Arctic Explorer Thorleif Thorleifsson Visits MSU

Only Minnesota stop on American tour with Norwegian Embassy

MANKATO, Minn. –A polar explorer and environmental witness from Norway ventured to the Minnesota State University, Mankato campus this Tuesday to tell of his 80-day adventure around the North Pole.

Thorleif Thorleifsson, a Norwegian Naval Academy graduate, sailor, navigator and explorer paid a visit to a capacity crowd at the Ostrander Auditorium on the Minnesota State University, Mankato campus on Feb. 28.

Thorleifsson’s presentation detailed the environmental changes occurring at the North Pole and traced his path as he traveled the same route as early 20th century polar explorers Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen.

Arctic trip easier because of global climate change

While Amundsen’s and Nansen’s travels  took six and three years, respectively , Thorleifsson said he and his crew made the trip in only 80 days because of global climate change.

According to figures from Thorleifsson, the ice volume in the North Pole is 55 percent less than it was in 1979.

Donald Friend, chair of MSU’s geography department said in his introduction of Thorleifsson, “This trip could not have been done even five years ago, due to ice.”

Thorleifsson said “The Arctic used to be an impenetrable, lethal beauty. Now it has completely changed.”

Bare-essential boat gained speed advantage, left little environmental impact 

Thorleifsson’s navigated the Arctic in a small three-person boat to easily avoid ice and to make speed. The boat could sail in depths as little as three feet and could be raised to sit above ice in only 30 minutes.

Thorleifsson said he used a small boat to leave as little impact environmentally as possible.

The boat had no heating system, so Thorleifsson said he listened to salsa and tropical music on his iPhone to keep warm.

Thorleifsson breathlessly described the sights and sounds he saw on his trip to the audience, which included seals, polar bears and a brief trek with a passenger from Dubai.

Mankato is the only Minnesota stop on Thorleifsson’s tour of America, which is being sponsored by the Norwegian government.

Co-sponsors of the event included the Norwegian Embassy; University Advancement; the colleges of Arts and Humanities; Science, Engineering, and Technology; and Social and Behavioral Sciences; the Scandinavian studies program; and the departments of biological sciences, chemistry, geography, geology, government, history, and world languages and cultures.


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