After DNA testing, the Fram Museum in Oslo, Norway, can now establish the fact that Roald Amundsen is not related to a specific family in Gjoa Haven in Nunavut, Canada.
Speculations that Roald Amundsen had a relationship with an Inuit woman in Gjoa Haven during his navigation of the Northwest Passage in 1903-06, and had a baby with her, have been many - in both Norway and Canada. Historians, biographers, descendants, journalists and polar explorers have been interested in this particular question.
The story is about the two brothers Bob Konona’s and Paul Ikuallaq’s claim that their father Luke Ikuallaq was the son of Amundsen. This was revealed to them by Luke himself on his deathbed. The two brothers live in Gjoa Haven today. This story became even more interesting when Konona and other family members told that the newborn Luke was left on the ice to die, and then rescued by his grandparents in the last minute. By many, Luke was regarded "half white", and thus an illegitimate son.
Roald Amundsen is not the grandfather of Bob Konona
In Norway, TV2, NRK, Aftenposten, Dagbladet and VG amongst others had stories about Roald Amundsen's alleged descendants among the Inuit in the Northwest Passage. Several Norwegians have visited Gjoa Haven to meet their "relatives", but DNA testing shows that Amundsen cannot be the father of Luke Iquallaq, born in 1904.
Alexander Wisting writes in his Amundsen biography (2011) that among the Inuit, it was natural to share their women with strangers as a vote of confidence. Amundsen commented on this: "Due to the vast majority of Eskimo men, the women often take two husbands. What practical people!!” Married or not, the polar explorers did not hold back when it came to having relations with the Inuit women, Wisting writes.
Tor Bomann-Larsen states in his Amundsen biography (1998) that while Amundsen and Ristvedt looked for the North Magnetic Pole, young Wiik had dates in “Villa Magneten” with a woman called Kimaller. When her husband was out hunting, the young wife visited the cheerful scientist, often bringing “a female friend or two”. The crew of the Gjøa never lost interest in the young Inuit wives, according to Bomann-Larsen. Theoretically, any of the crew members living in Gjoa Haven 1903-05 could have fathered offspring during their stay.
In his autobiography, My life as a Polar Scientist, Amundsen expresses a very sinister approach to dealing with women. He claimed that the Eskimo initially considered the white man as a divine creature, until the moment he engaged in relations with the native women: "I therefore used the first opportunity for a very serious conversation with my comrades, warning them not to give in to this kind of temptations." It seems that Amundsen advised his men not to have sexual relations with the locals.
It is possible that Bob and Paul are descendants of one of the other members of the Gjøa expedition. The names of these are not commonly known in Gjoa Haven today, which can explain the fact that Roald Amundsen himself has been determined to be their biological grandfather.
The Fram Museum would like to continue these investigations, but this requires special permissions. The families in Gjoa Haven must give their permissions to match their test results with the families of the other expedition members, Anton Lund, Helmer Hanssen, Gustav Juel Wiik, Peder Ristvedt, Adolf H. Lindstrom and Godfred Hansen.
Why this test?
For the Fram Museum, it is important that biographies, articles and other information about Fridtjof Nansen, Otto Sverdrup, Roald Amundsen and the other Norwegian polar explorers are as accurate as possible. For this reason, we initiated a long-standing research project where around 100 of the personal diaries of the Norwegian polar explorers will be transcribed and published in both Norwegian and English. In this way, the complete texts of all the diaries are made available to anyone who wants it. To this day, smaller parts of the diary texts have served as proof for claims that may not be representative for the individual diary in its entirety. For the same reason it has been important for the Fram Museum to clarify if Roald Amundsen has any relatives in Gjoa Haven, as this story has gradually become an established truth in the media and among many biographers and historians.
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo has worked out a report on the DNA analysis that has been conducted to find out if Roald Amundsen is the ancestor of the two half-brothers in Gjoa Haven. Their Y-chromosome profiles have been compared with the profile of a male descendant of Roald Amundsen’s father.
The report concludes that they do not have a common ancestor, and therefore, there is no kinship between them. It shows that Luke Ikuallaq is not the son of Roald Amundsen.
The tests are performed with the consent of those involved. Finn Ove Hågensen from TV2 led the testing in Gjoa Haven, the Fram Museum took the required samples on the representative of the Amundsen family in Norway. They do not prove that Amundsen has no descendants at all in Gjoa Haven or elsewhere in arctic Canada, but only that the two DNA tested persons are not related to him.
Watch clips of Bob Konona on youtube here:
More images of Gjoa Haven here:
Tv2 news channel
Read an article in the Toronto Star