Sunday, January 31, 2010

Finland - The Discovery of the North East Passage

The Northern Sea Route is a shipping lane from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean along the Russian Arctic coast from the Barents Sea, along Siberia, to the Far East. The route lies in Arctic waters and parts are free of ice for only two months per year. Before the beginning of the 20th century it was known as the North East Passage, and is still sometimes referred to by that name.
Baron Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld was a Finnish geologist and explorer who was the first to chart the Northeast Passage across Eurasia in 1878. Was one of the most famous Swedish explorers and geographers, mostly known for his travels in the huge areas above the Polar Circle. During his great expedition with the steam- and sailing ship Vega, his ambition was to sail around Europe and Asia through the Bering Strait. That journey came to last for two years, because he and his crew were forced to stay over the winter in the ice only a few miles from navigable waters. Finnish-born explorer and scientist who was in exile in Sweden from 1857. Nordenskiöld made his most famous expedition in 1878-1880. He navigated the 'North-east passage' on the Vega from northern Norway to the Bering Strait and described his journey in several books. They were translated during the following years into 11 languages. Nordenskiöld's literary oeuvre includes some 200 publications, from books to articles. The collection of his maps and geographical works is considered by UNESCO one of the world's most important collections of documents.
In 1877 Captain Palander returned to the Royal Navy and offered to become the captain on the expedition to navigate the Northeast Passage. For this purpose, Palander secured the whaling ship Vega, and selected the crew and officers. Accompanied with three other ships, he sailed on Vega to the Bering Strait, where spent in ice the ten-month winter, and then continued to Japan. With a strong vessel Nordenskiöld had demonstrated that one could navigate the Northeast Passage, but in wider scale shipping did not began until the mid 20th century. The ship sailed from Karlshamn on June 22, 1878, and arrived in Tromsö (Norway) on July 17 where Nordenskiöld boarded the ship. The expedition, which was carried out during 1878–1879, was ultimately successful, and shortly before the end of the voyage, he was promoted to the full rank of Captain. Upon return to Sweden, he was made a noble by the Swedish king Oscar II under the name of Palander af Vega, and parliament awarded him an annual pension of 4,000 Swedish crowns yearly. Palander was an accomplished amateur photographer and brought home approximately 60 photographic plates depicting the journey and people encountered during the trip.
Nordenskiöld returned to Europe by the Suez Canal. He reached Yokohama on September 2, 1879, as a celebrated hero. It was 325 years since Willoughby and Chancellor had first attempted the passage and 230 years since Dezhnyon had demonstrated that the journey was feasible. In 1880 Nordenskiöld was created a baron, and in 1893 he was appointed a member of the Swedish Academy. Although commercially the journey did not open expected traffic through the Bering Strait, the adventure attracted people’s imagination - it was the time, when Jules Verne published his Voyages extraordinaires and Stanley had found Livingstone from the jungles of Africa.
This remarkable card was sent to me by Ella from Helsinki. It has a stamp which is commemorating the “Preserve the Polar Regions and Glaciers” campaign. The striking thing about this stamp is its shape – it is circular. The other stamp is of the celebrated Baron Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld.

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