Tuesday, 15 March 2016

What an incredibly interesting man!

Lorenz Peter Elfred Freuchen (February 2, 1886 – September 2, 1957) was a Danish explorer, author, journalist and anthropologist. He stood at 6'7" as an adult.

Freuchen was born in Nykøbing Falster, Denmark. He married three times. First, in 1911, to Navarana Mequpaluk, an Inuit woman who died in 1921 during the Spanish Flu epidemic after bearing two children, a boy named Mequsaq Avataq Igimaqssusuktoranguapaluk and a girl named Pipaluk Jette Tukuminguaq Kasaluk Palika Hager. His second marriage, in 1924, to Magdalene Vang Laurieston, was dissolved in 1944. Lastly, in 1945, he married Dagmar Cohn. 

Freuchen's grandson, Peter Freuchen Ittinuar, was the first Inuk in Canada to be elected as an MP, and represented the electoral district of Nunatsiaq in the Canadian House of Commons from 1979 to 1984.

Peter Freuchen spent many years in Thule, Greenland, living with the Polar Inuit. He worked with Knud Rasmussen, crossing the Greenland icecap with him. In 1910, Knud Rasmussen and Peter Freuchen established the Thule Trading Station, the most northerly trading post in the world.

Freuchen's first wife, Mekupaluk, who took the name Navarana, accompanied 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 Brudafærd" 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.

Freuchen lost a leg to frostbite in 1926, but that didn't stop him being actively involved in the Danish Resistance Movement during World War II. He was imprisoned by the Germans, and was sentenced to death, but he managed to escape and flee to Sweden.

Freuchen with his second wife, Magdalene:

In 1945 Freuchen moved to New York City and married his third wife, Dagmar Cohn. Dagmar was a fashion illustrator who worked with Vogue.

In 1956, he won the top prize on The $64,000 Question, the American TV quiz show, on the subject "The Seven Seas".

Freuchen died of a heart attack in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1957, at the age of 71, 3 days after completing his final book. His ashes were scattered over Thule, Greenland.