shortcut to content
Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Latest information about COVID-19 and the campus community


News Highlights

Page address:

Arctic explorer/environmental witness to speak about polar travels and climate change

Norwegian adventurer Thorleif Thorleifsson speaks at 4:30 today at a free public event in Centennial Student Union.

Minnesota State University, Mankato Media Relations Office News Release [2-21-12]

Thorleif ThorleifssonA modern day Norwegian explorer and environmentalist, who spent 80 days traveling in the footsteps of legendary polar explorers Roald Amundsen and Fritjof Nansen, will be a special guest speaker Tuesday, Feb. 28, on the campus of Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Thorleif Thorleifsson – Norwegian Naval Academy graduate, sailor, navigator and explorer – will speak from 4:30-6 p.m. in Ostrander Auditorium in the Centennial Student Union as part of a U.S. tour sponsored by the Norwegian government.

Other sponsors of the event are 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.

His presentation, which is his only one in Minnesota, will be free and open to the public. Thorleifsson and the Norwegian government chose Minnesota State, Mankato out of all of the possibilities in the state because of the reputation of its Scandinavian Studies Program, which factored strongly in the final choice of presentation sites. Other Midwestern presentations will be at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Thorleifsson, who began his U.S. tour with a presentation in Washington, D.C., will be accompanied by three Norwegian Embassy staff members – Marit Archer Saether, environmental counselor; Linken Berryman, cultural and information counselor; and Urd Milbury, cultural and information officer. They will be joined in Mankato by Gary Gandrud, the Norwegian Honorary Consul General from Minneapolis.

The explorer will talk about his circumnavigation of the North Pole and also share the excitement and challenges of modern-day exploration.

And he will reflect on the environmental and landscape changes he observed in comparison to the experiences and descriptions of Nansen and Amundsen, who undertook similar journeys a century ago. While they had to travel through the ice, he was able to sail the route because of polar melting. He will talk about what these dramatic changes of the Arctic seascape and environment mean for Scandinavia, for international politics, and for the global community.

“Roald Amundsen spent six years,” Thorleifsson said. “We departed Oslo on Midsummer Eve in June, sailed up along the Norwegian coast, through the Northeast Passage, across the Bering Strait and along the northern coast of Alaska, through the Northwest Passage, past Greenland and Iceland, and in the beginning of October returned to Oslo. All in four months. All in one season. When you also take into consideration that some of these places once were almost impossible to penetrate, I think that says a lot. And as an environmentalist I think that is very scary.”

Norwegian Ambassador Wegger Christian Strommen said Thorleifsson reflects a long Norwegian history of polar explorers, and Norway’s proximity and ties to the High North. “Norway is mostly north. Our name means way to the north and we are in close proximity to the part of the world which physically changes the most: the Arctic,” Strommen said, emphasizing Norway’s great concern for the dramatic climate changes which are all too visible in the northernmost part of the hemisphere. “Capt. Thorleifsson is not only an important witness to these changes; he is also an outstanding example of the great Norwegian history of explorers in this area of the world."

More information about this event can be found at or for questions, contact Dr. Suzanne Martin, Scandinavian Studies, at 507-389-2917, or email:

Minnesota State Mankato, a comprehensive university with 15,649 students, is part of the Minnesota State Colleges & Universities system, which comprises 32 state institutions.

Email this article | Permanent link | Topstories news | Topstories news archives