The Arctic Charms Explorer

English: A sketch of explorer Vilhjamur Stefan...
A sketch of explorer Vilhjamur Stefansson . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is an opportunity to outline the story of Vilhjalmur Stefansson, one of the greatest Arctic explorers, who was born at Arnes, Manitoba, in 1879.  His parents were among the Icelanders who settled in Canada so successfully, although the Stefanssons moved to the United States after Vilhjamur was born.  He was educated there and spent three years at Harvard.

It was on February 20, 1915, that Stefansson set out on an expedition that took him along the coast of Banks Land to Alfred Point, and then to Prince Patrick Island.  He and his assistants found land that had never been seen bofore and claimed it for Canada.s  This expedition was only one of a number of achievements Stefansson  recorded between 1913 and 1918 when he was employed by the Canadian government to explore the Arctic. The five-year expedition above the Arctic Circle was the longest on record and Stefansson and his men lived like Eskimos, depending on hunting for their food.

During his ten winters and thirteen summers in the Arctic, he claimed many islands for Canada, including Borden, Brock, Meighen, and Lougheed.

Stefansson’s great claim to fame, however, was his insistence that the Arctic was habitable by white men, and even hospitable.  He wrote a book called The Friendly Arctic which was heartily criticized by other explorers including Amundsen, the first man to reach the South Pole.

He not only exploded many myths about the Arctic, but claimed that it was capable of commercial development.  He forecast the use of air transport and submarines for getting over and under icy wastes.  His argument that there was mineral wealth in the Arctic was confirmed not long ago by the discovery of the world’s richest deposit of iron or on Baffin Island.

Want more interesting reading about Stefansson?  I would first suggest reading Eskimos Prove An All Meat Diet
Provides Excellent Health
, an article he wrote for Harper’s Monthly Magazine in November 1935. There is an interesting article on Enchanted Learning website. For even more, go to White Pine Pictures and watch the trailer for their documentary “Arctic Dreamer: The Lonely Quest Of Viljhalmur Stefansson.”


  1. I wrote a paper on him last semester – fascinating character! I read tons and tons and tons of stuff written by him – he’s an incredibly prolific writer. I think we’ll see more interest in his work in the future, as climate change makes the North more accessible.


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