Norwegian Independence

Claiming the Far North

the Arctic 1905.0607

Norwegian Independence

Arctic exploration, colonization of Greenland and Northern Canada, Erik the Red's Land (7 June 1905)

Historical Map of the Arctic & the Far North

After more than ninety years of personal union, Norway split from Sweden in 1905. Despite initial tensions, war was averted when the Swedes backed down and recognized Norwegian independence. Already Norway was asserting itself in the Arctic, with the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen becoming the first to make the long-sought Northwest Passage even as independence negotiations were underway.

Main Events

Nome Gold Rush

Gold was discovered at Anvil Creek, near Nome, Alaska, by the "Three Lucky Swedes" (three Americans of Swedish and Norwegian descent), leading to a gold rush and temporary boom of Nome's population to 20,000.

Labrador boundary dispute

The British colony of Newfoundland issued a timber licence on the Hamilton River (now the Churchill River), prompting the Canadian province of Quebec to protest that most of the river was part of its territory. This claim opened up a dispute between Canada and Newfoundland over the ill-defined Labrador boundary, whose inland extent had never been precisely stated.

Gjøa Expedition

The Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his crew of six aboard the Gjøa departed Oslofjord, Norway, traveling to the Canadian Arctic via the Labrador Sea and Baffin Bay. After being stranded for two winters on King William Island, the ship managed to pass through the straits south of Victoria Island into the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska, making the expedition the first to successfully traverse the Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Hay-Herbert Treaty

On 24 January 1903, the United States and the United Kingdom signed the Hay-Herbert Treaty, entrusting the resolution of the boundary dispute between Alaska and Canada to an arbitration by a mixed tribunal of three Americans, two Canadians, and one Briton. On 20 October, this tribunal agreed on a final demarcation line that was a compromise between the American and Canadian claims.

Battle of Port Arthur

The Empire of Japan launched a squadron of destroyers on a surprise night attack against the Russian fleet anchored at Port Arthur, Manchuria. Engagements continued over the following morning, ending at midday when the Japanese withdrew. Although neither side had lost any major ships in the battle, the Russians were ill-equipped to repair their damages. The next day, on 10 February, the Japanese declared war, formally beginning the Russo-Japanese War.

Norwegian independence

In response to growing dissatisfaction over Swedish rule, the Norwegian Storting (parliament) voted unanimously to dissolve Norway's union with Sweden. The act was ratified by a plebiscite on 13 August. After initial hesitation, Sweden formally recognized Norway's independence on 26 October when King Oscar II of Sweden renounced his claim to the Norwegian throne.

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