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Early Exploration
The Arctic
Foreign Adventure
Aboriginal Perspective

Otto Sverdrups’ Explorations: 1898 – 1902

Image of a map of Sverdrup’s explorations in the high Arctic

In 1898, Norwegian explorer Otto Sverdrup and 16 crew mates set out from Norway to map areas of the high Arctic, then known only as terra incognita,  "uncharted land". They spent four years travelling across the western Arctic on their ship, the Fram, and by dogsled. Sverdrup's team was the first to scout and chart the Arctic west of Ellesmere Island. 

When ice at Smith Sound threatened their initial path towards northwestern Greenland, Sverdrup steered the mission west. Ellesmere Island's west coast had been previously explored by Europeans, but what lay beyond the frigid mass remained completely unknown. The Fram's crew docked at Pim Island and spent the next year investigating by dogsled. The crew ventured to Amund Ringnes and Ellef Ringnes Island, which appropriately became the Sverdrup Islands. The crew then travelled between Axel Heiberg and Ellesmere Island to their most northern point, Nansen Sound, and to their most southern point along the Wellington Channel. During the four-year journey, the Fram's crew traveled a total of 18,000 kilometres by dogsled and Sverdrup charted 160,000 square kilometres of previously unmapped land, greater than any past or future northern expedition.

"Otto Sverdrups’ Explorations: 1898 – 1902" from "The Norwegian connection",Canadian Geographic September/October 1999