American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

One Hundred Years of Crossings of Greenland's Inland Ice

  • Feature Article
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1990

One Hundred Years of Crossings of Greenland’s Inland Ice*

Gunnar Jensen, Arctic Expeditions Adviser, Denmark

MORE THAN ONE HUNDRED YEARS ago, in the autumn of 1888, the ice-covered interior highlands of Greenland were explored by the Norwegian polar explorer, Fridtjof Nansen, during his scientific expedition across the Inland Ice from Umivik at Gyldenløves Fjord to Nuuk/Godthåb. This historic centenary brought about increased interest. A record of nine expeditions completed crossings in memory of Nansen in 1988. Naturally, the question arises, “How many expeditions have crossed Greenland’s Inland Ice?”

One normally thinks of crossings from East to West Greenland or vice versa. The route used by most is from Angmagssalik to Søndre Strømfjord. One solo Japanese crossed the Inland Ice from north to south in 1978 and another expedition from south to north in 1988.

The following list does not include expeditions that had to be rescued after calling by emergency radio, those that were evacuated by the authorities against their wishes and those that had to give up the crossing and requested evacuation. Expeditions rescued after completing the crossing are included but this is recorded in the remarks. The list gives the following: The year; the members with the leader’s name first; the route; the dates of the expedition (often with the number of days on the ice); remarks.

1. 1888; Norwegians Fridtjof Nansen, Otto Neumann Sverdrup, Kristian Kristiansen Trana, Oluf Christian Dietrichson, Samuel Johannesen Balto, Ole Nielsen Ravna; Umivik, Austmannadalen, Nuuk; August 15 to October 3 (40 days); ski, sleds, sail.

2. 1892; American Robert Edwin Peary, Norwegian Eyvind Astrup; McCormick Fjord, Navy Cliff, McCormick Fjord; May 14 to August 5 (97 days); ski, snowshoes, 2 sleds, 14 dogs. Support team of Langdon Gibson and Dr. Frederick A. Cook followed the expedition for 13 days and 200 kms with two sleds.

3. 1895; Americans Robert Edwin Peary, Hugh J. Lee, Matthew A. Henson; Bowdoin Fjord, Navy Cliff, Bowdoin Fjord; spring until June 25; 3 sleds, 42 dogs. Support team of 6 eskimos, 3 sleds, 18 dogs.

4. 1910; Danes Ejnar Mikkelsen, Iver P. Iversen; Shannon Ø, Danmark Fjord; March 24 to May 18 (51 days); ski, sleds, dogs. Support team of Hans P. Olsen, Georg Poulsen and Wilhelm Laub with 3 sleds followed until April 10.

5. 1912; Danes Knud Rasmussen, Peter Freuchen, Greenlanders Uvdloriaq, Inukitsoq; Clements Markham Gletscher, Danmark Fjord, Cairn built by Peary, Thule/Dundas; April 14 to September 15; ski, sleds, dogs. Accompanied by eskimos with 8 dog teams on the first 173 kms from Neqe.

6. 1912; Swiss Alfred de Quervain, Paul-Louis Mercanton, Roderick Fick, W. Jost, H. Hoessly, K. Gaule, A. Stolberg; Eqip, Angmagssalik; June 20 to July 21; ski, 3 sleds, 25 dogs. De Quervain, Mercanton and two more made the crossing while the three others carried out scientific research in the marginal area.

7. 1912-3; Danes Jens Peter Koch, Lars Larsen, German Alfred Wegener, Icelander Vigfus Sigurdsson; Danmarks Havn, Storstrømmen; July 24, 1912 to July 17, 1913; ski, sleds, sails, 16 horses, 1 dog. First wintering on the ice. Descent from the ice on July 4, 1913 east of Prøven.

8. 1917; Danes Knud Rasmussen, Lauge Koch, Greenlanders Hendrik Olsen, Ajako, Nasaitordluarsuk, Inukitsoq, Swede Thorild Wulff; Daniel Bruun Gletscher, Inglefield Land, Thule/Dundas; August 4 to October 22; ski, sleds, dogs. Olsen disappeared at Hendrik Island. Wulff died after descent from the ice.

9. 1921; Dane Lauge Koch, Greenlanders Inuiterk, Etukussuak, Nugapiin guak; Independence Fjord, Putlersbak; June 26 to August 12; ski, 3 sleds, 32 dogs.

10. 1931; Norwegains Arne Høygaard, Martin Mehren; Qaumarajuk Gletscher, Nordfjord; July 10 to August 18 (39 days); ski, 2 sleds, 16 dogs, sails. Distance: 1000 kms.

11. 1931; British J.M. Scott, A. Stephenson, Martin Lindsay; Angmagssalik, Ivigtut; July 1 to 29; ski, sleds, 27 dogs, sails.

12. 1931; British J. Rymill, W.E. Hampton; Angmagssalik, Søndre Strømfjord, Holsteinsborg; August 13 to October 19; ski, sleds, dogs, 2 kayaks.

13. 1934; British Martin Lindsay, Andrew Croft, Daniel Godfrey; Eqip, Gronau Nunatakker, Angmagssalik; June 3 to September 5 (95 days); ski, sleds, dogs. Longest journey without laying out depots: 1695 kms in 95 days!

14. 1936; French Paul-Emile Victor, Robert Gessain, Swiss Michel Perez, Dane Eigil Knuth; Nordenskjöld Gletscher, Angmagssalik; left on May 23 (48 days); ski, 3 sleds, 32 dogs, sails, collapsible boat.

15. 1949-50; French Paul-Emile Victor and 35 participants; A start was made on July 9, 1948 to bring support over the marginal zone from Eqip; three convoys set out from Eqip on July 1, 30 and August 7, 1949 for the “Station Centrale;” 8 men wintered over; from Station Centrale to Cicilia Nunatak with 5 weasels, 8 sleds, 2 trailers. Some participants of this scientific expedition went on from Cicilia Nunatak to Ella Ø.

16. 1952; Frenchman Paul-Emile Victor with American support; Thule Air- Base, Cap Georg Cohn; weasels.

17. 1952-4; British Michael Banks, C.B.B. Bull, S. Paterson and J.W. Oakley; Zachenberg, Northice, Thule Air Base; weasels, air support. 3 men wintered at Northice in 1952-3 and others 1953-4.

18. 1955; Americans and Frenchman Paul-Emile Victor; Thule Air Base, Cap Georg Cohn; tractors.

19. 1959; 40 Americans and Frenchman Paul-Emile Victor; Thule Air Base, Nyeboe Land/Peary Land, Thule Air Base; 6 D-8 tractors, 4 weasels, 1 polecat, 4 overland-train, 14 heavy sleds, and 2 aircraft and 1 helicopter.

20. 1960; Americans and Frenchman Paul-Emile Victor; Thule Air Base, Centrum Sø.

21. 1962; Norwegians Bjørn Staib, Bjørn Reese; Angmagssalik, Umivik, Nansens Teltplads; July 16 to August 22 (29 days); ski, 2 sleds, 16 dogs.

22. 1965; Scots Hugh and Myrtle Simpson, Roger Tuft, William Wallace; Johan Petersen Fjord, Søndre Strømfjord; June 20 to July 25 (36 days); ski, sleds, sails. First woman to cross the Inland Ice.

23. 1966; Finns Erik Pihkala, Eero Varonen, Viljo Haapala, Christer and Peter Boucht; Angmagssalik, Søndre Strømfjord; May 6 to June 20 (38 days); ski, 3 sleds, 30 dogs, sails.

24. 1968; Japanese Kaneshige Ikeda, Tsuguo Saotome, Katuhiko Miyoshi, Hiroshi Sagano, Tadashi Towada; Angmagssalik, Jakobshavn; July to September.

25. 1968; Norwegians Svein R. S0ftestad, Øyvind Bay Gundersen, JohanGar- rard; Isertoq, Søndre Strømfjord; July 10 to August 4 (24 days); ski, 1 sled, 1 pulk, 16 dogs. Accompanied to a height of 630 meters by Eilif Solbergand Henning Ingnasiussen from Isertoq.

26. 1970; West Germans Peter Lechhart, Günther Bock, Michael Dacher, Franz Martin; Nansens Teltplads, Isertoq; May 26 to July 8 (42 days); ski, 2 sleds, sails.

27. 1971; Danes John Andersen, Erik Hjemlar, Sven Poulsson, Englishman Derek Fordham; Angmagssalik, Glacier de France, Sarqaq; April 22 to June 23 (62 days); ski, sleds, sails.

28. 1973 Norwegians Ralph Høybakk, Herman Mehren; Angmagssalik, Hann Gletscher, Søndre Strømfjord; May 25 to June 25 (23 days); ski, 1 sled, 12 dogs. Helicopter from Angmagssalik to Hann Gletscher.

29. 1973; American Dennis C. McAllister and 3 others; Angmagssalik, Chris- tianshåb; May (46 days).

30. 1974; British Joint Services Expedition; Flight Lieutenant Daniel Gleed; Shaun Marshall, Dan Drew, Tom Addison, Mike Cran, Mike Hill, Steve Bodycote, John Pollard; Søndre Strømfjord to Angmagssalik; May 4 to June 9 (37 days.)

31. 1975; Japanese Massa Masuda, Swedes Monica Masuda, Björn Albino; Angmagssalik, Søndre Strømfjord; April 7 to May 29 (50 days); ski, sled, sail; helicopter from Angmagssalik to 65° 57' N, 38° 40' W.

32. 1978; Japanese Naomi Uemura; Academy Gletscher, southern Greenland; May 21 to August 21 (93 days); ski, sled, dogs, air support. Radio contact.First solo crossing. First north-south crossing.

33. 1980; Americans Paul Erickson and 7 others; Angmagssalik, Johan Petersen Fjord, Søndre Strømfjord; June 15 to August 4; boat from Angmagssalik to Johan Petersen Fjord, ski, pulks.

34. 1981; Finns Pentti Kronqvist, Seppo Salomaki, Norwegians Arild and Kjell Bronken; Angmagssalik, Søndre Strømfjord; April 20 to May 18 (26 days); ski, sleds, sails. 3 sleds with dogs accompanied them up the Hann Gletscher to a height of 1050 meters.

35. 1982; Norwegians Morten Berle, Jan Enget, Ståle Blærsterdalen, Ola D0lven, Kjell Brennodden; Angmagssalik, Christianhåb; May 19, to June 15 (27 days); ski, pulks.

36. 1982; British W.S.L. Wooley, Iain Campbell, Ted Courtnay, Roger Daynes, David Matthews, John Beatty; Angmagssalik, Søndre Strømfjord; July 15 to August 28.

37. 1983; West Germans Arved Fuchs, Rainer Neuber; Marmorilik, Station Centrale, Harefjord; May 8 to July 16 (70 days); ski, 2 sleds, dogs.

38. 1983; Norwegian Carl Emil Petersen solo; Angmagssalik, Søndre Strøm- fjord; April 20 to May 17 (26 days); ski, sled, parachute. Accompanied by 2 sleds from Angmagssalik to a height of 900 meters. Petersen was 58 years old.

39. 1983; Italians Robert Peroni, Josef Schrott, Wolfgang Thomaseth; Arden- caple Fjord, Kraulshavn; June 15 to September 10 (82 days); ski, 3 sleds, sails. Distance 1050 kms.

40. 1984; Norwegians Kjell Einar Andersen, Guttom Christensen, Kåre Kullerud, Håkon Nordseth; Umivik, Nuuk; April 18 to May 26; ski, pulks. Christensen, hurt by a fall beyond Austmannadalen, was transported by helicopter to hospital.

41. 1984; Czechs Jaroslav Pavlicek, Vladimir Weigner, Miroslav Jakes; Angmagssalik, Søndre Strømfjord; September 17 to October 26 (40 days); ski, sleds.

42. 1985; French Allain Misner, Paul Valentini, Didier Drouet; Isertoq, Søndre Strømfjord; July 12 to August 3 (23 days); ski, 3 pulks. They descended near Godthåb Fjord and were rescued on August 6 by helicopter after a radio emergency call. They were three days without food.

43. 1986; Norwegians Jan Morten Ertsaas, Børge Ousland, Agnar Thoralf Berg; Angmagssalik, Umanaq; March 26 to May 1 (37 days); ski, 3 pulks, parachutes. Helicoptered to 1000 meters in Johan Petersen Fjord. Distance 800 kms.

44. 1986; Spaniards Ramón Hernando de Larramendi, José Bellido Trullenque, Pedro Guevara Martínez, Gabriel and Gonzalo Gardenas Sarralde; Angmagssalik, Jakobshavn (Søndre Strømfjord); May 6 to July 1 (42 days); ski, pulks. They departed from Tiniteqilaq on May 13. Bad weather for 20 days. Destination was changed to Søndre Strømfjord.

45. 1986; Norwegians Sjur M0rdre, Vidar Sie, Kai Knudsen, Simen Mørdre; Angmagssalik, Jakobshavn; June 16 to July 9 (23 days); ski, 4 pulks, sails. Helicopter from Angmagssalik to Femstjernen.

46. 1987; British James N. Lowther, Nicholas Hulton; Angmagssalik, Søndre Strømfjord (helicopter from Angmagssalik to Sangmiliq Gletscher); March 31 to April 29 (30 days); ski, 2 pulks, parachutes. They covered 130 kms in one day with parachutes.

47. 1988; Norwegians Asle T. Johansen, Jan Morten Ertsaas, Agnar Thoralf Berg, Roar Nese; Angmagssalik to Umivik (by helicopter), Kapisigdlit, Nuuk; March 19 to April 28 (40 days); ski, sleds, sails. All equipment was exact copies of that used by Nansen in 1888.

48. 1988; Danes Michael Haslund-Christensen, Morten Søborg, Anders Berg- gren, Norwegians Ole Hoff, Tor-Jostein Hunstad; this expedition followed the same route and the same time schedule as the previous expedition (47 days) and filmed it. A helicopter was used to film the ascent up and descent off the ice. Snowmobiles were flown in and used outside the marginal zone.

49. 1988; American Will Steger, French Jean-Louis Etienne, Bernard Prud’homme, Englishman Geoff Somers, Soviet Viktor Boyarski, Japanese Keizo Funatzu; east of Narssaarssuaq, Humbolt Gletscher; April 19 to June 16; ski, sled, 30 dogs, air support. First south-north crossing of the Inland Ice.

50. 1988; Spaniards Josu Iztueta Azkue, Nekane Urkia Arana, Dina Bilbao Barruetabena, Angel Ortiz Zabala, Miguel Angel Plaza Tadeo; Angmagssa- lik, (helicopter to 700 meters above Johan Petersen Fjord), Søndre Strøm- fjord; April 29 to May 24 (26 days); ski, 5 sleds.

51. 1988; West Germans Michael Krug, Martin Boick, Günther Kerber, Udo Krieger, Frank Wagner; Angmagssalik, (helicopter to Hann Gletscher in Johan Petersen Fjord), Kapisigdlit; April 28 to June 4 (36 days); ski, pulks, parachutes.

52. 1988; Swedes Lars Wallgren, Dag Aronsson, Jan O. Johansson; Angmagssalik, (helicopter to Johan Petersen Fjord), Søndre Strømfjord; June 7 to July 14 (41 days); ski pulks.

53. 1988; Italians Giuseppe Cazzaniga, Gianfranco Fasciolo, Maurizio Della Libera, Anna Bianca, Giulio Beggio, Giovanni Spinelli; Angmagssalik, 10 kms NE of Dannebrog 0, Austmannadalen, Nuuk; June 27 to July 25 (29 days); ski, 3 sleds, sails. Helicopter from Angmagssalik to 500 meters on the ice. Helicopter from end of the ice to Nuuk.

54. 1988; West Germans Michael Vogeley, Gerhard Miosga, Walter Obster, Werner Schiller; Angmagssalik (helicopter to Umivik), Austmannadalen, Nansens Teltplads, Kapisigdlit; July 21 to August 24 (32 days); ski, 4 sleds, sails.

55. 1988; Norwegians Stein P. Aasheim, Nils U. Hagen, Odd Eliasen, Jo Toftdahl; Angmagssalik, Umivik, Austmannadalen, Nuuk. August 12 to September 9 (27 days); ski, 4 sleds, sails. All equipment was exact copies of that used by Nansen in 1888. Boat from Angmagssalik to Umivik. They departed from Umivik just 100 years after Nansen did on August 15, 1888. The sails were not used.

Coordinates for locations mentioned





Academy Gletscher

81° 40' N, 34° 00' W



Angmagssalik

64° 20' N, 40° 40' W



Ardencaple Fjord

75° 40' N, 22° 20' W



Austmannadalen

64° 10' N, 50° 10' W



Bowdoin Fjord

77° 40' N, 68° 30' W



Cairn built by Peary

81° 40' N, 34° 10' W



Cap Georg Cohn

88° 10' N, 27° 00' W



Centrum Sø

79° 40' N, 25° 30' W



Christianshåb

68° 50' N, 51° 10' W



Cicilia Nunatak

72° 30' N, 28° 00' W



Clements Markham Gletscher

77°55'N, 72°00'W



Dannebrog Ø

65° 20' N, 39° 40' W



Daniel Bruun Gletscher

81° 40' N, 53° 30' W



Danmark Fjord

81° 00' N, 27° 00' W



Danmarks Havn

76° 45' N, 18° 40' W



Eismitte

71° 25' N, 44° 15' W



Ella Ø

72° 50' N, 25° 00' W



Eqip

69° 35' N, 50° 20' W



Femstjemen

66°35' N, 36°45'W



Glacier de France

66°25'N, 35°55'W



Godthåb

64° 10' N, 51°40'W



Gronau Nunatakker

69° 30' N, 30° 05' W



Hann Gletscher

65° 50' N, 38° 20' W



Harefjord

70° 55' N, 28° 20' W



Hendrik Ø

82° 10' N, 53° 00' W



Holsteinsborg

66°55'N, 53°40'W



Humbolt Gletscher

79° 30' N, 63° 00' W



Independence Fjord

79° 10' N, 66°00'W



Isertoq

65° 30' N, 39° 00' W



Ivigtut

61° 10' N, 48° 10' W



Jakobshavn

69° 15'N, 51°05'W



Johan Petersen Fjord

66° 00' N, 38° 25' W



Kapisigdlit

64° 15' N, 50° 15' W



Kraulshavn

74° 10' N, 57° 00' W



Marmorilik

71° 10'N, 51° 15'W



McCormick Fjord

77° 40' N, 70° 00' W



Nansens Teltplads

64° 15' N, 50° 05' W



Narssarssuaq

61° 10' N, 45° 25' W



Navy Cliff

81° 40' N, 35° 00' W



Neqe

77°50' N, 71°35'W



Nordenskjöld Gletscher

68° 30' N, 50° 30' W



Nordfjord

73° 40' N, 24° 30' W



Northice

78° 00' N, 39° 00' W



Nuuk (Godthåb)

64° 10' N, 51° 40' W



Nyboe Land

81° 10' N, 55° 00' W



Peary Land

82° 00' N, 39° 00' W



Prøven

72° 20' N, 55° 35' W



Putlersbak

80° 00' N, 65° 00' W



Qaumarajuk Gletscher

71° 10' N, 51° 10' W



Sangmiliq Gletscher

66° 15'N, 35°50'W



Sarqaq

70° 00' N, 52° 00' W



Søndre Strømfjord

67° 00' N, 50° 40' W



Shannon Ø

75° 10' N, 18° 00' W



Station Centrale

71° 25' N, 40° 15' W



Storstrømmen

76° 50' N, 22° 30' W



South Greenland

62° 00' N, 44° 00' W



Thule Air Base

76° 30' N, 68° 50' W



Thule/Dundas

76° 30' N, 68° 50' W



Tiniteqilaq

65°55'N, 37°45'W



Umanaq

70° 40' N, 52° 10' W



Umivik

64° 20' N, 40° 40' W



Zachenberg

74° 30' N, 20° 30' W



*Drawings are from Fridtjof Nansen’s First Crossing of Greenland, courtesy of Rare Books Collection, Wellesley College.

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