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The Danmark expedition

The Danmark (Denmark) ekspedition named after the expedition ship “Danmark” is a Danish led expedition to Northeast Greenland in the years 1906-1908. The purpose of the expedition is to explore and map the northernmost East Greenland. Since the 1700s, Greenland has been slowly mapped piece by piece, but the harsh climate of the northeast region has meant that no one had managed to get far north up the Greenland eastcoast. At least 1600 kilometers (1000 miles) of coastline are unknown yet waiting to be discovered and mapped from Kap Bismarck up to the northern region near Cape (Kap) Bridgman. The plan of the expedition is to sail with the expedition ship as far north as possible, establish a base and then travel by dogsled further north along the coast, mapping the geography.

The expedition leader Ludvig Mylius-Erichsen plan extensive studies and travel using dog sleds, and the result is a total of more than 6500 km (4039 mi) travel on dog sled, a record distance on Arctic expeditions. The 2 major single sledge journeys, Team 2 with Koch as leader, ends up being about 2000 km (1243 mi) long, and Team 1 with Mylius-Erichsen as leader, may have exceeded 1800 km (1118 mi).

On an expedition in 1900 the American Robert Peary claims that a east-west channel separate the enourmous mainland of Greenland from the northern-most north-east part, named Peary Land. One of 2 primary goals of the Danmark expedition is to investigate whether this is true or false. The second goal is to find Peary’s cairn raised at Wyckhoff Land, the most eastern point reached on the Peary expedition.

Although the main objective for the expedition is to map the last unknown coastal areas of Greenland, very diverse research is being conducted and numerous scientific results being collected during the expedition, including the German scientist Alfred Wegener’s discovery that the earth surface moves, which a few years later led to his theory of plate tectonics.

In June 1906 the expedition ship “Danmark” departs from Copenhagen. After crossing the North Atlantic sea for a month the expedition arrives to East Greenland in August 1906. The expedition base Danmarkshavn is being designated and established and during the autumn and winter multiple preparations is made to support the dogsled journey the following spring up north along the unexplored northern eastcoast. In March 1907 four Teams, 10 men, 10 sleds and approx. 80 dogs starts out of Danmarkshavn. In April 1907 the most eastern part of Greenland, Nordostrundningen is discovered. Team 3 and 4 has already headed back towards the base. Shortly after passing Nordostrundningen the remaining 2 teams splits up; Team 1, Mylius-Erichsen, Niels Peter Høgh Hagen, Jørgen Brønlund, who will search and verify if the Peary channel exist, and Team 2, Johan Peter Koch, Aage Bertelsen, Tobias Gabrielsen, to identify the East Coast up to Peary’s cairn. With very little or nothing to hunt all men and dogs are starving. In May 1907 Team 1 discovers an approx. 200 km. deep fjord, which they believe is Independence Fjord. When they realize their mistake they name it Danmark Fjord and turn back out of the fjord. Meanwhile, Team 2 has, after a tough and grueling dogsled journey across the sea ice, reached Peary Land, located Peary’s cairn and traveled further as long as up to Cape Bridgman. On 28 May Sled Team 1 and 2 meets by an almost unbelievable coincidence in time, Team 1, on their way back out of Danmark fjord, and Team 2, on their way back from Cape Bridgman. This meeting place is named Kap Rigsdagen. Both teams decide to hurry back to the base in Danmarkshavn (Denmark Harbour) 750 km to the south. But the next morning Mylius-Erichsen has changed his mind. He announces that he and his team will spend a few days exploring Independence Fjord and then return. Therefore the two teams separates again. Team 1 heads for Independence Fjord – Team 2 heads back to base. On 23 June sled Team 2 arrives back to Danmarkshavn. Meanwhile, Team 1 has mapped the Independence Fjord. A few days have become weeks and the Greenland summer makes it continually harder and harder to travel with dog sleds. After a hard and risky trip back out of Independence Fjord, they finally reach Danmark Fjord in August 1907, where they are forced to camp until frost again makes it possible to travel. Worn out footwear and lack of materials makes it difficult and painful to hunt game. In order to survive sled dogs, one after one, must act as a small but yet a meal. This is an extremely difficult decision, both because of the close relationship between dogs and sled driver, but also because the reduction in the dog team inevitably mean that it will be, if possible, even harder to get back to the base in Danmarkshavn. In September 1907 Team 1 breaks up from the summer camp and, and in October 1907, from the bottom of Danmark Fjord they fight their way for 4 days to climb the Greenland ice sheet with only five remaining dogs. For almost a month they fight their way across the ice sheet. In November 1907 they reach Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden (79° Fjord). Without food and supplies and unable to reach a depot, first Niels Peter Høgh-Hagen dies, then Ludvig Mylius-Erichsen days later. Jørgen Brønlund succeeds in reaching the depot at Lambert Land and then to find a cave where he can stay. But he is too exhausted and is suffering from severe frostbite. He write his last diary-page and dies in late November 1907. In March 1908 a rescue team discovers the cave and Jørgen Brønlund’s dead body. The bodies of Høgh-Hagen and Mylius-Erichsen is never found in spite of several searches. The Danmark expedition and the searches continues over the summer and in July 1908 the expedition ship “Denmark” departs from Greenland and Danmarkshavn and arrive in Copenhagen about a month later.

About “The Danmark expedition” collection and tour: All tracks/Paths are very much limited approximations to the actual routes both due to the vast areas covered, the lack of precise data and the amount of hundreds of sled rides beside the 2 major single sledge journeys mapping the northeast Greenland coastal areas. Take these as illustration of which main areas this great sled ride did occur. The locations pinpointed of the death of the Team 1 members are very much approximations, due to the fact that very little and only vague information is available. Add the fact that the bodies of 2 of the 3 members, in spite of numerous search expeditions spread over more than hundred years, has never been recovered, spotted or even just revealed any clear indications of the actual places. The main idea of this Google Earth tour/collection, beyond the basic intent of pinpointing, in a chronological sequence, the locations of this landmark sledge journey into the unknown areas visited, has been to present the expedition tour to a broader audience, in English. Most text and descriptions is self-authored, except of course quotations, all been translated manually, naturally primarily from Danish. Placemarks has been named and labeled in best possible respect to both Danish, Greenlandic, English/American and other discoverers of the areas pinpointed. In Danish a ‘Ø’ is a ‘Island’, ‘Øer’ is ‘Islands’, ‘Ø’ is generally pronounced as ‘oe’. A ‘Kap’ is a ‘Cape’ and a ‘Varde’ is a ‘Cairn’. Tour creator: Tom Kjeldsen, created April 2011.

The 28 members of the Danmark expedition. Ludvig Mylius-Erichsen – expedition leader, journalist and author. Alf Trolle – first lieutenant, captain and deputy commander of the expedition. Henning Bistrup – lieutenant and first mate. Gustav Thostrup – second mate, cartographer and experienced officer. Christian Bendix Thostrup – third officer, accountant and secretary. Ivar Weinschenk – first engineer, had sailed for the East Asiatic Company and Norden. Hermann A. Koefoed – second engineer. Johannes Lindhard – the expedition’s doctor and former doctor at Ivittuut. Hans Ludvig Jensen – chief steward and cook in the royal Greenlandic Trade. Jens Knudsen Gundahl – carpenter on board the ship. Knud Christiansen – sailor, had before sailed on Greenland, also sailmaker. Peter Hansen – sailor, participated in the 1898-1900 Amdrup expedition to East Greenland. Charles Poulsen – sailor, went to sea as a 15 year old, sailed on Greenland. Carl Johan Ring – Norwegian maritime ice pilot, sailed “Danmark” (when it was called “Magdalene”) on trips to East Greenland. Harald Hagerup – A Norwegian electrical engineer with experience from other polar expeditions. Aage Bertelsen – painter, trained at art school Zahrtmann. Achton Friis – painter, The Danish Academy. Johan Peter Koch – Lieutenant, cartographer, experience from Iceland and Greenland. Niels Peter Høgh Hagen – lieutenant and cartographer. Frits Johansen – expedition zoologist, stud.mag. University of Copenhagen. Andreas Lundager – botanist, teacher, had worked in Greenland. A.L.V. Manniche – ornithologist, zoologist and hunter, teacher. Hakon Jarner – geologist and engineer from the Danish Polytechnic Institute. Alfred Wegener – German scientist in physics and meteorology. Peter Freuchen – Student. Hired as a stoker, assistant to Wegener. Jørgen Brønlund – Greenlandic sled driver, Kateket educated. Tobias Gabrielsen – Greenlandic sled builder and sled driver. Hendrik Olsen – Greenlandic hunter, sled driver and handyman.

***** This file is available at and also downloadable at GEC – Have a nice google earth tour… Let’s explore!