Lorne Knight

"[Knight] had some wonderful experiences with Mr. Stefansson for four years in the Arctic on a previous expedition"

– The introduction of The Adventure of Wrangel Island

The Adventure of Wrangel Island Title Page

The Adventure of Wrangel Island title page, including the introduction written by John Irvine Knight

Lorne Knight was born in 1893 in McMinnville, Oregon. He was the son of a Methodist minister. Knight had just finished his studies in Seattle when he met Stefansson in 1915, while Knight was aboard on the Polar Bar with Captain Louis Lane. The crew ran into Stefansson – who had been journeying through the Arctic on foot – while the Polar Bear was anchored a few miles off of Canada’s Cape Kellet. Stefansson took a liking to Knight, and over the next four years he educated him on Arctic survival. 

The book The Adventure of Wrangel Island written by Stefansson in collaboration with John Irvine Knight, and based largely on Lorne Knight's diary, describes the tight-knit, interpersonal relationship between Knight and Stefansson. In this work, Stefansson states “I liked him (Knight) especially,” and that Knight was “fitted for pioneer work both by physique and temperament and was popular with his companions. (Stefansson, 1925)” Notably, the introduction to The Adventure of Wrangel Island was written by John Irvine Knight, and thereby includes the invaluable perspective of a father. John Irvine states that his son “had some wonderful experiences with Mr. Stefansson for four years in the Arctic on a previous expedition (Stefansson, 1925)” indicating the mentorship narrative that is integral to our understanding of Lorne Knight’s role on Wrangel Island.

In 1917, Knight accompanied Stefansson on the longest sled trip he ever made, and in 1918, when Stefansson was ill with typhoid, Knight accompanied Stefansson’s 2nd in command, Storker Storkenson on “one of the most remarkable of polar adventures. (Stefansson, 1925)” In the spring of 1921, Knight joined Stefansson and Maurer on the Chautauqua circuit. Later that year, Stefansson asked Knight to be second in command of his second Wrangel Island expedition. 

Knight was only 28 at the start of the expedition, however, he had the most Arctic experience, and served as the “unofficial authority.” The team arrived at Wrangel Island on September 15, 1921. Over the next year, the group faced unimaginably harsh and desolate Arctic conditions as their resources rapidly dwindled. In July of 1922, Knight became weak and ill from scurvy after returning from a short solo trip. His decline is vividly illustrated in his diary, which further sections will elaborate upon. His male campaigns went off to look or help, and Ada Blackjack stayed behind to care for him. Lorne Knight died on June 23, 1923, with Ada by his side.

Works Cited:

 FromThePage.com. “Knight, Errol Lorne, 1893-1923.” FromThePage. Accessed March 2, 2024. https://fromthepage.com/dartmouthlibrary/wrangel-island-set/article/32010897

Knight , Lorne Errol. “What Did Explorers Read?” What did explorers read. Accessed March 2, 2024. https://polar-reading.mysticseaport.org/item/c145/.  

Montgomery, Richard G. “‘Pechuck’: Lorne Knight’s Adventures in the Arctic.” What did explorers read. Accessed March 2, 2024. https://polar-reading.mysticseaport.org/item/c147/

STEFANSSON, VILHJALMUR. Adventure of Wrangel Island. New York, New York: The Macmillan Company, 1925.