peter-freuchen

World’s Most Interesting Persons (#1)

Why just places ? Humans can be interesting too !! Very interesting, in fact !! So here we are, bringing you interesting facts about some really interesting personalities from around the world. And no, we are not talking about the ad for Dos Equis beer !! Haha !!

World’s Most Interesting Persons (#1)

peter-freuchen

Lorenz Peter Elfred Freuchen (February 2, 1886 – September 2, 1957) was a Danish explorer, author, journalist and anthropologist. Freuchen is a top candidate for the Most Interesting Man in the World. Standing six feet seven inches, Freuchen was an arctic explorer, journalist, author, and anthropologist. He participated in several arctic journeys (including a 1000-mile dogsled trip across Greenland), starred in an Oscar-winning film, wrote more than a dozen books (novels and nonfiction, including his Famous Book of the Eskimos), had a peg leg (he lost his leg to frostbite in 1926; he amputated his gangrenous toes himself), was involved in the Danish resistance against Germany, was imprisoned and sentenced to death by the Nazis before escaping to Sweden, studied to be a doctor at university, his first wife was Inuit and his second was a Danish margarine heiress, became friends with Jean Harlow and Mae West, once escaped from a blizzard shelter by cutting his way out of it with a knife fashioned from his own feces, and, last but certainly not least, won $64,000 on The $64,000 Question.

He spent many years in Thule, Greenland, living with the Polar Inuit. He worked with Knud Rasmussen, crossing the Greenland icecap with him. In 1935, Freuchen visited South Africa, and by the end of the decade, he had travelled to Siberia. In 1910, Knud Rasmussen and Peter Freuchen established the Thule Trading Station at Cape York (Uummannaq), Greenland, as a trading base. The name Thule was chosen because it was the most northerly trading post in the world, literally the “Ultima Thule”. Thule Trading Station became the home base for a series of seven expeditions, known as the Thule Expeditions, between 1912 and 1933.

The First Thule Expedition (1912, Rasmussen and Freuchen) aimed to test Robert Peary’s claim that a channel divided Peary Land from Greenland. They proved this was not the case in a remarkable 1,000 km (620 mi) journey across the inland ice that almost killed them. Clements Markham, president of the Royal Geographical Society, called the journey the “finest ever performed by dogs.” Freuchen wrote personal accounts of this journey (and others) in ‘Vagrant Viking’ (1953) and ‘I Sailed with Rasmussen’ (1958). He states in ‘Vagrant Viking’ that only one other dogsled trip across Greenland was ever successful. While in Denmark Freuchen and Rasmussen held a series of lectures about their expeditions and the Inuit culture.

Freuchen’s first wife, Mekupaluk, who took the name Navarana, followed him on several expeditions. When she died he wanted her buried in the old church graveyard in Upernavik. The church refused to perform the burial, because Navarana was not baptized, so Freuchen buried her himself. Knud Rasmussen later used the name Navarana for the lead role in the movie “Palos Brudefærd” which was filmed in East Greenland in 1933. Freuchen strongly criticized the Christian church which sent missionaries among the Inuit without understanding their culture and traditions.

When Freuchen returned to Denmark in the 1920s he joined the Social Democrats and contributed with articles in the newspaper Politiken. He was also the leader of a movie company. In 1932 Freuchen returned to Greenland. This time the expedition was financed by the American Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film-studios. He was also employed by the film industry as a consultant and scriptwriter, specializing in Arctic-related scripts, most notably MGM’s Oscar winning Eskimo/Mala The Magnificent starring Ray Mala, and featuring Freuchen as Ship Captain. In 1956, he won $64,000 on The $64,000 Question, an American TV quiz-show on the subject “The Seven Seas”. In 1938 he founded The Adventurer’s Club (Eventyrernes Klub in Danish), which still exists. They later honoured his memory by planting an oak tree and creating an Eskimo cairn near the place, where he left Denmark for Greenland in 1906. (It is situated east of Langeliniebroen in central Copenhagen and not far from the statue of The Little Mermaid.)

During World War II, Freuchen was actively involved with the Danish resistance movement against the Germans, despite having lost a leg to frostbite in 1926. He was imprisoned by the Germans, and was sentenced to death, but he managed to escape and flee to Sweden. He later moved to the USA. As he related in ‘Vagrant Viking’, he was friends with the royal families of Scandinavia and other countries, and his movie work in New York and Hollywood brought him into the ‘royalty’ of moving pictures and the political world of Washington, D.C.

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