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Vilhjalmur Stefansson Autographs, Memorabilia & Collectibles

Born: November 03, 1879 in Gimli, Manitoba, Canada
Died: August 26, 1962 in Hanover, New Hampshire
Biography | show moreshow less
Vilhjalmur Stefansson (November 3, 1879 – August 26, 1962) was a prominent Canadian Arctic explorer and ethnologist. Born in Gimli, Manitoba, Canada, to Icelandic immigrants, Stefansson's life and career were shaped by his interest in the Arctic and its inhabitants.

Stefansson's early education at the University of North Dakota was followed by studies at the University of Iowa, where he earned his B.A in 1903. A fellowship at Harvard University (1906-1907) introduced him to anthropology, a field that would become a lifelong passion. He embarked on his first Arctic expedition under the auspices of the American Museum of Natural History in 1906, during which he lived among the Inuit, adopting their language, diet, and lifestyle. Stefansson's innovative approach to survival in the Arctic—adopting Inuit techniques and diet rather than relying on traditional Western methods—was groundbreaking. His most notable expedition, the Canadian Arctic Expedition (1913–1918), is remembered for the discovery of previously unknown islands, including Brock, Borden, Meighen, and Lougheed, contributing significantly to Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic. However, the expedition was also marred by controversy and tragedy, with the Karluk shipwreck resulting in several fatalities.

A prolific writer, Stefansson published numerous books and articles about his Arctic experiences and the Inuit way of life. His works contributed significantly to the ethnographic understanding of Inuit culture and Arctic survival techniques. Post his exploration career, he served as an advisor to the U.S. government during WWII, providing insight into living conditions in the Arctic. Stefansson faced criticism over his leadership style and decisions, particularly relating to the Karluk tragedy. However, his contributions to the fields of exploration, anthropology, and ethnology remain influential. Stefansson spent his later years in Hanover, New Hampshire, where he continued his research until his death on August 26, 1962.

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