Fijian explorer’s historic expedition

RATU Asesela Robanakadavu, the Fijian chief, who lived in the arctic in the late 1890s, was part of the historic Canadian Arctic Expedition between 1913-1918, research has revealed.

Also known as Jim Fiji, the Nakoronawa, Nakasaleka, Kadavu native was part of the crew from August 1915 to September 1917 when he joined the leader of the expedition Vilhjalmur Stefansson, a Canadian Arctic explorer and ethnologist.

The Canadian Arctic Expedition is considered one of the major scientific exploration ever undertaken.

New lands in the western and high Arctic were discovered and mapped including the collection of natural specimen during the five-year expedition.

Ratu Asesela was part of the Northern Party that was tasked with exploring new land north and west of the known lands of the Canadian Arctic.

According to diaries and journals kept by most of the scientists during the expedition, he struck quite a friendly relationship with the scientists and the crew and was paid a salary of $75 per month.

Also collected during the expedition were film footage and thousands of photographs of the Inuit people, who met expedition members and helped guide them in this territory.

It helped define Canada’s northern boundaries and provided information about the North and its people.

At a time when Fiji was at the throes of just becoming a nation, the Fijian national was travelling the world as a sailor, harpooner, trapper and member of the Canadian Arctic Expedition.

Vilhjalmur Stefansson described Ratu Asesela in his journal as one of the “finest men in the North, and considers him – ‘one of my good friends'”.

*A more detailed report in today’s The Sunday Times РDISCOVERING FIJI and on our e-edition.

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