Lots of explorers entered the Arctic and died there because - among other things - they couldn't find anything to eat. Sir John Franklin led two expeditions to disaster; on the first his followers ended up eating each other for lack of anything better.
That wasn't a problem for the locals. Robert McGhee (The Last Imaginary Place. A Human History of the Arctic World) points out that the Arctic had real productivity advantages for a hunting people:
...long ago recognized the essential fact that the wealth of the Arctic lies in its animals, and that for hunting peoples the tundra and the ice-covered ocean provide a more easily harvested supply of animals than do most other regions of the earth....
First, relatively few species occur in the Arctic, but these occur in large numbers:
...in comparison to the temperate or tropical zones of the earth the Arctic regions support very few species of animals. This may be due in part to the harsh climate, but the relatively recent emergence of Arctic environments from beneath the Ice Age glaciers is also a factor, in that only a few species have had time to form close adaptations to the region. The other side of this coin is that a lack of competition with other animals using the same food supply means that the Arctic can support vast numbers of individuals of these species. Farmers, fishers and other commercial harvesters know that such a "monoculture" allows resources to be used very efficiently, and the Arctic provides this natural advantage to its hunting peoples.
Then, these few species of animals tend to concentrate in convenient killing grounds:
Another feature of the Arctic environment that benefits hunters is the extreme range of seasonal variation. This circumstance promotes dense aggregations of animals at certain times of the year, as fish, birds and mammals can take advantage of the brief summer to spawn or to raise and feed their young, and avoid the cold winter by migrating southwards or following the edge of the sea ice.
So, for example,
Immense herds of caribou straggle northwards each spring to bear their calves near the Arctic coast, and then in late summer gather in wide rivers of animals flowing southwards to the shelter of the forests. Seals bear their pups in innumerable herds on spring sea ice, or in dense colonies on rocky islands. Migrating whales take advantage of narrow leads in the sea ice to reach their Arctic feeding grounds as early as possible in the season, and are funnelled into narrow bands of water where they can be easily approached. For a few ice-free weeks each summer the rivers are heavy with runs of char or salmon, and the tundra is dotted with the nests of geese and ducks and swans raising their chicks and moulting in preparation for the early flight south.
And then the natural cold makes it easier to store the large amounts killed when the animals are concentrated (see also the contribution of visibility towards the end of the paragraph):
To people who have learned when and where to expect these seasonal concentrations of animals in their local environment, how to schedule their yearly activities to make the best use of them and how to take advantage of the winter cold to store meat for weeks or months against seasons of scarcity, the Arctic is a rich and rewarding land. In comparison, the boreal forest directly to the south and the temperate forests to the south of that -where prey animals are more likley to be solitary or to wander unpredictably in small groups, and where the view of the terrain is everywhere obscured by trees - are environments that require a hunter to have a great deal more skill and local knowledge in order to survive.
Cross-posted at Arctic Economics.