The Royal Canadian Geographical Society
Making Canada better
known to Canadians
and to the world.

Publishers of Canadian Geographic Magazine Publishers of géographica



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 disciplines

• to explore and transcend cultural as well as linguistic differences.

• 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 to Mars.

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


Share this page

   Copyright © 2021 The Royal Canadian Geographical Society SITEMAP  |   CONTACT  |   PRIVACY POLICY  |   TERMS OF USE  |   FRANÇAIS