At first, the Canadian government turned him down. Stefansson went ahead anyway, convinced he could eventually get the government on board, and if not, perhaps sell the idea to either Washington or London. Instead of paying the young adventurers, he convinced them to buy stock in the new company he set up for the expedition. Combining that with some private investment and a little of his own money, he sent the four men to Nome, Alaska, with enough cash to purchase 2,200 kilograms of food, guns, tents, equipment, and clothing to last them a year in the Arctic. He recommended against taking much meat, as he was convinced they would be able to hunt for all they needed. He also recommended against buying much winter clothing. Instead, he wanted them to take some Inuit with them, especially Inuit women, who could sew them winter pants and parkas from the sealskins and bearskins they would harvest. He instructed them to put the word out for suitable interested parties.
Some Inuit expressed interest, but as they sized up the inexperience of the young explorers and the reputation of inhospitable Wrangel Island, they all dropped out. There was only one Inuk willing to join, and she was herself very reluctant. Ada Blackjack was 23. She had been abandoned by an abusive husband, and she needed the money. The $50 a month being offered was more than she had ever seen in her life. On the other hand, she would be away from her young son who was suffering from tuberculosis, she was nervous about travelling with four strange men, and she was deathly afraid of polar bears. However, she had a reputation in Nome, quite possibly undeserved, for both drinking and prostitution. In the end the local police chief, wanting her out of town, basically coerced her into accompanying the men as their seamstress (at which she excelled) and cook. She consulted with a shaman, who told her that he felt the expedition was doomed, but she felt trapped — she had committed to Crawford and the police chief that she would go. Now she had to.
On September 9, 1921, the five left, sailing north. The next day they landed briefly in Russia, and although they didn’t tell the Russian authorities the true nature of their mission, they did tell them they were headed for Wrangel Island. The Russians made it clear to them that Wrangel was Russian territory, but merely laughed at their intention to go ashore, a plan they felt was physically impossible.
Five days later, with some difficulty, the group made it to Wrangel, and made it onshore. Virtually the first thing they did was raise the Union Jack, claiming the island for King George, the British Empire, and the Dominion of Canada. The American ship that had taken them there returned to Nome, and the news got out. Soon Canada had not one, but two, infuriated neighbours — the United States, and the Soviet Union.
On Wrangel, the team of land-claiming explorers began to settle in. The Arctic winter would soon be upon them and they had a lot to do. None had any real experience in this sort of wilderness homesteading, but they did the best they could. Ada, though, began to act in an unexpected manner, exhibiting a very pronounced crush on Allan Crawford. The Toronto grad student was both the leader and the best looking of the four men, and although he was mortified by the attention, it was clear to all that Ada was utterly infatuated. “Oh, Crawford,” she purred. “Oh, your beautiful green eyes.”