The Otto Sverdrup Centennial Expedition 1999-2000
The goals of this High Arctic overwintering expedition were:
- To carry out an active educational program drawing participation
from Norway and Canada; this centred on Internet links to and between
twinned schools in the two countries. These circumpolar contacts
and communications formed the basis for arctic studies in diverse
- to explore and transcend cultural as well as
- To create a greater awareness in the circumpolar neighbours of Canada and Norway
of their shared arctic heritage exemplified by the exploration of northernmost
Canada 100 years ago by Otto Sverdrup.
- To record the Otto Sverdrup Centennial Expedition by diverse media as an event
of popular and historical interest.
- To commemorate the contributions of Sverdrup to Canadian geography and science.
- To conduct a program of scientific study with a focus on the arctic environment:
including geophysics, meteorology, human habitat design, isolation psychology,
soil ecology, year-round bird count, archaeological surface descriptions, feeding
habits and genetics of the endangered Peary caribou.
What the Expedition Accomplished
On June 26, 1999 the Expedition yacht Northanger left Oslo, Norway with a
joint Norwegian-Canadian crew flying the flags of both countries and that of
the then new Canadian territory of Nunavut where the Expedition wintered. En
route to the Canadian arctic, the Northanger brought greetings to circumpolar
neighbours in the Faeroe Islands and Greenland. The last port of call was Grise
Fiord, christened by Sverdrup and today the site of Canada's northernmost settlement.
The ship then traveled west in Jones Sound en route to its winter harbour at
Hourglass Bay, on the same Ellesmere Island coast where Sverdrup wintered for
three years in Fram.
Preparations were made for the winter — which includes a 100 day
stretch without sun at this latitude! Filming of the project, which
commenced with sailing from Norway, continued throughout. Before
fall storms set in, the team discovered the remains of a camp used
extensively by Sverdrup and his men in 1900. The circumpolar arctic
curriculum was implemented with communication via Internet with
schools in Norway, Canada, and the United States. The illustrated
reports filed to the Expedition website from the far north showcased
newly available remote communications technology: Inmarsat data
transfer and Iridium voice capabilities. There were up to 100,000
monthly visitors at the the official
home page of the Otto Sverdrup Centennial Expedition.
When the full moon punctuated the winter darkness (and even when it didn't),
scientific studies were conducted and shared via Internet with the "Outside".
The team was followed in its isolation by psychology consultants to crew selection
at NASA with an eye ahead to the challenge of a three year mission
The calendar rolled over to 2000 in frigid, stormy darkness
but with little cause for worry from Y2K in remote Hourglass Bay!
Little Keziah also had greatly unexpected news that a baby sister
(or brother) was on the way!
In early spring 2000 team members Guldborg, Lars, and Graeme -
and two dogs - set out from Hourglass Bay on a 7 week, 700 km sledging
journey across Norwegian Bay to Axel Heiberg Island, the largest
member of the Sverdrup archipelago. The party explored this infrequently
travelled majestic island and there celebrated the Norwegian national
holiday of syttende mai (May 17th). The sledgers completed their
journey at Bukken Fiord (81 degrees N), where Sverdrup claimed these
lands for Norway precisely 100 years before.
With the break up of the ice at last in late summer of 2000, the project concluded
with Northanger sailing south to St. John's, Newfoundland via the west
Greenland and Labrador coasts.
For more details about the Expedition and to view an extensive photo gallery,
please visit the official
home page of the Otto Sverdrup Centennial Expedition