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Peter Freuchen

Peter Freuchen
Freuchen in 1921
Born Lorenz Peter Elfred Freuchen
(1886-02-02)February 2, 1886
Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
Died September 2, 1957(1957-09-02) (aged 71)
United States
Heart attack
Nationality Danish
Fields Anthropologist
Known for Arctic explorer, author, journalist, anthropologist.
Spouse Navarana Mequpaluk
Magda Vang Lauridsen
Dagmar Cohn

Lorenz Peter Elfred Freuchen (February 2, 1886 – September 2, 1957) was a Danish explorer, author, journalist and anthropologist.


  • Personal life 1
  • Career 2
  • Later years 3
  • Affiliations 4
  • Literary prizes 5
  • Works 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Personal life

Freuchen was born in Nykøbing Falster, Denmark, the son of Anne Petrine Frederikke (née Rasmussen; 1862–1945) and Lorentz Benzon Freuchen (1859–1927).[1] Freuchen married three times. First, in 1911, to Navarana Mequpaluk (d. 1921), an Inuit woman who died in the Spanish Flu epidemic after bearing two children (a boy named Mequsaq Avataq Igimaqssusuktoranguapaluk (1916 - c. 1962) and a girl named Pipaluk Jette Tukuminguaq Kasaluk Palika Hager (1918–1999)[2]). His second marriage, in 1924, to Magdalene Vang Lauridsen (1881–1960) was dissolved in 1944. Lastly, in 1945, he married Dagmar Cohn (b. 1907). Freuchen's grandson, Peter Freuchen Ittinuar, was the first Inuk in Canada to be elected as an MP, and represented the electoral district of Nunatsiaq in the Canadian House of Commons from 1979 to 1984.[3]

Freuchen's Danish island estate was named Enehoje.[4]


He spent many years in Thule, Greenland, living with the Polar Inuit. He worked with Knud Rasmussen, crossing the Greenland icecap with him. In 1935, Freuchen visited South Africa, and by the end of the decade, he had travelled to Siberia.[5]

In 1910, Knud Rasmussen and Peter Freuchen established the Thule Trading Station at Cape York (Uummannaq), Greenland, as a trading base. The name Thule was chosen because it was the most northerly trading post in the world, literally the "Ultima Thule".[6] Thule Trading Station became the home base for a series of seven expeditions, known as the Thule Expeditions, between 1912 and 1933.

The First Thule Expedition (1912, Rasmussen and Freuchen) aimed to test Robert Peary's claim that a channel divided Peary Land from Greenland. They proved this was not the case in a remarkable 1,000 km (620 mi) journey across the inland ice that almost killed them.[7] Clements Markham, president of the Royal Geographical Society, called the journey the "finest ever performed by dogs."[8] Freuchen wrote personal accounts of this journey (and others) in 'Vagrant Viking' (1953) and 'I Sailed with Rasmussen' (1958). He states in 'Vagrant Viking' that only one other dogsled trip across Greenland was ever successful.

While in Denmark Freuchen and Rasmussen held a series of lectures about their expeditions and the Inuit culture.

Freuchen's first wife, Mekupaluk, who took the name Navarana, followed him on several expeditions. When she died he wanted her buried in the old church graveyard in Upernavik. The church refused to perform the burial, because Navarana was not baptized, so Freuchen buried her himself. Knud Rasmussen later used the name Navarana for the lead role in the movie "Palos Brudefærd" which was filmed in East Greenland in 1933. Freuchen strongly criticized the Christian church which sent missionaries among the Inuit without understanding their culture and traditions.

When Freuchen returned to Denmark in the 1920s he joined the Social Democrats and contributed with articles in the newspaper Politiken. He was also the leader of a movie company.

In 1932 Freuchen returned to Greenland. This time the expedition was financed by the American Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film-studios.

He was also employed by the film industry as a consultant and scriptwriter, specializing in Arctic-related scripts, most notably MGM's Oscar winning Eskimo/Mala The Magnificent starring Ray Mala, and featuring Freuchen as Ship Captain. In 1956, he won $64,000 on The $64,000 Question, an American TV quiz-show on the subject "The Seven Seas".[2]

In 1938 he founded The Adventurer's Club (Eventyrernes Klub in Danish), which still exists. They later honoured his memory by planting an oak tree and creating an Eskimo cairn near the place, where he left Denmark for Greenland in 1906. (It is situated east of Langeliniebroen in central Copenhagen and not far from the statue of The Little Mermaid.)

During World War II, Freuchen was actively involved with the Danish resistance movement against the Germans, despite having lost a leg to frostbite in 1926.[9] He was imprisoned by the Germans, and was sentenced to death, but he managed to escape and flee to Sweden. He later moved to the USA.

As he related in 'Vagrant Viking', he was friends with the royal families of Scandinavia and other countries, and his movie work in New York and Hollywood brought him into the 'royalty' of moving pictures and the political world of Washington, D.C.

Later years

Freuchen and his wife Dagmar, a fashion illustrator, lived in New York City, and maintained a second home in Noank, Connecticut.

The preface of his last work, Book of the Seven Seas, is dated August 30, 1957, in Noank.[9] He died of a heart attack three days later in Elmendorf, Alaska. After his death, his ashes were scattered on the famous table-shaped Thule Mountain near the USAF Thule Air Base.


Literary prizes


  • Grønland, land og folk, 1927 (Travelbook) Freuchen's first book
  • Storfanger, 1927 (Novel)
  • Rømningsmand, 1928 (novel)
  • Nordkaper, 1929 - The Sea Tyrant (novel)
  • Ivalu, 1930 - Ivalu, the Eskimo Wife - suomennettu (novel)
  • Knud Rasmussen. Mindeudgave. 3 vol, 1934 (Peter Freuchen, Therkel Mathiassen and Kaj Birket-Smith)
  • Flugten til Sydamerika, 1935 (Memories)
  • "Arctic Adventure: My Life in the Frozen North", Farrar & Rinehart, New York, Toronto, Copyright 1935.
  • Min grønlandske ungdom, 1936 and 1953 (Memories)
  • Nuoruuteni Grönlannissa (Memories)
  • Min anden ungdom, 1938 (Memories)
  • Sibiriske eventyr, 1939 (Memories)
  • Diamantdronningen, 1941 (novel)
  • Hvid mand, 1943 - White Man - Valkoinen mies eskimoiden parissa (novel)
  • Eskimofortællinger, 1944 (novel)
  • Solfjeld, 1944 (novel)
  • Larions lov, 1948 - The Law of Larion (novel about the inland Indians along the Yukon river)
  • Eskimodrengen Ivik, 1949 - Eskimopoika Ivik (novel)
  • Nigger-Dan, 1951 (novel)
  • I al frimodighed 1953 (Memories)
  • "Ice Floes and Flaming Water", 1954
  • I all uppriktighet", 1954 (Memories)
  • Vagrant Viking, 1954 (Memories)
  • Fremdeles frimodig, 1955
  • Fortfarende uppriktig"´, 1956 og 1960 (Memories)
  • Fangsmænd i Melville-bugten, 1956 - Pyyntimiehiä Melville lahdella (novel)
  • Fra Thule til Rio, 1957 (Memories)
  • "Peter Freuchen's Book of the Seven Seas", Julian Messner, Inc., New York, Copyright 1957.
  • Peter Freuchens bog om de syv have, 1959 (Documentary)
  • "The Arctic Year", G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York, Copyright 1958. (Peter Freuchen and Finn Salomonsen)
  • "I Sailed with Rasmussen, 1958 (Documentary)
  • Hvalfangerne, 1959 (novel)
  • "Peter Freuchen's Adventures in the Arctic", Julian Messner, Inc., New York, Copyright 1960. (Edited by Dagmar Freuchen)
  • Det arktiske år, 1961 - Arctic Year (Documentary)
  • "Peter Freuchen's Book of the Eskimos", Peter Freuchen Estate. Cleveland Ohio, Copyright 1961.- (Edited by Dagmar Freuchen)
  • Erindringer, 1963 - (Edited by Dagmar Freuchen)


  1. ^ "Husband: Peter Freuchen". December 26, 2008. Retrieved 2009-03-09. 
  2. ^ a b "Vagrant Viking". Time ( April 7, 1958. 
  3. ^ Ittinuar, Peter Freuchen
  4. ^ "Big Dane Tamed".  
  5. ^ a b Liukkonen, Petri; Ari Pesonen. "Peter Freuchen (1886-1957)". Retrieved 2009-03-09. 
  6. ^ Knud Rasmussen, 1927, Across Arctic America, Introduction.
  7. ^ Elizabeth Cruwys, 2003.
  8. ^ Clements Markham, 1921
  9. ^ a b Freuchen, Peter; David Goldsmith Loth; George Plimpton (2003). Peter Freuchen's Book of the Seven Seas. Globe Pequot. pp. 11–12.  

External links

  • Peter Freuchen on (Danish)
  • Peter Freuchen (Danish)
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