This year marks the 400th anniversary of Jens Munk’s expedition to find the fabled Northwest Passage to China and India. In 1619 King Christian IV of Denmark-Norway commissioned the expedition. Jens Munk was chosen to lead the expedition and to be captain of the frigate “Enhiörningen” (the Unicorn), and the sloop Lamprenen” (the Lamprey). These two ships, with a combined crew of 64 set sail from Copenhagen on May 9, 1619. Jens Munk found the western shore of Hudson Bay, but no passage. He became trapped in the heavy ice and was forced to overwinter at the mouth of the Churchill River. During the winter most of the crew succumbed to scurvy and death from hunger. Only Jens Munk and two others survived and miraculously made it home the following summer.
The anniversary of this tragic and heroic expedition was commemorated at the Danish Canadian Conference in Winnipeg, held at the Hotel Fort Garry from May 23 to 26th. Conference delegates received a copy of the book “The Journal of Jens Munk 1619-1620” (in English) as well as a Danish Federation Heritage Book which contains articles about Jens Munk, including a report of the Jens Munk Committee’s activities and plans. The delegates were delighted to also receive a Jens Munk T-shirt and a Jens Munk Conference Bag. During the Conference, Carl Sorensen of Edmonton, the Chair of the Jens Munk Committee and Otto Christensen of Gimli made fascinating presentations.
The Danish Ambassador to Canada, Thomas Winkler, made a thought-provoking presentation about the Arctic and he cut the red ribbon to open the Jens Munk Exhibition at Travel Manitoba at The Forks. Winnipeg’s new and refurbished Millennium Library also hosted a Jens Munk display and lecture.
- Rolf Buschardt Christensen