Nils Otto Gustaf Nordenskold

The Swedish polar explorer and geologist Nils Otto Gustaf Nordenskold (1869-1928) is best known as the leader of the Swedish South Polar Expedition of 1901-1903.

On Dec. 6, 1869, Otto Nordenskold was born in Småland. He entered the University of Uppsala in 1886, obtaining a doctor's degree in 1894. Between 1895 and 1897 he began his polar and subpolar travels on an expedition to the Tierra del Fuego and other Magellanic lands. In 1898 he visited the Alaskan Yukon and followed this in 1900 with a summer on Georg Karl Amdrup's expedition to eastern Greenland.

At the turn of the century, mainly through Nordenskold's initiative and with private funds, several nations, including Sweden, sent out Antarctic expeditions. One of the ships sent by the Swedes was the Antarctic, a sailing vessel with steam power that was captained by Carl Anton Larsen. Nordenskold's party, which left Sweden on Oct. 16, 1901, was landed by the Antarctic in February 1902 at Snowhill Island at 64° 22'S, just off the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. In September, Nordenskold led a dog-sledge trip to survey parts of the peninsula and complete the mapping of that coastline. Meanwhile, the Antarctic had been unable to reach Snowhill because of thick sea ice and landed a party of three in late December at Hope Bay to make the 50-mile trip south by sledge to tell Nordenskold about the ship's problem. In January 1903 the Antarctic was caught by sea ice and a month later was crushed and sank. The crew managed to reach Paulet Island some 75 miles north of Snowhill in small boats. In October the three men from Hope Bay reached Snowhill Island. Then, on November 8, Capt. Larsen and some of his men reached Snowhill and reunited the men. The Argentine relief ship Uruguay provided for their return to Sweden. The narratives of these South Polar expeditions were published by Nordenskold in "Antarctic" Tua ar bland Sydpolens isar (2 vols., 1904-1905).

Nordenskold continued his polar expeditions and went to Greenland in 1906 and 1909. He was planning another Antarctic expedition with the British in 1914, but the war stopped it. His South American interest brought a trip to Chile and Peru in 1920-1921, where Nordenskold explored the Andes. He was the author of many general works on polar matters, some of which were translated into English, including The Geography of Polar Regions (1928). Nordenskold died on June 2, 1928, in Göteborg, where he had been professor of geography at the university since 1905.

Further Reading on Nils Otto Gustaf Nordenskold

There is no biography of Nordenskold in English. Information on him appears in William H. Hobbs, Explorers of the Antarctic (1941); E. W. Hunter Christie, The Antarctic Problem (1951); and Walker Chapman, The Loneliest Continent (1964).