This Week in History
Explorer Maps Unknown Lands
|For the week of Monday February 16, 1998
On February 20, 1915, Vilhjalmur Stefansson headed north from his winter base camp on Banks Island in the western Arctic, searching for unknown land further north. Although he found no new lands on this trip he improved the coastal charts and crossed the Banks Island interior, reporting on much of what is now Aulavik National Park. The following year, starting from the same place, Stefansson earned life-long fame by locating the last unknown major land masses in the Canadian High Arctic.
Only half the expedition had landed when Stefansson's ship, the Karluk drifted away and was crushed in the ice. Stefansson was not on the Karluk when her drift began, and his own small party continued on foot with sledges. In September 1914, Stefansson reached Banks Island where he received fresh supplies for his February journey northward. His journeys in 1915 and 1916-17 were both successful, and he stayed in the North until 1918.
Vilhjalmur Stefansson died in 1962. He is commemorated by a Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaque at Arnes, Manitoba, where he was born. In 1992 the Government of Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories, and the Inuvialuit agreed to establish Aulavik National Park on Banks Island. This park represents and protects a part of the Western Arctic Lowlands ecosystem.
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