Polar explorer's descendant finds Nunavut relatives
Gjoa Haven residents Paul Ikualluk and his half-brother Bob Konan met late last week with Anne-Christine Amundsen Jacobsen, who spent nearly $18,000 flying with her family from Norway to find her great-uncle's descendants in Nunavut.
Amundsen, a Norwegian explorer who in the early 1900s led the first successful sail expedition through the Northwest Passage, spent two winters in the High Arctic community of Gjoa Haven, located on King William Island. It was believed that he may have fathered children during his stay there.
"The undiscovered part of my life and my family's life is opening up, and we are knowing that we have relatives in other parts of the world," Ikualluk told CBC News during Amundsen Jacobsen's visit to Gjoa Haven.
Ikualluk was told by his father that he was Amundsen's grandson. His father had kept it a secret until two months before his death, so that he would not be considered an outsider.
Ikualluk said he suffered a bit of an identity crisis as a result ofrealizing he was not a full-blooded Inuk. But now, he said, he is proud to be a descendent of the explorer, adding that meeting Amundsen Jacobsen was an emotional experience for him.
The experience was just as emotional for Amundsen Jacobsen, 63, who, in addition to meeting her newfound Inuit cousins, also went to the lake her great-uncle fished from more than a century ago.
"I was just thinking about all the hardship it must have been. Thinking that we were sort of walking on the same ground," she said in an interview. "It's emotional and very, very difficult to explain. You feel kind of humbled."
Before leaving Gjoa Haven on Tuesday, Amundsen Jacobsen also saw an exhibit showing a large Amundsen bust, a replica of his boat, and some photographs.
"It's kind of strange coming to the other side of the world and meeting things you've seen so many times before, like some of the pictures I've known since I was a little girl," she said.