Archived information

This Web page has been archived on the Web. Archived information is provided for reference, research or record keeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.

Government of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Canada's Northern Strategy

Canadian Arctic Expedition 1913-1918 – Postcards

Table of Contents

Defending the True North Strong and Free: The Canadian Arctic Expedition (1913-1918)

PDF Version (56 Kb, 2 Pages)
Harold Noice standing beside flag and cairn on Meighan Island, Northwest Territories (Nunavut),
Canadian Museum of Civilization, Vilhjalmur Stefansson, 50688

In July 1913, the Canadian government sponsored the first major multinational, multidisciplinary study of the Canadian Arctic. Over five years, the Expedition discovered new islands, mapped thousands of square kilometres and produced 14 volumes of scientific research about the Arctic and its inhabitants. These discoveries helped define Canada's northern boundaries and provided significant scientific and cultural knowledge about the Arctic and Northern peoples. The Canadian Arctic Expedition showed that despite its youth, Canada was prepared to vigorously demonstrate its sovereignty over internationally contested territory and establish a strong legacy of Canadian Arctic science.


Vilhjalmur Stefansson, Commander of the Canadian Arctic Expedition and Leader of the Northern Party (1879-1962)

PDF Version (63 Kb, 2 Pages)
Vilhjalmur Stefansson at base camp near Cape Kellett, Northwest Territories
Canadian Museum of Civilization, George H Wilkins, 50869

As one of the most audacious explorers in Canadian Arctic history, Manitoba-born Vilhjalmur Stefansson was the driving visionary behind the Canadian Arctic Expedition. A volatile personality, he often clashed with government officials and fellow Expedition members. After his Party's main schooner, the Karluk, sank in 1914, Stefansson resorted to unconventional exploration methods, relying on traditional Inuit hunting practices for survival while exploring the Beaufort Sea. Stefansson discovered five new Canadian Arctic islands and mapped thousands of square kilometres of the High Arctic.


The Karluk tragedy, 1914

PDF Version (82 Kb, 2 Pages)
The Karluk, ca. 1913-1914. From Fitzhugh Green, Bob Bartlett Master Mariner (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1929) 152. Courtesy of Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage

In January 1914, the Canadian Arctic Expedition Northern Party's main schooner, the Karluk, was crushed by Arctic ice and sank near Wrangel Island after drifting on an ice floe since August 1913. During these five months, the 23 crew members, 11 of whom would perish, were shipwrecked on Wrangel Island while their captain and Inuit guide trekked to Siberia for help. In true Canadian fashion, despite their bleak situation, the Karluk survivors faithfully celebrated Dominion Day on July 1, 1914, planting a Union Jack flag on Wrangel Island. The remaining Karluk survivors were rescued in fall of 1914.


Dr. Rudolph Martin Anderson (1876-1961) Leader of the Southern Party, Canadian Arctic Expedition

PDF Version (82 Kb, 2 Pages)
Rudolph Martin Anderson at Bernard Harbour, Northwest Territories (Nunavut)
Canadian Museum of Civilization, George H Wilkins, 51216

The highly respected zoologist Dr. R. M. Anderson led the Canadian Arctic Expedition's scientific division known as the Southern Party. Under Dr. Anderson's leadership, the Southern Party accomplished most of its primary objectives within three years. His Southern Party collected 616 specimens of 73 species of Arctic birds and 422 specimens of 22 species of Arctic mammals. After the Expedition, Dr. Anderson edited 14 volumes of scientific results. He later became the chief biologist for the National Museum of Canada in Ottawa.


Patsy Klengenberg (1901/02-1946) Guide, Canadian Arctic Expedition

PDF Version (82 Kb, 2 Pages)
Patsy Klengenberg at Bernard Harbour, Northwest Territories (Nunavut) , Canadian Museum of Civilization,
George H Wilkins, 51243

Patsy Klengenberg was the son of a Danish whaler and Alaskan Inupiat mother. A skilled hunter and dog driver, 14-year-old Klengenberg was hired in 1915 by the Canadian Arctic Expedition to fill many roles, including hunter, dog driver, guide and interpreter. He also assisted Southern Party leader Dr. R. M. Anderson with collecting and maintaining Arctic specimens. In exchange for his services, Klengenberg received $300, guns, ammunition and other goods. It was said of Klengenberg that, "Probably no better interpreter could have been found anywhere along the Arctic coast." Using skills he acquired during the Expedition, including English language skills, he later became a successful businessman and trader in the Canadian Arctic.


Minnie Guninana, Seamstress and Cultural Interpreter, Canadian Arctic Expedition

PDF Version (69 Kb, 2 Pages)
Minnie and Iktuktorvik at 'North Star' camp near Cape Prince Alfred,
Northwest Territories Canadian Museum of Civilization, George H Wilkins, 51100

Minnie Guninana was a highly skilled Inupiat seamstress who worked for the Canadian Arctic Expedition from September 1915 to May 1917. Her husband, Alingnak, was a hunter and guide during earlier Arctic expeditions led by Vilhjalmur Stefansson. After the Expedition's main schooner, the Karluk, sank in January 1914, Stefansson hired Guninana and her husband for the new Northern Party. In the brutal Arctic conditions, Guninana's work was essential to the Expedition's success. Her knowledge of Inuit culture, which formed the basis of Stefansson's anthropological works, was also invaluable. Remembered for her cheerfulness, Stefansson, in 1921, described Guninana as "one of the best Eskimo informants I have ever had." She received $20-$40 a month for her services.