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Aurora Borealis

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Knud & Other Explorers

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Understanding Snow

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Polar Husky A to Z

 

KNUD & OTHER EXPLORERS

 

You have probably heard of Marco Polo, Columbus and Roald Amundsen, but what is an explorer and what do they do?

Explorers are travelers.

In times past, they went to places previously uncharted by the culture from which they came.

Explorers had many motives: scientific curiosity, economic gain, religious conversion or political domination.

Today's definition is more like - a person that travels to places most people do not go to...Why do you think this has changed with time?

The first Europeans to "visit" the Arctic were believed to be Irish monks in the 8th & 9th century.

For hundreds of years, the Arctic remained unknown to most of the world, despite countless efforts to explore the region. European and American explorers tried again and again to find a northern passage across the Arctic to Asia. By the time the earliest Europeans discovered the Arctic, non-European Inuit had already lived there for two or three thousand years.

Europe’s first overseas explorers were probably Irish monks of the 7th and 8th centuries, who set sail from Britain in tiny ox-hide curaghs (Irish for boats sealed with tar) in search of solitude. The monks were soon followed by the Vikings, people of Scandinavian origin who explored and colonized the North Atlantic Ocean from the late 8th century onward. They navigated ice-bound waters in open boats, penetrated the Arctic Ocean, colonized Iceland and Greenland, and explored the coast of North America far beyond the Arctic Circle. Vikings were the first Europeans to encounter the Inuit, who by this time were established as the true people of the far north.

From the 14th century onward, a new type of European explorer appeared along the Arctic Coasts.

A portrait of Knud Rasmussen from his book "The Great Sled Journey", telling of his incredible two year expedition (1923-24).

Knud Rasmussen

Born in Jakobshavn, Greenland (in 1879) Knud Rasmussen was part Inuit, part Danish. He was brought up in Greenland with native companions, absorbing the Inuit languages, skills of living off the land and dealing with cold. He went to live in Denmark, and after graduating from high school he returned to spend much of his life on expeditions as an ethnologist to various parts of Greenland.

Knud Rasmussen spent 30 years exploring the Arctic regions and conducting ethnological studies of the Inuit, gathering information on their life and culture. One of the most important things he did was to collect Inuit folk tales, songs and poetry. Thanks to Knud Rasmussen's efforts to record and translate the songs and stories they are not forgotten today.

In 1910, Knud established the Thule Trading Station at Cape York, Greenland, as a base for expeditions, and using the profits to finance more expeditions. In 1912 he traveled over the ice sheets of Viscount Melville Sound and became the first man to cross the Northwest Passage by dogsled.

Roald Amundsen

Norwegian polar explorer born in Borge in 1872, Roald entered the Norwegian navy in 1894 and spent the following nine years studying science.

From 1903 to 1906 Roald Amundsen led his first important expedition. He took Gjoa, a 21 m (70 ft) yacht, through the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean and determined the position of the north magnetic pole.

In 1910 Amundsen started his next expedition sailing in a larger ship, the Fram, to the South Pole. With his companions, he lived in Antarctica for more than a year, conducting explorations and scientific investigations, and gained fame as one of the most successful undertakings in the history of Antarctic exploration. On the 14th of December 1911, he reached the South Pole, dog sledding across the Ross Ice Shelf and up the Axel Heiberg Glacier, becoming the first person to have accomplished this feat.

Robert Peary

American explorer born in 1856 in Cresson, Pennsylvania, Robert Peary is generally credited with leading the first party to reach the close vicinity of the North Pole.

Without success, Admiral Robert Peary twice tried to reach the North Pole (he lost eight toes due to bad weather conditions on his first expedition) before he, an African-American, Matthew A. Henson, and four Inuit either reached or came very close to it on April 6, 1909.

On September 6, 1909, on the day Peary announced his achievement, he learned that the discovery of the pole had been claimed five days previously by the American explorer and surgeon Frederick Albert Cook. Examinations by experts established the doctor’s claim to be probably false and Peary’s records were then accepted as genuine.

The Scientific community still debates whether Peary actually reached the exact location of the North Pole.

Will Steger by G. Wiltsie, 1995

Will Steger

An educator, polar explorer, photographer, and writer, Will has always loved adventure – before the age of 25, he had made long river trips in Yukon and Alaska and climbed mountains in Peru.

In 1986, Will Steger led his team of seven men and one woman to the North Pole as the first by dogsled. In a deliberate throwback to the early explorers, they sought to complete the journey without resupply. In part they chose this approach to shed light on the historically intriguing and heavily debated question of whether Robert Peary ever actually reached the Pole!

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