Henry Asbjorn Larsen (1899-1964)


  • A.E. Porsild




Koch, Lauge, 1892-1964


Henry Asbjørn Larsen, retired Superintendent of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, died in Vancouver, B.C., on 29 October 1964, after a brief illness. He was buried in the R.C.M.P. cemetery at Regina, Saskatchewan. Superintendent Larsen was born on 30 September 1899 at Fredrikstad on the east coast of Oslo Fjord in Norway, not far from the birth place of Roald Amundsen, the first to bring a ship through the Northwest Passage, and the leader of the first expedition to reach the South Pole. It is uncertain if Larsen ever knew Amundsen personally, but when he was an adolescent the tradition of Norwegian arctic exploration was at its height and the brilliant exploits of Nansen, Sverdrup and Amundsen undoubtedly fired his imagination and inspired a strong desire to follow the sea in search of arctic adventure and exploration. It is not surprising, therefore, that young Henry should choose to do his compulsory military service in the Norwegian Navy. Later he learnt practical seamanship in merchant ships and entered navigation school from which he graduated with a mate's certificate. After some years spent in Norwegian ships, including a stint as Chief Officer in a trans-atlantic liner, he was at last to realize his cherished ambition for arctic service when offered the berth as navigator in the veteran arctic trading schooner Old Maid of Seattle, bound for the Western Canadian Arctic. The arctic experience gained during two voyages in the Old Maid qualified Larsen for command of the R.C.M.P. patrol vessel St. Roch, specially designed for arctic navigation, built and commissioned in Vancouver, in 1928. In April of that year Larsen had joined the Force as a Constable; he was promoted to Corporal on April 1, 1929, six months later was made a Sergeant and on November 1, 1942 a Staff Sergeant. Between 1928 and 1939 the St. Roch with Larsen in command spent 12 summers and 7 winters patrolling the Western Canadian Arctic, supplying northern detachments and, in general, serving as a floating detachment; but the two voyages for which the St. Roch and its captain became famous were the west to east trip through the Northwest Passage in 1940-42 and the east to west return passage, completed in one season, in 1942. On the first Larsen followed Amundsen's route in the Gjøa, 1903-06 but on the return voyage he sailed the St. Roch through Lancaster and Viscount Wellington Sounds and south through Prince of Wales Strait to Beaufort Sea, the first ship to have completed this passage. The official report of the two historic voyages is recorded in a R.C.M.P. "Blue Book" published in 1945. To those familiar with arctic exploration and its long history of privation, hunger and cold, the terse daily entries copied from the St. Roch's log seem as undramatic and commonplace as if each voyage had been entirely routine. ... In his northern work, whether on the bridge of his sturdy little ship or heading a winter patrol, Henry Larsen proved himself an experienced traveller and an eminently successful navigator and leader of men. By his sympathetic understanding, patience and quiet sense of humour he completely won the confidence and lasting friendship of the Eskimo who in him have lost a staunch friend and understanding advocate. Henry Larsen was commissioned Sub-Inspector in the Force in September 1944, promoted to Inspector in 1946, and to Superintendent in 1953. ... Superintendent Larsen was a graduate of the Canadian Police College. From 1949 until his retirement on February 7, 1961 he was stationed at Ottawa as Officer Commanding the "G" Division of the R.C.M.P. whose work deals with the Northwest Territories and Yukon. ...