by Tom Henighan
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Born in Manitoba of Icelandic parents, Vilhjalmur Stefansson (1879-1962) became one of Canada's most famous and controversial Arctic explorers. After graduate studies in anthropology at Harvard University, Stefansson lived with and studied Inuit in the Mackenzie River Delta in the Northwest Territories in the winter of 1906-07. In two subsequent expeditions he completed a major anthropological survey of the Central and Western Arctic coasts and islands of North America; located and lived with the Copper Inuit, a previously unknown group of aboriginal people; and discovered the world's last major land masses.
During his third and final great Arctic expedition from 1913 to 1918, some of Stefansson's men perished tragically, an outcome that severely damaged his reputation. Nevertheless, the hardy explorer contributed immensely to knowledge about the Far North, particularly in his championing of the "Friendly Arctic." Part scientist, part showman, Vilhjalmur Stefansson was truly unique among polar adventurers.
- Dundurn, March 2009
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