About the Encyclopedia Arctica
The Encyclopedia Arctica is the typescript of a proposed 20-volume reference work on the
northern arctic and subarctic regions. The project was begun in 1947 under the sponsorship
of the Office of Naval Research, Department of the Navy and drew on the expertise of
governments (especially Canada), learned societies, and scholars from all over the world.
In 1951 the Navy withdrew its support after 3 or 4 million words had been written.
Subjects covered include archaeology, anthropology, botany, engineering, geography,
geology, history, law (including international relations), language, medicine, meteorology,
oceanography, religion, zoology, biographies, and special topics such as the image of the
arctic in Shakespeare.
Four sets of the manuscript were in existence in 1954; three under the care of the Navy
and one in the Stefansson Collection. In 1970, a microfilm was produced and is available for
consultation; in 2008 a color digital facsimile was produced from the original typescript;
searchable texts have been created from those images, and encoded in XML.
About Vilhjalmur Stefansson (1879-1962)
Vilhjalmur Stefansson was born on November 3, 1879, in Arnes, Manitoba, Canada to Icelandic immigrants. In 1881,
the family moved to North Dakota. Without a formal primary education Stefansson entered the University of North Dakota's
preparatory department in 1898, but was expelled in 1902, for allegedly inciting a protest within the student body. He then
enrolled at the University of Iowa from which he graduated with a B.A. in 1903. After a year of studying theology at the Harvard
Divinity School he joined the Anglo-American Polar Expedition, which was under the auspices of Harvard and the University of Toronto,
in 1906. In 1908, he participated in the Stefansson-Anderson Expedition, which took him to northern Alaska for four years.
In 1913, he set out again on the Canadian Arctic Expedition which explored sea and islands north of Alaska and the
Canadian mainland. This was the last expedition Stefansson physically participated in as he began to focus his energy
on the lucrative lecture circle and the writing of books on arctic subjects including "My Life with the
In 1946, he was contracted by the United States Office of Naval Research to create a
comprehensive work on the arctic entitled the 'Encyclopedia Arctica.'
Stefansson and dozens of other writers worked on the project for five years.
However, the US government abruptly canceled the contract in 1951.
In 1947, the Stefansson's moved to Vermont and Stefansson became an
Arctic Consultant at Dartmouth College. He also sold his extensive arctic library to the college,
but he and his wife remained involved in its upkeep. Stefansson died of a stroke in Hanover on August 26, 1962.
About The Stefansson Collection on Polar Exploration
Founded as the private research collection of the Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson (1879-1962),
the Stefansson Collection on Polar Exploration is an exceptionally rich body of material for research
on the history of both the Antarctic and the Arctic. For the Antarctic regions, the bulk of the collection
is concerned with events prior to World War II. For the Arctic regions, the bulk of the collection is
concerned with events prior to 1930. As Stefansson himself worked exclusively in the Arctic, this
part of the collection is more robust.
The collection has four main components:
1. Printed materials:
Published expedition records and diaries, biographies, bibliographies, and general histories of the regions are collected as well as serial bibliographies on both regions.
Logbooks, diaries, journals, correspondence, and the personal papers of many polar explorers are held in the collection.
The bulk of the photographic holdings relate to the Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913-1918.
4. Vertical Files:
Reference files containing clippings, offprints, articles, notes, and bibliographic references.
Copyright © Trustees of Dartmouth College