Vilhjalmur Stefansson (1879-1962)


  • Richard S. Finnie



Biographies, Copper Eskimos, Expeditions, Explorers, History, Karluk (Ship), Stefansson, Vilhjalmur, 1879-1962, Copper River (60 18 N, 145 03 W) region, Alaska, Mackenzie Delta, N.W.T., Queen Elizabeth Islands waters, N.W.T./Nunavut, Victoria Island


One of the last great arctic explorers of the era of boats, dogs, and sledges, Vilhjalmur Stefansson was also a highly articulate and innovative spokesman for the North. He is best known for his field work in anthropology and for his outspoken defence of the North as a rich and habitable land. ... He ... spent eighteen months with the Eskimos of the Mackenzie River delta, learning their language and folkways. From 1908 to 1912, under the auspices of the American Museum of Natural History and the Canadian Government, he explored the area from the Colville River in Alaska to Cape Parry, Coronation Gulf, and Victoria Island in Canada's western Arctic, where he observed "blond" types among the Copper Eskimos. His finale as an active arctic explorer was leadership of the Canadian Government expedition of 1913-18 to the Alaskan and Canadian Arctic. It was marred by eleven fatalities when ice crushed its base ship, Karluk. Stefansson and others, who had gone ashore to hunt, were unable to help the twenty-five people left on board. ... Having completed his last arctic journey at age 39, Stefansson entered the second half of his life, that of a researcher and writer, preaching the gospel of the North - its livability and potentialities. ...






Arctic Profiles