Friday, August 01, 2008

Scandinavophilately

When I think of SAS, it's usually the Statistical Analysis System I have in mind. But there are about 50 other meanings. (Not everyone likes the word disambiguation, but I think it's helpful in cases like this!)

One meaning of SAS is the Scandinavian Airlines System. I bring this up because my father was a scandinavophile. Below is his hand-drawn map of Greenland.

On the southern part of the West coast of Greenland is a place with the Danish name Søndre Strømfjord (Kangerlussuaq in the Kalaallisut language). If you look closely, it's marked by a little red mark (it's an airplane symbol) on the map about a quarter of the way up from the bottom. Søndre Strømfjord has a fascinating aerospace history that began in 1941 with the establishment of a U.S. air base and has continued right up to the present day.

Hey, it's only 3 hours to the North Pole!


Part of the history of Søndre Strømfjord is described (in rather grandiose language) on the SAS website:
Polar exploration had been something of a Scandinavian specialty and it was no surprise that SAS set about the task of conquering the hostile airspace over the Arctic. It took a special polar navigation system, the heart of which was a polar path gyro, to overcome the problems of flying over the magnetic North Pole.

The first, pioneering transpolar route, between Scandinavia and the U.S. west coast was inaugurated by SAS in November 1954. A SAS DC-6B “Helge Viking” flew from Copenhagen to Los Angeles via Søndre Strømfjord on Greenland and Winnipeg in Canada. The route cut the distance between the two continents by about 1,000 kilometers and was hailed as “the first new commercial route in 1,000 years”
Which brings me back to my father. He was also a stamp collector and had a series of philatelic covers of historic flights involving Greenland. The cover below commemorates the 1954 Helge Viking flight.


Hmm, I wonder what that polar bear is thinking ...

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8 Comments:

Blogger Brian Hayes said...

I enjoy this story. For its diligence, laying a map. For its pride, laying a map. For steadfastness, only 3 hours to the North Pole! For courage, the transpolar route.

Blogs are maps too. Reckless navigation perhaps, but with no less timing... :-)

Thanks.

5:49 PM, September 21, 2008  
Blogger Nick Barrowman said...

Thanks, Brian. I guess we all need a map to navigate this uncertain world.

9:31 AM, September 22, 2008  
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