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An Environmentally Literate Explorer

A. E. Nordenskiöld’s Three Expeditions to the North Asian Coast, 1875–1879

Seija A. Niemi


Nils Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld (1832–1901), a Finnish Swedish scientist and explorer, made three expeditions to the North Asian coast between 1875 and 1879. He completed ten expeditions to the Arctic region between 1858 and 1883. The unifying goal of the North Asian expeditions was to open a trade route between Europe and Siberia. As a scientist, Nordenskiöld also studied the flora, fauna, geology, geography, hydrology, meteorology, ethnology, and history, and produced charts of this unfamiliar territory. This article argues that Nordenskiöld used his skills of environmental literacy when he combined the commercial and scientific goals of his expeditions. He also had the ability to deal with the environment in practical and rational terms, which I argue is also one expression of environmental literacy.