Eirik Raudes Land

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Map of Greenland with Eirik Raudes Land
Antarctichavn, place of the winter station of Governor Helge Ingstad
Norwegian memorial in Antarctichavn
Former Norwegian station Myggbukta, 1973

Eirik Raudes Land was the official Norwegian name for a territory on Greenland occupied by Norway from June 27, 1931 to April 5, 1933 .

Norway refused to recognize Danish sovereignty over the unpopulated areas of the former Norwegian island. The occupied territory on the East Greenland coast bounded by the Carlsbergfjord in the south at 71 ° 30 ′ N ( 71 ° 30 ′ 0 ″  N , 22 ° 33 ′ 7 ″  W ) and the Besselsfjord in the north at 75 ° 40 ′ N ( 75 ° 40 ′ 0 ″  N , 19 ° 34 ′ 40 ″  W ) and thus had a north-south extension of around 460 kilometers, was named after the Viking Eirik Raude ( Erik the Red ), who discovered Greenland in 985 would have. The Danish name of this region - granted after the Norwegian occupation - isKönig-Christian X-Land (from 70 ° N to 75 ° N). In the summer of 1932, Norway occupied the area between 60 ° 30 ′ N and 63 ° 40 ′ N, which was called Fridtjof-Nansen-Land , further south .

The interstate conflict was brought by Denmark to the Permanent International Court of Justice , which after lengthy hearing and investigation on April 5, 1933 ruled in Denmark's favor on all points. Norway recognized the verdict on the same day, which ended the occupation after almost two years. During the occupation, Helge Ingstad was responsible for Eirik Raude's land as Sysselmann (governor and government representative in Oslo).


In 1814 the existing real union between Denmark and Norway was dissolved (as a result of the Peace of Kiel ) and Norway was forced into a new union with Sweden. The areas of Iceland , Faroe Islands and Greenland, which have been subject to tax or tribute towards Norway for a long time , remained under the Danish krone. When the union with Sweden was dissolved in 1905 and Norway became completely independent again, a discussion arose in Norway as to whether Greenland actually belongs to the Kingdom of Norway.

As early as 1776, Denmark had a trade monopoly for raw materials and products from the south and west coast of Greenland and forbade foreign fishermen and hunters any access. In Norway there was fear that this trade monopoly and the Danish claim to sovereignty could also be extended to the east coast of Greenland - with the consequence of severe cuts for Norwegian companies operating in this area.

On July 22, 1919 there was a meeting in Oslo between the then Norwegian Foreign Minister Nils Claus Ihlen and the Danish ambassador to Norway, who was strictly against Norwegian fishing and hunting interests in the area of ​​East Greenland. During this conversation the Foreign Minister informed the Ambassador that Denmark could expand its political and economic interests to the whole of Greenland without having to expect resistance from Norway. This conversation was later highly controversial in Norway and was brought by Denmark in the proceedings before the Hague Court in 1933.

In 1921, with reference to the Kiel Treaty, Denmark declared that in future all of Greenland and the territorial waters around the island should be under Danish sovereignty. The Norwegian government viewed this letter of intent as an attack on Norwegian rights, particularly against Norwegian seal and whaling and fisheries on the East Greenland coast. Norway viewed Greenland as an ancient Norwegian possession and refused to recognize the Danish sovereignty claims for the unpopulated areas of the island. According to the Norwegian view, the Kiel Treaty gave Denmark sovereignty only for those areas that were settled or economically used, i.e. for the west coast of Greenland - the rest of Greenland was then at best no man's land (or Norwegian).

After lengthy negotiations, both countries signed the East Greenland Treaty in July 1924 , thereby agreeing that both countries should have equal rights with regard to fishing and hunting, scientific research and meteorological stations in the uninhabited parts of East Greenland. The question of sovereignty was left open in the treaty because no agreement had been reached on it. This contract did not formally expire until July 9, 1967, after there had been no hunting at all for a while.

When Denmark announced an expedition to the “Norwegian” territories in 1930, the dispute escalated again. The conflict was discussed everywhere as "the Greenland matter", but it was always only about the very sparsely populated eastern part of the island.

Norwegian and Danish companies in East Greenland

The Norwegian Ragnvald Knudsen from Sandefjord with the ship Hekla is considered to be the first to start hunting on the east coast of Greenland in 1889. The coast had a rich animal life, among other things musk ox , mountain hares and salmon were caught or fished . Four years later the first winter expedition was undertaken near Kulusuk at 65 ° 34 'north. The next wintering took place in 1908/1909, after which it was initially over until 1921 (after the official expansion of Danish sovereignty) in the Myggbukta (German: "Mückenbucht", 73 ° 29 ′ 28 ″  N , 21 ° 32 ′) 26 ″  W ) a permanent whaling, radio and weather station was set up. This station was the first in Greenland and was set up on the initiative of Norwegian meteorologists by a fishing expedition from Tromsø. This expedition itself, which consisted of seven men in addition to the crew remaining at the station, was lost on the way home and all seven participants were killed. The station in the Myggbukta was initially given up after a few years and then re-established in 1926. From then on, with the exception of the interruption due to the effects of the Second World War in the period from 1940 to 1946, its operation continued uninterrupted until the station was finally abandoned in 1959.

In the 15 years prior to the expansion of Danish sovereignty, only five research expeditions had been sent to Greenland, this number rose to 20 in the following 15 years, nine of which also wintered on Greenland. At the same time, the number of fishing expeditions also increased significantly.

From 1929 onwards, NSIU (“Norges Svalbard- og Ishavsundersøkelser” / “Norway's state Spitzbergen and Arctic Ocean Investigations”, a forerunner of today's Norwegian Polar Institute) began annual summer expeditions to East Greenland. In this extension of the NSIU's work area to East Greenland one can certainly see the desire of the authorities to support the hunting and fishing businesses run by private Norwegian companies. In the same year, on June 24th, the Norwegian company "Arktisk Næringsdrift A / S" was founded. The purpose of the company was all business of "hunting, fishing and mining operations as well as related companies." In practice, the company was primarily supposed to pursue hunting and fishing in East Greenland and to maintain the radio station in the Myggbukta for the Norwegian state. However, because the income from hunting and fishing initially did not cover the company's expenses, the Norwegian government granted a subsidy for the operation of Myggbukta Radio and also granted the company a larger loan. In the same year the Danes also founded a private company, the "Østgrønlandske Fangstkompani Nanok", which mainly had the same business purpose as the Norwegian company.

The construction of huts was seen as an important argument in favor of sovereignty claims (namely as a modest form of settlement and economic use), and between 1908 and 1931 Norwegian hunters and fishermen built more than 80 huts. The distance between these huts was about a day trip with the dog sled (was about 20 km), especially in order to expand the territory, which is coveted as a Norwegian area, as much as possible. By the beginning of the Second World War, the number of huts had grown to around 120, including 13 main stations. In accordance with the limited resources of the time, even these main stations were built very modestly: As a rule, they consisted only of twigs and wood and were only about 12 to 15 m² in size, with a kitchen and a single room. The other huts were only 4 square meters, with a bunk, a stove and a table.

On June 16, 1931, the largest Danish expedition to East Greenland to date started from Copenhagen . It had more than a hundred participants and was designed to last three years. Several thousand spectators and the Danish Minister of State (Prime Minister) Thorvald Stauning said goodbye to the two expedition ships on the quay. In view of this great expedition, the Norwegian lawyer and nationalist politician Gustav Smedal feared that the “Greenland affair” would be decided in favor of Denmark. It was also clear to him that the geologist Adolf Hoel , the then head of the NSIU, would not annex East Greenland on his own initiative. Hoel had previously been a central figure in securing Norwegian sovereignty: Svalbard (Spitzbergen), Peter I Island and the Antarctic Dronning Maud Land .

Norwegian occupation of East Greenland

King Haakon of Norway had no doubt about a Norwegian victory in the dispute with Denmark over East Greenland and considered the Danish position to be extremely poor and legally untenable. In general, Norway viewed Greenland as an ancient Norwegian possession and denied any Danish sovereignty over the island's undeveloped land.

On June 27, 1931, Hallvard Devold , head of his own fishing expedition based in the Myggbukta, undertook the private occupation of a large area of ​​East Greenland. Devold and his hunters were not completely alone in this occupation, as they also carried out the annexation on behalf of Gustav Smedal and Adolf Hoel.

Devold sent a telegram on June 28 to announce the occupation:

(Extract from the telegram):

“Nærvær av Eiliv Herdal, Tor Halle, Ingvald Strøm and Søren Richter he idag the norske flagg is called i Myggbukta. Og lands mellom Karlsbergfjord i syd and Besselfjord i north okkupert i Hans Majestet Kong Haakons navn. Landet har vi cold Eirik Raudes land "

“In the presence of Eiliv Herdal, Tor Halle, Ingvald Strøm and Søren Richter, we hoisted the Norwegian flag in Myggbukta today and annexed the land between the Karlsbergfjord in the south and the Besselfjord in the north in the name of His Majesty King Haakons. We have given this country the name Eirik Raudes Land. "

- Hallvard Devold, June 27, 1931

The annexed area was several thousand kilometers away from Danish populated areas.

At the beginning the occupation was a private company and the coalition government under Peder Kolstad initially kept its distance from it. Smedal writes about this in his diary that the intention of the private occupation was to convince the Norwegian authorities that an increased Danish interest in the areas of East Greenland could endanger Norwegian rights. After intensive lobbying, the Norwegian parliament and, in this case, a unanimous coalition government decided on July 10, 1931 for the official annexation of the area. On the same day the lawyer Helge Ingstad was appointed as Sysselmann (governor) over the new territory. The Norwegian Defense Minister Vidkun Quisling immediately issued the order that the Norwegian Navy should support the occupation if this became necessary.

Ingstadt came in 1932 with the polar ship Polarbjørn ( German  polar bear ) to Eirik Raudes Land, where he wintered together with his five-member staff in Antarctichavn ( 72 ° 2 ′ 0 ″  N , 23 ° 7 ′ 0 ″  W ) from 1932 to 1933 . They visited the hunters with boats and dog sleds and ensured law and order. After the annexation, Norwegian activities in the region increased significantly and, among other things, a large expedition was sent out with the polar ship Polarbjørn in 1932. This expedition also included two aircraft, which were primarily intended to take aerial photos of the region.

King Haakon, who was a native Dane himself, was committed to the side of his new Norwegian fatherland. It later became known that the king had been in dispute with his father, King Frederik VIII of Denmark, over the Greenland problem since 1906. King Haakon said Denmark was taking an untenable position and he fully trusted Norway to win in this dispute.

In July 1932, one year after the occupation of Eirik Raudes Land, Norway occupied a second area about 1,170 kilometers further south or southwest, which it called Fridtjof-Nansen-Land .

Especially in the period between the world wars, Norway was very active in securing additional sovereign rights over no man's land in the Arctic and Antarctic:

  • In 1925 the Norwegian parliament ratified the Svalbard Treaty , by the Svalbard (Spitzbergen) was placed under Norwegian administration.
  • In 1928 Norway got its first Antarctic possession, Bouvetøya (Bouvet Island), which was annexed in 1927 and declared Norwegian in 1928.
  • In 1929 Jan Mayen became Norwegian as well as Peter I Island (Island of Peter the First) (in Antarctica, annexed in 1929 and Norwegian territory since 1931).

The occupation of East Greenland was thus part of a whole series of extensions of Norwegian sovereignty.

Trial before the Permanent International Court of Justice

On the same day that Norway announced that Eirik Raudes Land was now Norwegian territory, Denmark brought the matter to the Permanent International Court of Justice in The Hague. For Norway, both Hoel and Smedal were later in the delegation that was supposed to represent Norway, while Denmark sent the polar explorer Lauge Koch , among others .

The trial before the court dragged on and meanwhile Ingstad and his men sat in Antarctichavn and waited for the telegram with the verdict. The construction of further huts on Scoresbysund had initially been suspended until a result of the legal proceedings was available. Helge Ingstad writes about this in his book Øst for den store bre :

"While we have no doubt that Norway will get its justice, there is little inclination to drive over to Scoresbysund and continue the work until we are really sure."

The Permanent International Court of Justice ruled against Norway and in favor of Denmark on all counts. As a direct result, Denmark immediately changed the name of the area to Kong Christian X's Land. Norway accepted the verdict and ended the occupation on April 5, 1933. King Haakon is said to have taken the defeat at the court very hard. A source very close to the royal family reported that the palace was very concerned about the king's health.

Hoel also took the defeat very hard at first. He accused the Norwegian authorities of lacking willpower and courage to follow up on his advance. In the same year Hoel joined the Norwegian fascist party Nasjonal Samling . At Quisling's request, he gratefully accepted the party's second place on the list for the parliamentary elections, a list that put incumbent Defense Minister Vidkun Quisling in first place and from the low election result in the parliamentary elections and the low membership of the party down to later occupation of Norway by Germany in World War II was practically insignificant.

In Antarctichavn a short telegram brought the verdict to Ingstad:

"Norge for Haag-domstolen tapt Grønlandssaken i alle punkter." ("Norway lost the Greenland matter before the Hague Court on all points.")

The verdict came unexpectedly for Ingstad and his people, and little was spoken after the telegram was read.

Time after the occupation

After the Hague judgment, much of Norway's interest in Greenland as an arena of scientific research disappeared. Nor did Norway subsequently question Danish sovereignty over the whole of Greenland.

The Second World War meant that Greenland gained strategic importance. Apart from the more or less successful establishment of small weather stations, Germany could not occupy Greenland, although both Denmark and Norway were occupied by German troops. In contrast, the USA occupied the island in 1941. The group around Gustav Smedal and Adolf Hoel later tried both with Quisling and with the German "Reichskommissar Norway" Josef Terboven to discuss the possibility of returning Greenland to Norway in the event of a German victory in the war. At a meeting with Smedal and Hoel, among others, Quisling stated that he wanted to send 100 prisoners to Eirik Raudes Land. The Germans, however, had no interest in opening another front on Greenland. The NSIU only sent a small ship to take care of the seven men who had wintered in Myggbukta station. However, the supply ship was seized by the American coast guard, which was patrolling the east coast of Greenland after the Allies learned that the German secret service had brought a Nazi man on board with the assignment, in Jonsbu ( 75 ° 19 ′ 32 ″  N , 20 ° 23 ′ 16 ″  W ) to set up a secret weather station for the German Air Force in the northern part of Eirik Raudes Land.

In 1959 all Norwegian activities in East Greenland were given up and the polar ship “Polarsel” (= “Polar Sea Dog”) picked up the station crew, their equipment and the last catch from Greenland.

Norwegian place names in East Greenland today

The NSIU named many places in East Greenland, but only a small number of these geographical names have been recognized and adopted by the Danish authorities. The reason for the rejection of the Norwegian place names was mainly the nationalist climate in connection with the dispute over Eirik Raude's land and the impression that the NSIU had named too many places at too fast a pace. The United States Air Force , however, used the names used by the NSIU in their Greenland map published in 1951.


In 1776, Denmark issued a monopoly of trade along the southern and western coasts of Greenland, banning foreign fishermen and hunters from entering the area. In 1922 Norway built a whaling, radio and weather station in the Myggbukta on the east coast of Greenland. The NSIU (Norwegian State Spitsbergen and Arctic Ocean Research) began in 1929 with annual scientific summer expeditions to East Greenland. The Norwegian company Arktisk Næringsdrift A / S was founded on June 16, 1929 and the Danish company Østgrønlandske Fangstkompani Nanok on June 24, 1929.

The largest scientific expedition of all time to East Greenland left Copenhagen on June 27, 1931. At the same time, Hallvard Devold and his hunters undertook a private occupation of the territory which is then referred to as Eirik Raudes Land. On July 10, 1931, the Norwegian government subsequently unanimously agreed to annex this territory. On the same day, Helge Ingstad was appointed Sysselmann for the new territory by the government.

The new Sysselmann Helge Ingstad spent the winter between August 1, 1932 and April 5, 1933 in the Antarctichavn settlement. The Hague International Court of Justice ruled in favor of Denmark on April 5, 1933. Norway accepted the judgment and the annexation was ended. All Norwegian state activities on Greenland were ended in 1959 and the polar ship Polarsel picked up the last crew from the station in the Myggbukta.


  • Odd Arnesen: Vi flyver over Eirik Raudes land , Oslo 1932
  • Ida Blom : Kampen om Eirik Raudes land: Pressgroupeppolitk i grønlandsspørsmålet 1921–1931 , Oslo 1973. ISBN 82-05-05719-2
  • Einar-Arne Drivenes, Harald Dag Jølle (red.): Norsk polarhistorie , bind 2 Vitenskapene. Oslo 2004. ISBN 82-05-32656-8
  • Odd-Bjørn Fure: Norsk utenriksppolitks historie . Bind 3 Mellomkrigstid: 1920-1940, Oslo 1996. ISBN 82-00-22534-8
  • Grønlandssaken: dom avsagt April 5, 1933 of the fast domstol for mellemfolkelig rettspleie, i also indicated the rescue status forvisse deler av Østgrønland , Oslo, 1933.
  • Idar Handagard: Danmarks urett og Noregs rett til Grønland , Oslo 1932.
  • Helge Ingstad: Øst for den store bre , Oslo 1935. ISBN 978-82-05-29733-3
  • Ivar Lohne: Grønlandssaken 1919–1945: fra borgerlig nasjonalt samlingsmerke til nasjonalsosialistisk symbolsak, Hovedoppgave i historie , Universitetet i Tromsø, 2000.
  • Frode Skarstein: Eirik Raudes Land - norsk arktisk territorialekspansjon øst for den store bre for 75 år siden , Tidsskriftet Historie, No. 3, 2006. ( English translation ( Memento of September 30, 2011 in the Internet Archive ))
  • Oddvar Svendsen: Eirik Raudes land i sporen etter Hallvard Devold and Helge Ingstad. Orkana Forlag A / S, 2017. ISBN 9788281042933 ( Online )

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ William James Mills: Exploring Polar Frontiers - A Historical Encyclopedia . tape 1 . ABC-CLIO, 2003, ISBN 1-57607-422-6 , pp. 273 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  2. Herre i herreløst land ( Memento of September 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive ), article in Karmøybladet , May 31, 2006. (Norwegian, archived)
  3. Levende Historie , no 6/2006 , page 25 (Norwegian)
  4. Exploration history of East Greenland 69 ° –82 ° N ( Memento from July 1, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF file; 294 kB), article from EastGreenland.com (English)
  5. Adolf Hoel : Ishavsfangst - fangstnæring , Oslo 1949. (Norwegian)
  6. Levende Historie , no 6/2006 , page 25 (Norwegian)
  7. Arkivverkets page about the Norsk Polar Institute (Norwegian)
  8. Arkivverkets page ( memento of October 23, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) about Arktisk Næringsdrift A / S (Norwegian)
  9. a b c d Frode Skarstein: Erik the Red's Land: the land that never was ( Memento from September 30, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) . In: Polar Research 25, 2006, pp. 173–179 (English)
  10. Adolf Hoel: Ishavsfangst - fangstnæring, Oslo 1949 (Norwegian)
  11. Levende Historie , No. 6/2006 , page 25 (Norwegian)
  12. a b c Da Norge planted flag on Grønland . In: Aftenposten , August 11, 2006 (Norwegian)
  13. Levende Historie , No. 6/2006 , page 27 (Norwegian)
  14. Norsk imperialist inn fra kulden , article from Aftenposten 19 March 2007 (Norwegian)
  15. Buskø-affæren - hvordan ei norsk selfangstskute ble USAs første fangst i andre verdenskrig ( Memento from September 30, 2011 in the Internet Archive ), article from the journal Historie, No. 1, 2007 (Norwegian)
  16. side of Ishavsmuséets ( Memento of 15 October 2007 at the Internet Archive ) (Norwegian, archived)

f1Georeferencing Map with all coordinates: OSM | WikiMap