Storker Teodor Storkerson
(this biography written by Jette Elsebeth Ashlee)
Storker Teodor Storkerson led a life marked by triumph and tragedy. Born in 1883
in Arctic Norway, Storkerson registered as a seaman in the merchant marine at
the age of 16. In Victoria, in 1906, he met Danish explorer Ejnar Mikkelsen and
American geologist Ernest de Koven Leffingwell who were planning an expedition
to the Beaufort Sea. Storkerson joined them on the "The Anglo-American Polar
Expedition" which charted the continental shelf north of Alaska. Vilhjalmur
Stefansson was also a member of this expedition. When Stefansson returned with
Dr. R. M. Anderson on the Stefansson-Anderson Expedition of 1908-12, Storkerson
helped them navigate small sloops filled with supplies and equipment.
At Herschel Island in 1910, Storkerson married Uiniq, or Elvina
(1895?-1931) as she was known in English, the first born of the union between
Klengenberg from Denmark and Kemnik from Alaska. They lived on the Mackenzie River
Delta until February 1914 when Stefansson, then leader of the Canadian Arctic
Expedition (1913-18) was recruiting a new Northern Party after losing his men
and equipment with his flagship, the Karluk. Storkerson was hired by Stefansson,
as was Uiniq who worked as a seamstress to the expedition.
Storkerson distinguished himself on the Canadian Arctic Expedition,
one of the last great journeys of discovery unsupported by radio communication
or aircraft. In 1914 and 1915 Storkerson explored the Beaufort Sea with Stefansson
and Ole Andreasen. They found no land in 1914 but did discover four unknown islands
north of Prince Patrick Island in 1915 and 1916. Storkerson almost completed mapping
the north coast of Victoria Island in journeys of 1915 and 1917, conducted the
first ever hydrographic soundings from floating sea ice, and outlined the continental
shelf between Alaska and the Arctic Archipelago. When Stefansson fell ill in 1918,
Storkerson led the final sea-ice journey to close the Expedition.
Following the expedition, Storkerson left his wife and their
three daughters Martina Novaluk (1911-1931); Aida Mamaginna (1915-1986); and
Bessie Povlirak (1918-1998) at St. Peter's Anglican Mission at Hay River in
the Northwest Territories. Storkerson then joined Stefansson in establishing the
Hudson's Bay Reindeer Company to introduce reindeer from Norway to Baffin Island,
an early project in sustainable development designed to make reindeer herders
out of Inuit caribou hunters. As resident manager of the reindeer enterprise,
Storkerson was to have been reunited with his wife and daughters at Amadjuak Bay
on Baffin Island. However, in a flash of anger over the Hudson's Bay Company hiring
a helper to assist him with selecting and transporting reindeer, which Storkerson
interpreted as a challenge to his integrity, he abruptly quit his position and
returned to Norway to establish his own private reindeer business in 1921.
His business failed and by 1925 Storkerson was destitute. He
made one last attempt to return to his family by mounting an expedition over the
North Pole to Canada. But as a Norwegian national, in the wake of Otto Sverdrup
claiming parts of the Arctic Archipelago for Norway, Storkerson could not obtain
the required exploration licence. Storkerson was woven into a catastrophic web
of circumstance, from which he had no recourse. The failures of both his reindeer
business and exploration plans to return to his family in Canada pushed him over
an edge from which he never returned. Storkerson was institutionalized until his
death at Sørøysund, Norway on March 22, 1940 and is buried near
A large peninsula on the north coast of Victoria Island as
well as a bay, lake and a river on Banks Island bear the name Storkerson.
Elvina (Weena) Storkersen
Elvina Storkersen was paid for her work as seamstress on the Expedition, for 16
months at $20 a month, and for 12 months at $40 a month (Auditor General's Report
1917-18). Her second daughter, Aida, was born on Banks Island in 1915. "Capt
Bernard returned in the dory bringing my wife and children Mrs Thomsen and her
children all well new born Babies especially mine a girl was born June 13th. Thomsens
June 23rd a boy" (Storkersen Diary, 9 August 1915).
Stefansson depended on the CAE seamstresses and gives credit
to Elvina and the other women for their important work:
"We arrived at Storkerson's base camp October 16th, which we found very homelike
under the management of Mrs. Storkerson and Mrs. Lopez. During the summer they
had done their full share in helping dry meat and now they were busy making warm
winter clothing and waterproof summer boots without which our work would be difficult
and comfort impossible" (Stefansson 1921).
In an unpublished manuscript Stefansson adds: "The women, Uttaktuak (Mrs.
Lopes) and Uinirk (Mrs. Storkersen) have both done much and good work and could
not have been much more useful than was really the case. They have skinned and
cut up oxen and done much of the drying work, besides sewing clothes" (Stefansson
manuscript, The Summer Work in Melville Island Dartmouth College).
Elvina Island on the north coast of Victoria Island is named
for Elvina Storkersen.
Sir George Hubert
Wilkins returned from the Arctic to Ottawa in September of 1916. On returning
home to Australia he was commissioned to make a photographic record of First World
War activities in northern France. He was awarded the Military Cross with bar
for his bravery. His life continued to be unusually adventuresome as he served
with the Shackleton Quest Antarctic Expedition in 1921-22, a British Museum expedition
in eastern Australia, and more Arctic work betweeen 1925 and 1927. In 1928 he
made a pioneering polar flight from Alaska to Spitzbergen, for which he was knighted
by King George V. During a trip under the polar ice in an obsolete submarine,
he took the first under-ice motion pictures. This was followed by four more journeys
to Antarctica, a trip around the world in the dirigible Hindenberg, and a flight
into the Canadian Arctic in a flying boat in search of six lost Russian aviators.
He served with the U.S. Armed Forces in the Second World War. After his death
in 1958, his ashes were scattered at the North Pole. Stefansson named the strait
between Borden Island and Mackenzie King Island in Wilkins' honour.