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The tale of Ada Blackjack #3
Ada Blackjack Johnson was born in Solomon, Alaska. She married and had three children. After her husband left her destitute she temporarily placed her surviving son in an orphanage. Soon after, in 1921, she joined an expedition across the Chukchi Sea to Russia’s Wrangel Island planned by Vilhjalmur Stefansson in an attempt to claim the island for Canada.
On 16 September 1921, the team was left on Wrangel Island north of Siberia. The team included five people: Ada who had been hired as a cook and seamstress, the American Lorne Knight, Milton Galle, and Fred Maurer, and a Canadian named Allan Crawford.
Conditions soon turned bad and after rations ran out, the team was unable to kill enough game on the island to survive. On 28 January 1923 three men tried to cross 700 miles across the frozen Chukchi Sea to Siberia for help and food, leaving behind Ada to care for Knight who was sick with scurvy. Ada cared for him until he died in April 1923. The other three men were never seen again, Ada was left alone except for the company of the expedition’s cat, Vic.
Ada learned to survive in the icy world until she was rescued on 19 August 1923 by a former colleague of Stefansson’s, Noice. Some newspapers called her a real “female Robinson Crusoe”. Ada used the money she saved to take her small son Bennett to Seattle to cure his tuberculosis and had another son Billy. Ada did not benefit from the subsequent publication of several very popular books on the disastrous voyage. Eventually, Ada returned to the Arctic where she lived until the age of 85.