Eivind & Kolotengva is an ongoing and growing project about the equipment used and crafted by the Norwegian polar explorer Eivind Astrup. At the same time, inevitably, it is a journey of exploration into the history and heart of the people that live on the top of the world, the Inuit and their now vanishing way of life.
Eivind Astrup (1871-1895) could easily have become one of the pillars of Norwegian polar history – if not to say the polar history of the world. At nineteen years-old, he joined (with very poor English skills) Robert Peary’s two expeditions to North Greenland, and it was primarily his meticulous observations and documentation that finally established Greenland as an island and not part of an Arctic continent as many had believed. In his lifetime, Astrup became as popular, if not more popular than Fritjof Nansen himself. For Roald Amundsen, Astrup was the great ideal of a successful polar explorer.
Astrup crafted sleds for the Peary expedition – copied from the nearby Inuit families – and taught Peary and the other explorers how to skii. His only book, With Peary Near the Pole, reveals a deep respect and understanding of the local Inuit culture. He was the first to combine dog sleds with skis – and thus laid the ground for the future success of both Nansen and Amundsen.
In 2011 I got interested in these harnesses and sled after my grand uncle had found them in a storage at the Norwegian Ski museum in Oslo. There they had been stored and forgotten for almost 100 years. Originally I had wanted to copy and understand my then, all time hero, Roald Amundsens equipment, but research quickly revealed that these objects were even more interesting. The harnesses are of Inuit design, yet they differ from most other inuit harnesses I have seen, in interesting, almost modern details. Thus the project started – and in February 2013 I visited Gisle Uren and Kennel Rennfokk at Roros in Norway and tested the harness in a Fan Hitch on the great lake Femunden. (You can read about that here)
To Gisle for his continous involvement and enthusiasm for the project and for allowing me to post pictures of his wonderful dogs wearing Astrup’s harness on this site.
Thanks also to Sue and Mark Hamilton of the Fan Hitch (Journal of the inuit sled dog) for their support and for their knowledge. (and for answering a ton of emails during the first years of this project when I knew nothing)
Thanks to Kent Jensen and the Jorn Jensen leathershop for great leather, help and knowledge.
Thanks to Katinka Mossin and Tinka’s Kennel for helping with the first test of the E&K harness.
And of course thanks to Hasse and Karin – if not for you, the project wouldn’t even have started.
Jonas W. Moe December 2015