Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld

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Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld, oil painting by Axel Jungstedt, 1902
Detail from the painting Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld by the Swedish painter Georg von Rosen , 1886
Route of Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld

Adolf Erik Baron Nordenskiold (* 18 November 1832 in Helsinki ( Russian Empire ); † 12. August 1901 in Dalbyö today: community Trosa in Södermanland ) was in Sweden active Baron , a professor in Stockholm , polar explorer , cartographer and travel writer with of Finnish Swedish descent. He was the father of the ethnologist Erland Nordenskiöld and the uncle of the geologist Otto Nordenskjöld . Nordenskiöld was the first seafarer to cross the Northeast Passage in 1878/79 .


Nordenskiöld, the son of the mineralogist Nils Gustaf Nordenskiöld , studied in Helsinki ( Helsingfors in Swedish ) and went to Stockholm in 1857, where he became professor and head of the mineralogical collections in 1858 . Since then he has participated in all Swedish scientific expeditions to the Arctic, of which the first two (1858 and 1861) were under the direction of Torell and the two following (1864 and 1868) took place under the direction of Nordenskiöld.

For the fourth expedition, the Swedish state equipped the heavily built mail steamer Sofia , commanded by Captain Freiherr von Otter , which reached the northernmost point visited by a vehicle on September 19, 1868 at latitude 81 ° 42 ′ north . Through these expeditions was archipelago Spitsbergen investigated.

Nordenskiöld was elected to the Second Chamber for the Reichstag period from 1870 to 1872, where he worked in a liberal spirit. In 1870 it penetrated about 45 km into the inland ice on Greenland . Nordenskiöld described this journey in his work Redogörelse för en expedition till Greenland år 1870 ( Stockholm 1871). The fifth Swedish expedition, under his leadership, left Tromsø in mid-July 1872 and spent the winter on the Mosselbukta on Spitsbergen (79 ° 53 'north latitude and 16 ° 4' east longitude ). In the spring of 1873, he and a few companions first drove to the Seven Islands north of Spitsbergen (Norwegian: Sjuøyane ) and then over the inland ice of the northeast back to the winter station.

In 1875 Nordenskiöld drove through the Carian Sea to the mouth of the Yenisei and repeated this trip in 1876. In the same year he was appointed a corresponding member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and the Académie des Sciences in Paris.

He gained his greatest fame by successfully crossing the Northeast Passage along the north coast of Siberia in 1878/79 on the auxiliary sailor Vega . This expedition left Gothenburg on July 4, 1878 . After the Vega had circumnavigated the north coast of Siberia under many dangers, it froze at the end of September 1878 at 67 ° 30 ′ north latitude and 173 ° 23 ′ west longitude northwest of the Bering Strait and was only able to continue its journey on July 18, 1879, at the same time when the Jeannette under Captain George W. DeLong made the unsuccessful attempt to advance north through the Bering Strait. Nordenskiöld arrived in Japan at the beginning of September and drove back to Europe through the Suez Canal .

The King of Sweden, Oskar II , made Nordenskiöld a baron in April . The report on his epoch-making journey appeared in several languages ​​at the same time. On May 23, 1883, Nordenskiöld in Gothenburg went on an expedition to Greenland again, where he landed on July 1 in the Auleitsivikfjord in western Greenland. From there he went to the Greenland Ice Sheet between July 4th and August 4th and penetrated further than anyone before him. On August 17th, the expedition began its return journey, and it went through the ice blocking the southeast coast for the first time to land on the coast. The expedition arrived in Reykjavík on September 9th .

On July 3, 1882 ( registration number 2354 ) he was elected a member of the Leopoldina . In 1888 he was also elected as an honorary foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences .


Various areas of the Svalbard Archipelago are named after Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld: the Nordenskiöldbreen glacier, the Nordenskiöldbukta bay, the Nordenskiöldelva river, the Nordenskiölddalen valley, the Nordenskiöldkysten coastal region, the Nordenskiöldkysten mountain peak and the Nordenskiöldøldensya peninsula, the island of Nordenskiöldfjellet . There are also the Nordenskiöld Islands in the Kara Sea. The asteroid (2464) Nordenskiöld is also named after him. He was an honorary member of the Thuringian-Saxon Association for Geography.

Permanent exhibition in the Etnografiska Museet in Stockholm

The Vega Monument by Ivar Johnsson

An exhibition room in the Etnografiska Museet in Stockholm, Djurgårdsbrunnsvägen 34, Gärdet, shows the expedition finds of Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld.

The Vega Monument

The Vega Monument was erected on April 24, 1930 (fifty years after the Vega returned from the Northeast Passage) in front of the Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet in Stockholm, Frescativägen 40, Frescati. It is the work of Ivar Johnsson and shows a black granite block with the copper three-masted barque Vega.

The Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld Collection in the Helsinki University Library

The Adolf-Erik-Nordenskiöld Collection , founded by Nordenskiöld himself, was included in the UNESCO list of the “Memory of the World” world document heritage in 1997 . It is one of the world's most comprehensive collections of atlases, maps, geographical works and travel literature. The Nordenskiöld collection contains more than 5,000 works. The early works of cartography, including printed Ptolemaic atlases and nautical charts, are particularly valuable.


At the age of 15, Sven Hedin experienced the triumphant return of the Vega after sailing the Northeast Passage for the first time .

Stockholm on April 24, 1880

He describes this in his book My Life as an Explorer as follows:

On April 24, 1880, the Vega entered Stockholm's Ström. The whole city was illuminated. The houses around the harbor were blazing in the glow of innumerable lamps and torches. The constellation of Vega glowed in gas flames on the castle . In the middle of this sea of ​​lights the famous ship glided into the harbor. I stood with my parents and siblings on the mountains of Södermalm , from where we had a commanding view. I was gripped by the greatest tension. I will think back to this day all my life, it became decisive for my future path. Thunderous cheers boomed from the quays, streets, windows and roofs. 'That's how I want to come home one day,' I thought. "


  • Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld: Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld's trips to the north polar 1858 to 1879. Brockhaus, Leipzig 1880.
  • Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld: The circumnavigation of Asia and Europe on the Vega. With a historical look back at previous journeys along the north coast of the Old World. Authorized German edition. 2 volumes. With a preface to the German and Swedish editions. FA Brockhaus, Leipzig 1882.
  • Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld (Ed.): The scientific results of the Vega expedition. Edited by members of the expedition and other researchers. Brockhaus, Leipzig 1883.
  • Sven Hedin: Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld. En levnadsbeskrivning. Bonniers, Stockholm 1926.

Web links

Commons : Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Member entry by Erik Frhr. von Nordenskiöld at the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina , accessed on August 17, 2017.
  2. ^ Directory of the members of the Thuringian-Saxon Geography Association on March 31, 1885 ( Memento from December 1, 2017 in the Internet Archive )