Nordenskiöld – the first man to sail through the Northeast Passage
Get to know some of our most famous polar explorers! In a previous newsletter we started with the man who put Svalbard on the map – Willem Barents. This time, we will tell you more about Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld – the first man to sail through the Northeast Passage.
The Svalbard Expeditions 1861 and 1872-1873
Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld participated in several scientific expeditions to Svalbard. In 1861 he sailed to Svalbard as a geologist and he and his crew members conducted comprehensive studies in Hinlopen. They could for example confirm that the small island, called North East Island (Nordaustlandet) on old maps only was a point of land of a larger island (Svalbard’s second largest island). During the expedition between 1872-1873 the plan was to set up a station as far north as possible, stay over the winter, and conduct research on astronomy, geomagnetism and meteorology. In Mosselbukta there are still remnants of the station, Polhem, named after the expedition ship they travelled with. The next year they made an attempt to reach the North Pole, but the reindeers who were brought to act as heave aid ran away, and Nordenskiöld had to give up.
The Vega Expedition
In 1875, Nordenskiöld sailed through the Kara Sea and the river Jenisejs’ outfall in the Arctic Ocean hoping to find a trade way from Europe to Siberia as well as conducting scientific research. The expedition was considered very successful, and Nordenskiöld was trusted to make an attempt to round Europe and Asia, and sail through the Northeast Passage – something that no one had managed to accomplish. The purpose, as often, was to find a trade way, this time to Asia. The expedition was partly financed by the Swedish king Oscar II.
The 24th of April 1880, two years after the ship Vega had left Sweden, she arrived in Stockholm. Vega had by then sailed past North Cape and east through the Kara Sea to round the north cape of Siberia, Kap Tjeluskin. They kept sailing east along the north coast of Siberia and almost reached Bering Strait before the ship got trapped in the ice. Later, Vega continued towards Japan and Europe. The crew members were ceremoniously welcomed home at the royal castle and the day of their return, the 24th of April, was named after the ship Vega. Still, the Swedish Society of Anthropology and Geography celebrates this day every year.