Art and Culture

Ada Blackjack : the story of a brave woman

By Ahmet Abdullaziz……..

There can be more than one definition of feminism. For me feminism is a phenomena to prove that women are as  effective, talented and impressive in most of the fields, where men have  primarily been presumed dominating. In fact all this depends on the areas of activities concerned.  We see women as more effective in some fields whereas men are more effective in other fields.

But the fact is that at times some particular woman emerges on the scene and proves her supremacy over men, in such a way that she becomes a source of energy for all women to pursue the campaign of feminism.

I came across the story of  Ada Blackjack , a  young Iñupiat woman, who had spent more than 2 years  on a frozen island north of Alaska, under very difficult and tough conditions. She was there not looking for some adventure, but just to earn something to help her little son who was suffering from tuberculosis.

The year was 1921, and Canadian explorer Vilhjalmur Stefanson was trying to arrange an expedition to the Wrangel island, to prove the British claim of the island. Although he failed to get official sponsorship, he did manage to send an expedition of 4 young men. They were  Frederick Maurer, E. Lorne Knight,  Milton Galle, and  Allan Crawford . This 80 mile long and 18-30 mile wide island is in the Arctic Ocean about 250 miles from Alaska and about 100 miles away from the Siberian Coast.

The expedition was supposed to be assisted by some local eskimo family, but on the date of departure of the team, none except Blackjack appeared. The expedition was expected to be very tough and risky, yet she agreed to be part of it, without any previous experience in this field. Ada Blackjack, had joined this expedition, to earn money. She was just 23 years old and had joined the team as a seamstress. Her basic duties were to sew clothing for the men from animal hides and to help them in their daily chores.

The expedition was designed to last for 2 years. They reached the island on 16th September 1921. Their stocks of 6 months food was supposed to be replenished by the next vessel. Unfortunately no vessel could arrive in the times to come.

For quite some time they spent  their days easily, but with the passage of time, they were more interested in getting their food stocks replenished by the next vessel. Unfortunately, their sponsor failed to raise the money to send the ship. The winter was so terrible that year, and the life had become too tough. Unfortunately one vessel that was ultimately sent to them , returned back in September 1922, without reaching the island, due to weather conditions.

Blackjack continued to assist the four young men in their daily chores of life, but life was very awful, not just due to bad weather, but also due to many other reasons. She was missing her son. The food stocks were fast vanishing. They had to struggle more to find  wood but above all, they had started losing hope to be approached. They had started thinking alternate ways to survive. A very tough and hard struggle for life was awaiting them.

On January 29, 1923  three of  the four men left the island to find some way out. Blackjack was left along with Lorne Knight , who was seriously sick. Blackjack had to fight not just for her own survival but also for the sick fellow too. She did her best to help Knight, but unfortunately he died on June 22, 1923.

She was a simple woman barely five feet tall and weighed hundred pounds. She lacked wilderness skills but when time came she taught herself everything to survive on that ice covered island.

From then on Blackjack was all alone on the island. She did her best to survive on that ice covered island, under completely unfavourable conditions. She had been killing the seals and oxen. Struggling against polar bears. Arranging for food and fire. All alone, she carried out her struggle for life in a way, that most men cannot even think of.

I read this story of Blackjack on different sites on the internet, and thought that some women do prove that they can do wonders, even all alone.

I would recommend to those who want to read the full story of this brave woman, to try the following links:

www.outsideonline.com/2274756/inuit-woman-who-survived-arctic-alone