Animals as instruments of Norwegian imperial authority in the interwar Arctic

Peder Roberts and Dolly Jørgensen, Animals as instruments of Norwegian imperial authority in the interwar Arctic, Journal for the History of Environment and Society 1 (2016): 65-87. DOI: [Open Access]


During the first half of the twentieth century a number of individuals in Norway participated in the transfer of animals from both the Arctic to the Antarctic regions and vice versa. These projects may be conceptualized as a form of imperial acclimatization, following in the footsteps of earlier attempts to transplant both plants and animals from their indigenous ranges to new geographic locations for both practical and recreational purposes. Reindeer were introduced to the island of South Georgia before World War I as Norwegian whalers turned a space previously uninhabited by humans into the operational hub of a booming Antarctic whaling industry. The successful transplantation of reindeer was followed by less successful attempts to transfer muskoxen from Greenland to Svalbard and the Scandinavian mainland, penguins from the Antarctic to the coast of Norway, and dreams of transferring fur seals from south to north. We argue that these attempts constituted both practical attempts to “enrich” the fauna of discrete habitats, but also expressions of Norwegian authority over the polar regions at a time when imperial ambitions in both the Arctic and Antarctic had significant traction within Norway. The transplanted animals may thus be conceived as geopolitical instruments – mastery over fauna as being a means of expressing mastery over space

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