocean around the island is frozen, and theship passage is next to impossible. Thick
fog covers the shores of the island, whichmakes navigation extremely complicated.
That’s why, when Vilhjalmur Stefansson, whowas Canadian, asked his government to fund
the mission, Canada flatly refused to sponsorthe deadly undertaking. Even so, the explorer
didn’t let go of his idea and decided to claimthe island for Britain. He gathered a crew
of four men, one cat, and our little Ada andsent them away with merely 6 months of supplies
and a promise that a ship would bring morefood and other supplies the following year.
Interestingly, the explorer didn’t join theparty himself.
That’s how Ada Blackjack ended up strandedon Wrangel Island for 2 years, which was the
needed time to stake claim to an uninhabitedland. The young woman had been initially promised
that there would be other Alaska Natives inthe party, but as the ship was getting ready
to sail off, no other Eskimo families showedup. Still, Ada needed money to take her little
son home, and the salary she was offered fortaking part in the expedition was $50 a month
– a huge sum of money for the young mother. The woman had no other choice but to agree,
and on September 9, 1921, the ship left theport, taking Ada away.
The plan was to settle up, organize a camp,and live off the land until the ship with
the load of supplies arrived. But, as it oftenhappens in life, nothing went as planned.
At first, everything was fine, just as Stefanssonhad promised. But then the summer came and
went, and there was still no sign of a ship. Some of the food supplies the party brought
to the island spoiled, and the rest had beeneaten. Little did the people on the island
know that the ship with new supplies was senttoo late and had to turn back because the
passage toward the island had iced up andbecome impenetrable.
The people on the island were starting topanic. They had almost run out of food, and
there was a critical lack of game on the island. On top of that, the party had used all the
wood for 2 miles around the camp, andrelocation was the only way out.
In January, one member of the expedition,Lorne Knight, fell ill with scurvy. To avoid
starvation, the rest of the men decided toexplore an area further away from camp in
attempts to find some food. Ada packed tools,geological equipment, three 20-pound
cases of hard bread, and two five-gallon cans of seal fat for them. In -69
degrees F , the men took allthe remaining dogs and left the young woman
alone to look after the sick team member. The next day, a severe storm hit the island.
Ada never saw the men again. She kept looking after Knight, all the while
trying to be cheerful so he wouldn’t loseheart. She maintained the camp, checked the
traps, and was terribly afraid that a polarbear would attack her while she was out. But
unfortunately, her only companion got worseand worse. In June 1922, he passed away, and
Ada was left entirely alone on a frozen, desertedisland.
But Ada knew that she had to survive to returnto her son. The woman learned to shoot seals
with Knight’s rifle and made shoe soles fromtheir skins. She hunted, checked traps, and
even built a makeshift boat from driftwoodand canvas. She lived in a storage tent with
a cupboard built out of boxes at the entrance. That’s where she kept her ammunition and binoculars.
Also, she made a gun rack over her bed: thisway, no polar bear could catch her by surprise.
The young woman even had the time and interestto experiment with the photography equipment
the expedition had brought along. She tookpictures of herself in different places outside
the camp. When a rescue party finally arrived on August
20, 1923, the crew of the schooner “Donaldson”noted that the woman who met them seemed to
have mastered her environment. The men wereshocked to find out that this brave, hardened
woman had been doing fine on her own. Somecrew members even stated that Ada could easily
survive on the island for another year orso had the rescue party not arrived.
Finally, she got back home and received herpayment, which was, by the way, much smaller
than she had initially been promised. Evenso, after Ada reunited with her son, she used
the money to take him to a hospital in Seattleto treat his tuberculosis. The story of Ada Blackjack is still considered
one of the most impressive survival featsever. When she got back home to Alaska, two
years after she first set foot on the unfortunateisland, people called her “a hero” and “the
female Robinson Crusoe. “The most shocking fact though, was that even
as the expedition was preparing to set offtoward Wrangel Island, the land already belonged
to the Russians who had legally occupied itin 1916. Wow what a story! Now what would be the most
difficult thing for you if you found yourselfon a cold uninhabited island? Let me know
down in the comments! If you learned somethingnew today, then give this video a like and
share it with a friend. But – hey! – don’t go anywhere just yet!
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