The Last Journey of Peter Tessem and Paul Knutsen, 1919


  • William Barr



Amundsen, Roald Englebregt Gravning, 1872-1928, History, Maud (Ship), Ships, Dikson, Ostrov, Russian Federation, Karskoye More


In September 1919, when Amundsen's ship Maud left her winter quarters near Mys Chelyuskina to continue east along the Siberian coast, two men, Peter Tessem and Paul Knutsen, were deliberately left behind. Their instructions were to wait until freeze-up, then sledge to the weather station at Dikson in order to deliver the expedition's mail and the accumulated scientific data of the past year. The two men did not reach their destination. In the spring of 1921 a Soviet-Norwegian search expedition, travelling overland, established that the two men had passed Mys Vil'da in November 1919; at that point all was well. Farther west, near Poluostrov Mikhaylova, the remains of a campfire were found together with charred bones which were thought to be the remains of one of the Norwegians; it was assumed that one man had died and that his companion had cremated the corpse. In 1922 a geological expedition led by N. N. Urvantsev found the mail and scientific data that Tessem and Knutsen had been carrying, abandoned near the mouth of the Zeledeyeva, and the Norwegians' skis, abandoned at the mouth of the Uboynaya. Finally a skeleton, thought to be that of Tessem, was found on the shore within sight of the weather station at Dikson. Recent evidence indicates that the campfire near Poluostrov Mikhaylova relates to the missing Rusanov expedition, and not to Tessem and Knutsen; furthermore, there has been recent debate as to whether the skeleton so close to Dikson was that of Tessem or Knutsen

Key words: Maud expedition, Kara Sea littoral, searches for Tessem and Knutsen 1921-1922