Lögberg-Heimskringla - 23.04.1970, Blaðsíða 4

Lögberg-Heimskringla - 23.04.1970, Blaðsíða 4
LÖGBERG-HEIMSKRINGLA, FIMMTUDAGINN 23. APRÍL 1970 Lögberg-Heimskringla Published every Thursday by NORTH AMERICAN PUBLISHING CO. LTD. Prinied by WALLINGFORD PRESS LTD. 303 Kennedy Slreet, Winnipeg 2, Man. Ediior: INGIBJÖRG JÓNSSON Presidenr, Jakob F. Kristjansson; Vice-President S. Alex Thorarinson; Secretary, Dr. L. Sigurdson; Treasurer, K. Wilhelm Johannson. EDITORIAL BOARD Winnipeg: Prof. Haraldur Bessason, chairmon; Dr. P. H. T. Thorlakson, Dr. Valdimar J. Eylands, Caroline Gunnarsson, Dr. Thorvaldur Johnson, Hon. Phillip M. Petursson. Minneopolis: Hon. Valdimar Bjornson. Victorio, B.C.: Dr. Richard Beck. Icelond: Birgir Thorlacius, Steindor Steindorsson, Rev. Robert Jack. Subscripiion $6.00 per year — payable in advance. TELEPHONE 943-9931 "Second class mail registration number 1667". Norður íshafið Það er tímabært að birta nú eftirfarandi erindi um hinn mikla landkönnuð, Dr. Vilhjálm Stefánsson, sem Dr. Thorvaldur Johnson flutti, er minnisvarði Vilhjálms var afhjúpaður í fæðingarbyggð hans Árnesi í Manitoba í sumar sem leið, en því miður hefir mér ekki unnist tími til að þýða það á íslenzku eins og tal- að var um. En flestir, ef ekki allir lesendur blaðsins geta notið ræðunnar á ensku. Hún var raunar birt síðastliðið sumar í Icelandic Canadian ritinu, ert fjöldi lesenda Lögbergs-Heimskringlu munu, því miður, ekki sjá það rit. Erindið er tímabært vegna þess að nú er Norðrið hátt á dagskrá í blöðunum í Canada og kannske einnig í Bandaríkjunum, þótt Canada sé sjaldan minnst þar syðra í blöðum. Flestir minnast þess þegar stórskipið Manhattan, reyndi að ryðja sér gegnum Ishafið síðastliðið sumar til Alaska, þar sem miklar olíulindir 'hafa fundist, og komst skipið nauðuglega til áfangastaðar með aðstoð canadíska ísbrjótsins John A. MacDonald. Nú hófst ónnur ferð Manhattans til Alaska 3. apríl og er áætlað að ferðin taki 8-10 vikur. Þessar ferðir hafa vakið Canadastjórn til um- hugsunar um, hve hættulegt það er fyrir norðurströnd- ina, eyjarnar, Ishafið og umhverfið ef þessi skip, misstu olíu í sjóinn, eins og víða hefir komið fyrir upp á síðkastið, og hefir nú Canadastjórn tilkynnt, að hún hafi fært landhelgina úr þremur mílum upp í tólf míl- ur eins og 60 aðrar þjóðir heims hafa gert á undan- förnum árum. Einnig telur Canadastjórn sér skylt og einnig, að það sé lögmætt, að hún haldi verndarhendi yfir Ishafinu á svæðunum hundrað mílur norður af eyjaklassanum í Ishafinu. 1 ræðu, sem Pierre Elliot Trudeau forsætisráð herra flutti nýlega fyrir blaðamenn sagði hann að allt líf í Norður-íshafinu væri svo viðkvæmt að ef hafið væri mengað af olíu eða óþverra af ýmsu tagi myndi líf í sjónum og umhverfinu ekki bíða þess bætur. Bandaríkjastjórn hefir nú sent Canadastjórn mót- mælabréf gegn þessum aðgerðum en ólíklegt er að Canadastjórnin láti það hafa áhrif á málið. Heims álitið hefir nú á síðari árum snúist gegn mengun vatna og hafs, og hverskonar eyðileggingu umhverfisins, og Richard Nixon forseti hefir sjálfur haldið ræður um að bæta úr syndunum, sem framdar hafa verið gegn náttúrunni og umhverfinu á undanförnum árum og öldum; það er því ólíklegt að olíufélögin, þó voldug sé, beri sigur úr bítum. Þess mega stjórnarmenn í Ottawa minnast nú með þakklæti, að það var Dr. Vilhjálmur Stefánsson, sem fann og kannaði síðustu eyjarnar í fshafinu og nam þær í nafni Canadaþjóðarinnar og benti jafnframt á hve Norðrið væri fagurt og hve mikilvægt það yrði þjóðinni í framtíðinni. — I. J. DR. THORVALDUR JOHNSON: Dr. Vilhjálmur Srefansson 1879—1962 All of us who live in this district, or have lived in it, are today basking in reflected glory because of the fact that Vilhjalmur Stefansson was born among us — for he was, in his time, the most famous Icelander, or I should perhaps say m'an of Icelandic descent, on either side of the Atlantic. His parents were among the group of immigrants who ar^ived in 1876, and they settled on the Hvammi farm, about a mile northeast of here, probably in 1877. It was there that he was born on November 3, 1879. The next year, 1880, was a year of disaster for many of the settlers. A year of rain and floods, loss of crops and cattle, and of serious illness. That year his parents lost two of their children; and like many others they decided to give up t'he struggle with the primeval forest and stony soil and move away to greener pastures. Next year, 1881, they moved away to the new settlement then forming at Mountain, North Dakota, leav- ing behind their little log cabin to moulder and decay as the years went by. The North Dakota settlement can really lay more claim to him than we can, for it was there that he grew up to manhood. It was there, at the University of North Dakota, that he got his undergraduate education. At the university he was somewhat like Stephan Leacock's horseman who got on his horse and galloped furiously in all directions. He was not satisfied with being a brilliant student, which he was. He took up debating and developed his remarkable abilities as a public speaker. He wrote poetry (and good poetry at that) for the student paper. His idol was Rudyard Kipling, but oddly enough, such poetry of his that I have does not resemble that of Kipling. He read widely. He de- veloped an interest in science by reading Charles Darwin; and he developed rationalistic views by reading the works of Robert Ingersoll. It was because of his liberal religious views and his known debating ability that he made his first contact with Harvard University — for he was, in the summer of 1900 at the age of 20, chosen as a representative of the Winnipeg Unitarian Church to a Unitarian congress in Boston. This turned out to be an important event in his life, and the circumstances are rather interesting. At that time the Winnipeg church was being supported by funds from the American Unitarian Association. Rumors came to Winnipeg that this support was going to be withdrawn. This was a serious matter. The then minister was unable to go to Boston, or did not feel like tackling the authorities there but, instead, got in touch with Stefansson and proposed that he use his debating prowess to argue the authorities there into continuing the support of the church. Although Stef ansson pointed , out that he was not a Unitarian at all, still he took on the task. Not only did he succeed, but he so impressed the man he dealt with (a Pro- fessor Fenn of the Harvard Divinity School) that he sug- gested that Stefansson should enter the Divinity School. This he actually did two or three years later, after his graduation. But he made a condition. Since he was not a believer, he would like to study religion as simply 'folklore'. Dr. Fenn thought this would be all right because by the time he had been at the Divinity School for a year or two he was sure he would have become a good Unitarian. Then Stefansson made another request. He would like to take one course in Anthropology from the Harvard School of Anthropology just across the street from the Divinity School. To this also Dr. Fenn agreed. After a year in the Divinity School he entered the Harvard School of Anthropology and was launched on a career that led to fame. It is a remarkable tribute to Stefansson's enterprise and initiative that within one year of entering the School of Anthropology he had persuaded Harvard University to fin- ance a small anthropological expedition to Iceland where he hoped to study the skeletal remains of early Icelanders. Here he ran into the difficulty that no one was permitted to dig up cemeteries. He got around this by finding an ancient graveyard (of the llth to 13th centuries) which was being eroded away by the sea. There he found plenty of material to study — no less than 82 skulls and skeletions lying on the shore. This was in 1905. Next year, 1906, was perhaps the most decisive year in determining his career. He had joined an American arctic expedition which was to travel by ship around Alaska whereas Stefansson was to go down the Mackenzie River and meet them at the mouth of the river. The expedition failed to reach its destination that summer and, in consequ- ence, Stefansson found himself stranded among the Eskimos. Actually, this suited him very well, for there was nothing he wanted to do more than to live among the Eskimo and study them. It was this winter (1906-07) that he acquired the key that gave him the mastery of the North —- that is, he learned how the Eskimo 'lived off the iand'. He learned their ways of hunting, preparation of food, travel, the building of igloos and many other things. And he learned their language. He was back in the United Stated in the fall of 1907, full of plans for the future. Then came the big years: (1) The joint American-,Cana- dian expeditioa 1908-12 in w h i c h he encountered the 'blond Eskimos' of Victoria Island, which most people have heard about and (2) the Canadian-sponsored expedi- tion of 1914-17 in which he discovered the last unknown land masses of the American continent, that is the islands he named for members of the Canadian Government, Bord- en, MacKenzie King, Meigh- en, Lougheed, and Perley. These were dangerous and spectacular operations involv- ing much travel on moving ice floes. At one time he and his two companions spent 96 days on drifting ice, at times hundreds of miles from land. On at least two occasions the world had given him up for dead. The older of us will re- member the flaring headlines in the papers when he was reported to be safe. I cannot close without say- ing something about the man, Vilhjalmur Stefansson; but on this I am not well qualified. I met him only twice, very briefly, and attended two of his lectures. But I must say something about the man, for the man is behind the achi- evements. Certain things are obvious. His brilliance as a student, in North Dakota, Iowa, and Har- vard. In his early years he was full of self-confidence, high spirits and mischief, and some of his activities led to his expulsion from the Uni- versity of North Dakota. His career at the University of Iowa was amazing. There he persuaded the authorities to let him write the examina- tions without having taken the courses — and got his degree in one year. He must have possessed a great deal of intellectual honesty. I think it was this that made him change his name from Wil- liam Stephenson (the name on his birth certificate) to Vil- hjalmur Stefansson when he was in his second or third year at the University of North Dakota. Evidently he felt that the anglization of his name was beneath his dignity. One of the amazing things about his career is the great impression he made on im- portant and influential peo- ple, even as a young man. There are many examples of this. He induced great finan- ciers like Sir Edmund Walk- er, Sir Edmund Osler, and Lord Strathcona to support his projects financially. He persuaded Sir Robert Borden, then Prime Minister, to make his 1914 expedition a purely Canadian expedition. Actual- ly, it was planned as an Am- erican expedition. Then it oc- curred to Stefansson that he might discover some new land

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