Sverdrup Commemorated on Postage Stamps


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'Don't go looking for Antarctica without this book.' - Susan Solomon



The Norwegian polar explorer Otto Sverdrup (1854-1930) was commemorated in March 2004 with a set of stamps issued jointly by Norway, Greenland and Canada.

Born on 31 October 1854, Sverdrup's Arctic career began in 1988 when he was selected by Fridtjof Nansen to join the team that attempted the first crossing of the Greenland ice cap. From that experience Nansen appointed him captain of the Fram, which Sverdrup helped design and rig, for the 1893 attempt to reach the North Pole.

During 1898-1902 Sverdrup led his own expedition, again with Fram, sailing as far north as possible along the west coast of Greenland. Ice conditions restricted their passage so they made for Ellesmere Island. Among other notable achievements, he was responsible for charting a total of 260,000 square kilometres (100,000 square miles) of the Canadian Arctic. His maps were so accurate that they were still in use until satellite-based maps were produced in the 1960s. Today many islands and waterways within this region still bear Norwegian names, including of course the Sverdrup Islands.

Despite his considerable achievements, Sverdrup has always been overshadowed by Nansen, Amundsen and Rasmussen. It wasn't until 1957 that a monument was erected to him in Steinkjer, Norway.

For more information about the explorer, go to the excellent Otto Sverdrup Centennial Expedition website.

The joint stamp issue is in the form of three souvenir sheets, one for each participating country. Each sheet features the same three images, but only one image is denominated.

The first stamp features a portrait of Otto Sverdrup against a background showing the polar explorer planting the Norwegian flag at the northernmost point of his expedition in Canada. In 1898-1902, Otto Sverdrup led the second expedition of the polar ship Fram, during which he charted a substantial area of the Arctic. This stamp is on sale in Norway.




The second stamp depicts the polar ship Fram docked, with the sled dogs ready for departure. Construction of the explorer ship was initiated by Fridtjof Nansen and Otto Sverdrup. This stamp is on sale in both Norway and Canada.





The third stamp relates to the east-to-west crossing of the Greenland icecap in 1888-89 which Nansen, Sverdrup and four others made on skis and snowshoes, and features the exploration team in a boat on the coast of Greenland on their way to hunt reindeer. This stamp is on sale in Greenland.




The Designers

The three stamps were designed and engraved by Martin Mörck, a Norwegian citizen living in Sweden. Mörck is an internationally recognized artist who has previously designed stamps for among others Canada, the US, Monaco, Sweden, Denmark, Greenland, France and the United Nations.

The three different Official First Day Covers were designed by Canadian Raymond Bellemare. He also created the cancellation that all three countries used, with changes to the text for their different languages.




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