Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Stefansson's Son

Alex Stefansson
In 1908, arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson set out on his second expedition. He hired an Inuit woman named Fanny Pannigabluk to travel with him. On March 10, 1910, Pannigabluk gave birth to a boy. Alex Stefansson was never acknowledged by Stefansson as his son, however, people of the arctic community who knew about the relationship between Stefansson and Pannigabluk, never doubted Alex's paternity.

Stefansson remained in the arctic until 1912 living with his Inuit family. He returned to them once more during his 1913-1918 expedition. During Stefansson's lifetime the paternity question remained a rumor. However, after his death in 1962, it garnered attention once again. Stefansson's wife Evelyn, a notable author of arctic books in her own right, who had married Stefansson in 1940s, felt it was "regrettable that only a few months after Stef's death a matter based on hearsay rather than evidence should be brought up for the first time." According to her "Stef did not believe that Alex Stefansson was his son."
Vilhjalmur Stefansson
Frank Stefansson
Based on photographic evidence and intensive research gathered since his death, Alex Stefansson's paternity is no longer questioned by Stefansson scholars. For Evelyn the revelation came in 1976, when in response to a picture of Alex Stefansson's son Frank she wrote: "The picture of Frank Stefansson is stunning evidence to me that Alex was Stef's son. For the first time a feeling of conviction arrived. It is the set of the mouth and the tip of the nose, the dimpled chin, and the shape of the head,--the family resemblance is inescapable and is so much stronger in the grandson than the son, strangely enough."

To read the correspondence or learn more about Evelyn Stefansson Nef's life and work as an author and philanthropist ask for Stef MSS-99.

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