Adolf Henrik Lindstrøm (1866-1939)
Adolf Henrik Lindstrøm was born on the 17th of May 1866 in Hammerfest. His father, lumberjack Johan Hansen Lindstrøm (born 1810) and his mother, Marie Mathilde Johannesdatter Ruonata (born 1824), both came from Kemi in northern Finland. Adolf was the eldest of three children and they apparently had a happy childhood despite the family being poor and all having to work hard, including the children.
From he was 15 Lindstrøm sailed on Hammerfest’s many different sealing and hunting ships, soon taking over the galley. At twenty years of age he was employed as an engineer at Brettnes factory in Lofoten, but he was soon to leave for the sea again, this time on board of one of the factory’s own freight vessels. Now he got to see a lot of the world. His next employers were Hålogaland Dampskipsselskap and Varanger Dampskipsselskap.
Lindstrøm was then hired as cook on board the Fram on her triumphant voyage from Tromsø to Oslo after her return from the Polar Sea in 1896. It was Nansen that wanted a good cook after three hard years in the ice. Now Lindstrøm got acquainted with the two great polar explorers of the époque, namely Nansen and the captain on board the Fram, Otto Sverdrup.
Otto Sverdrup promptly hired Lindstrøm as cook on his expedition on the Fram to northwest Greenland and the north Canadian islands. The expedition lasted from 1898 to 1902 and mapped c. 150 000 km² uncharted land, also doing geological surveys and studies of the fauna and flora. Lindstrøm did his bit collecting rock samples and plants and preparing both bird and animal skins and furs during the expedition.
Lindstrøm was a great entertainer and always kept up the good spirits. Most importantly, he conjured up the most delicious dishes. Among other things Lindstrøm made a Christmas tree in 1898 out of a piece of wood, and he held several surprise parties for the crew.
After his return, Roald Amundsen wanted him as crew member in 1903 on the expedition to try to navigate the Northwest Passage with the little sloop Gjøa.
In an article in Nordkapp dated 17 October 1908 it is said that when Amundsen was putting the crew together for his Gjøa expedition, he addressed Lindstrøm on Otto Sverdrup’s advice. However, Lindstrøm was busy with the highlife in Oslo, and had little interest for more polar exploration. When the fun was over, however, Amundsen returned to him, Lindstrøm was in a good mood and now he accepted. Already the day after, he had changed his mind and signed a contract with another ship heading for the West Indies. Amundsen heard what he was about to do, and had to remind him that he had promised him to join the Gjøa Expedition. Well, he said, I will have to do what I have promised if that is what I have done. This is supposed to be the true story about how Lindstrøm was recruited to the Gjøa Expedition.
Several journalists have stated that Lindstrøm almost always was laughing, and that his face shone with happiness and joie de vivre. Roald Amundsen himself expressed that he inherited two vital things from Sverdrup: the dog sledges and Lindstrøm. Lindstrøm became an essential man on board the Gjøa. He was not only cook but a great handyman and jack-of-all-trades. The whole crew liked him. Peder Ristvedt said this about Lindstrøm in 1904: He is a strange bloke, tubby and fat as a pig, but always happy and in a good mood.
Lindstrøm’s experience as cook on ships in the Arctic Ocean had made him capable of utilizing and making the most of the local fish, birds and animals such as seals, musk oxen and reindeer. His use of fresh meat in combination with frozen arctic cloudberries kept the crew in good shape. They were very seldom sick, and the scurvy (lack of vitamin C) did not occur on this expedition, nor on any of the others that Lindstrøm participated on. Moreover, it was Lindstrøm who cared for Gustav Juel Wiik when he was dying in February 1905, helping him to breathe at night. Wiik died in the end with terrible pain in his stomach (right side). Maybe it was appendicitis.
During the Gjøa expedition, Lindstrøm also had an official task. He had been asked by the University of Oslo if he would be their field-worker. He took his job very seriously and collected plants, animals and birds. What he did was true pioneer work, and Lindstrøm later cooperated with the leading university researchers in registering and cataloguing all the findings.
In 1906 the Gjøa successfully reached the Bering Strait and the Pacific. The Northwest Passage had been conquered and the magnetic pole had been localized. When Gjøa reached San Francisco in the autumn of 1906, Adolf went to New York and then back to Norway, where honours were heaped upon him and all the others. Amundsen received The Grand Cross of the Order of St Olav, Lindstrøm and the other crew members were appointed knights second class of the same order. Lindstrøm was also given the King’s golden medal of merit.
Lindstrøm’s mother had passed away while he was in America, and after this he told a journalist that he had nothing that linked him to his fatherland. According to this journalist he therefore now sailed from harbour to harbour, from ocean to ocean. He went back to America after some time and around Cape Horn with an American war ship. Having already crossed the Northwest Passage, he became the first Norwergian to have sailed around the whole of the American continent.
Between the Gjøa expedition and the South Pole expedition, he spent six months in the American Navy as able-bodied seaman, and he also worked two years as stoker along the Pacific coast on board different cargo ships. He continued as fisherman and cook on board different hunting ships along the west coast of America, before he in 1910 was called upon by Roald Amundsen, who was trying to find a suitable crew for his South Pole expedition.
Lindstrøm now had seven years of polar practice and was obviously a very wanted person. He accepted. The crew on the Fram thought that they were heading north, but on Madeira Amundsen was going to tell them that they were actually on their way south.
Lindstrøm became the one that maintained order at the base, Framheim, in Antarctica. He was responsible for provisions and food, for repair work etc. in the house. He hunted seals and penguins that he prepared in the best way. During long periods of time he was alone at Framheim while the others were off on their various sledging journeys.
On 14 December 1911 Roald Amundsen and his four men planted the Norwegian flag on the Pole itself. On 26 January they were back in Framheim with Lindstrøm. Lindstrøm stayed on board the Fram until they were back in Norway in 1914. He received the South Pole Medal for his efforts.
After 72 hours at home he signed on Otto Sverdrup’s ship the Eclipse and was away in 1914 and 1915. It was the Russian Admiralty that had hired Sverdrup for this rescue operation to look for a missing Russian expedition along the Siberian coast. After a 275 kilometer long sledge journey during the winter of 1915, they found 60 Russians. They were all worn out, starving and had signs of scurvy. Lindstrøm’s diet saved them, and the expedition came back to Murmansk the year after.
In 1915-16 Lindstrøm was back at the Siberian coast, now as cook for the Norwegian business man Jonas Lied on his expedition to the Jenissej River. Their mission was to lay out depots and procure some Siberian huskies for Roald Amundsen. In his memoirs Lied writes about the dish Biff à la Lindstrøm, that it was made of bear meat and served in all Grand hotels in Europe.
Lindstrøm married hair dresser and perfumery owner Olga Johanne Olsen (10.9.1877-27.9.1930) on 21 March 1917. She was the daughter of labourer Johan Olsen and Anne Dorthea. Olga was eleven years younger than Adolf. The ceremony took place at the public registrar and notary public in Oslo. They settled in Munkedamsveien 11 in Oslo.
After his return from the Northeast Passage, Lindstrøm was again asked by Roald Amundsen if he would join an expedition. This was to be with the Maud through the Northeast Passage and into the Arctic Ocean. However, Lindstrøm could not participate. When he was about to embark on the Maud, he had a stroke and his left leg was paralyzed. His polar career now ended, and he received a pension from the government of 2000 kroner per year. This was aimed at levelling the de facto discrimination that he had suffered from after having been paid less than his comrades on the South Pole Expedition.
Lindstrøm continued to hold lectures about his expeditions and the people of Oslo showed him a lot of respect. On Norwegian National Day, 17 May, which was also Lindstrøm’s birthday, a children’s procession would pass by his flat in Uelands street to sing and wave their flags for him. In 1903 Olga Johanne died, only 54 years old. Adolf now moved to a retirement home. During his last years, he stayed at Thedor Henrichsen’s Sailors’ Home i Karslborgveien 5 i Oslo.
In 1936 he was invited to a large celebration for the 25th anniversary of the South Pole conquest, but was too weak to participate. His health had gradually weakened. Diabetes took all his energy, and his leg was still paralyzed. Towards the end he never went out of his flat. He died of heart failure on 21 September 1939 at Ullevål Hospital.
His large collection of plants, stones and bird skins from his polar expeditions was bequeathed to the University of Oslo. He had no children, and some other memorabilia were given to the Norwegian Maritime Museum.
Roald Amundsen wrote about Adolf Lindstrøm: He has rendered greater and more valuable service to the Norwegian polar expeditions than any other man.
Lindstrøm was awarded the Knight 2nd class of St Olav, the Fram-II Medal, the South Pole Medal and the King’s Gold Medal of Merit. In addition he received the medal for the South Pole expedition from the Norwegian La Plata Society in Buenos Aires.
A journalist from Minnesota wrote in an article about him (quoted in the newspaper Nordkap in 1908): When I first met him in San Francisco, in his white sailor suit with his cap drawn backwards and his face truly shining of happiness and joy of life, he just seemed like an ordinary sailor ready to have some fun onshore. But, after a few minutes conversation with him, I soon found that behind those blinking eyes was hidden a vigilant head and a strong will.