Our Shared Stories
Updated: Jul 8
Her Excellency Mona Elisabeth Brøther (photo above), Norway’s ambassador to Canada, has completed her tenure and is returning to Norway to enjoy a well-earned retirement. The CNS has benefitted greatly from her support and assistance during her stay. CNS president Tim Mark, vice-president Bruce Miller, and I, wished to express our appreciation to her, so we invited Ambassador Brøther and her husband, Åsmund Baklien, to lunch at the Signatures Restaurant on January 5. The ambassador was full of enthusiasm about Norwegian-Canadian relations and we were greatly impressed by the depth of her knowledge on the subject. Her January article in the Huff Post entitled “Norway and Canada: An Important and Long-Standing Relationship” (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/mona-elisabeth-brother/norway-canada-economic-relationship_b_8982868.html) is an eye-opener about the extent of Norway’s importance to the Canadian economy. It is well worth a read.
Ambassador Brøther’s husband, Åsmund Baklien, is a marine biologist. In chatting with him, I was delighted to discover that he had spent time doing research at the same marine biology station in Drøbak as my grandfather, also a marine biologist, had many years earlier.
We were privileged to receive from Ambassador Brøther copies of a new booklet published by the Royal Norwegian Embassy. Fresh off the press, it is called “Look North: Maritime History Across the Atlantic Ocean”. It contains eight stories about Norway’s travels across the Northern Atlantic over the last thousand years, “an important testament to a shared history”, as Ambassador Brøther writes in its introduction. The following poem by Norwegian poet Rolf Jacobsen is printed on the inside cover, against a background photo of the northern lights:
Look North more often.
Go against the wind,
You will get redder cheeks.
Find the rugged path.
Keep to it. It’s shorter.
North is best.
Winter’s sky of flames.
Summer nights’s sun miracle.
Go against the wind.
Look North. More often.
This is a long country.
Most is North.
It was the spirit of hardy adventure articulated in this poem that drove Norwegian men like Roald Amundsen and Supt. Henry A. Larsen to brave the Arctic elements on their quests to navigate through the Northwest Passage. This issue includes a report on the 2015 Roald Amundsen Lectures, which took place in Oslo on December 4th and 5th. Larsen’s daughter, Doreen Larsen Riedel, is a CNS member and was invited to lecture at the event - a reminder of the significance that these voyages of exploration still have for us today.
My story in last month’s issue about tasting my first lutefisk triggered an important memory for CNS member Eric Jarvlepp. A very significant event in his life happened in Finland in early 1945, a few months after he had been badly wounded as a soldier fighting against Russia. It is a heartwarming story, but also a reminder of the sacrifices and hardships that are part of our shared stories too.
Report on the Roald Amundsen Memorial Lecture of 2015
Doreen (Larsen) Riedel, a member of the Canadian Nordic Society, was an invited speaker during The Roald Amundsen Memorial Lectures for 2015 which were held 4/5 December at the Fram Museum in Oslo. Included in the program was a formal dinner held on the deck of the Fram.
On December 4, the Honorable Alexandra Shackleton, granddaughter of Ernest Shackleton, opened a very detailed and interesting exhibition entitled “Exploring Shackleton”. This exhibition was developed by the staff of the Fram Museum and will eventually be traveling to a number of countries around the world, including Japan. A film, “Frank Hurley’s South”, consisting of a large amount of original footage, was also shown. Four presentations were held on December 5.
Doreen described the alterations the St Roch had undergone from the time of launching and during its Arctic career. She also provided little known information about the background of members of the crew who sailed her during the two historic voyages. Doreen is the daughter of the late Norwegian-born, Supt. Henry A Larsen, RCMP FRGS LLD, who in 1940-42 commanded the RCMP Vessel St Roch through the Northwest Passage from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and in 1944 westward from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the more northerly route.
Beau Riffenburgh, a historian, polar author and past editor of the Polar Record, spoke about the Nimrod expedition (British Antarctic Expedition) of 1907–09, the first of Shackleton’s three expeditions to the Antarctic. Riffenburgh’s publication entitled “Nimrod, Shackleton’s Forgotten Expedition”, is very well written, and gives a clear picture of Shackleton’s egalitarian character and his persistence in achieving his goals.
Of great interest was a presentation by Per Skarung: The Significance of Petroleum During Amundsen’s and Scott’s South Pole Expeditions. Per is responsible for the ExxonMobil historical Archives in the Nordic countries and has researched the Norwegian petroleum history. His presentation demonstrated the role of the Fram’s diesel engine in the development of early ship engines in ocean going vessels, and also reminded us of Amundsen’s extraordinary attention to detail in the planning of his expeditions which contributed to his outstanding successes.
Susan Barr, a historical archeologist, who is currently Senior Advisor on Polar matters at the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage, as well as President of International Arctic Science Committee, gave the audience an informative look at the generally little known Japanese Shirase Expedition to the Antarctic from Japan 1910-12.
The 9 course dinner following the presentations was a recreation of the dinner served at the Norwegian Royal Palace on 20 August 1912 to Roald Amundsen and his men to welcome them home from the South Pole. The re-creation included all the speeches, songs, jokes and merriment of the original occasion.
Eric Jarvlepp’s Lutfisk Experience
On New Year's eve 1944 I was a patient in a military hospital in Tampere, Finland. I had been severely wounded in June, 1944 on the Karelian Isthmus during the great offensive of the Russian army. It started on June 9th and lasted for 10 days, when they were stopped.
I was invited to a Finnish family to celebrate the arrival of 1945. For over six months , I had not been outside of the hospital. A medical student, Liisa, walked me over half a kilometre to her home. I was exhausted and perspired profusely. Upon arrival I laid down on a sofa.
The festive dinner included lutfisk. It is cod, cut into strips, air dried and preserved in lye or caustic soda (NaOH). That makes it look white. The strips are hard like wood. To prepare them for baking, the strips are soaked in water.
After a year of war-time army food, my stomach could not digest lutfisk, which may have contained traces of lye. So I threw up. This is how I was introduced to my future wife Leena, her parents and siblings. Needless to say, I was never again exposed to lutfisk*.
* Swedish spelling.