See more of the Virtual Museum of Canada
Northern People, Northern Knowledge - 
The Story Of The Canadian Arctic Expedition 1913 - 1918
The People of the CAE: Leaders, Scientists, Captains And Crews, Local Assistants
Northern Party | Southern Party | The Karluk
Main Menu


Northern Party


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.

CMC CD96-663-027

Storker Storkerson, standing with hands on hips, in 'long John' underwear shirt, pants, and boots, on rocky shore, probably Polar Bear camp south of Armstrong Point, northwest Victoria Island, N.W.T. June 2, 1916. GHW 51679. Source: Canadian Museum of Civilization

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.

CMC CD2001-250-026

Storker Storkerson, his wife Elvina, and their daughters Martina and Aida at the Polar Bear camp, Armstrong Point, northwest Victoria Island, N.W.T. June 1, 1916. GHW 51180. Source: Canadian Museum of Civilization

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 his birthplace.

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.


Notice advertising Storkersen's lecture at the Engineering Institute of Canada, March 29, 1920. Source: Canadian Museum of Nature

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
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.