Olaf Swenson ( December 16, 1883 – August 23, 1938) was a Seattle-based fur trader and adventurer active in Siberia and Alaska in the first third of the 20th century. His career intersected with activities of notable explorers of the period, and with the Russian Civil War. He is credited with leading the rescue of the Karluk survivors from Wrangel Island in 1914. According to historian Thomas C. Owen, Swenson's "practicality and zest for adventure made him an ideal entrepreneur on the arctic frontier..."

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  • Olaf Swenson ( December 16, 1883 – August 23, 1938) was a Seattle-based fur trader and adventurer active in Siberia and Alaska in the first third of the 20th century. His career intersected with activities of notable explorers of the period, and with the Russian Civil War. He is credited with leading the rescue of the Karluk survivors from Wrangel Island in 1914. According to historian Thomas C. Owen, Swenson's "practicality and zest for adventure made him an ideal entrepreneur on the arctic frontier..." Born and raised in Michigan, Swenson first reached the far north as a Nome prospector in 1901. The next year he signed on for a prospecting venture in Siberia, spending two summers and one winter on the Chukchi Peninsula. He returned to Siberia in 1905, this time with his wife and their infant son. His introduction to trading came when their ship was wrecked and he contracted to salvage cargo on a share basis. He continued to trade at Anadyr until 1911. In 1913, Swenson and C.L. Hibbard of Seattle formed the Hibbard-Swenson Company which operated trading schooners and steamers on the Siberian coast, buying furs and ivory and trading a variety of general merchandise until 1921. Swenson continued this business as Olaf Swenson & Co. until 1923 when the Bolshevik victory led to seizure of his business. Two years of negotiations led to a contract with the Soviet government to supply goods on a cost-plus basis and buy furs. This arrangement persisted through 1930. The difficulties of getting furs and personnel out of the Siberian Arctic led to the first commercial flights across the Bering Strait. The fourth such flight crashed in a Siberian winter storm, killing aviation pioneer Carl Ben Eielson and his mechanic in 1929. Swenson's memoir Northwest of the World contains observations on commerce, conditions, and native life in northeast Siberia and won critical praise for its direct style and vivid description. (en)
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  • Olaf Swenson ( December 16, 1883 – August 23, 1938) was a Seattle-based fur trader and adventurer active in Siberia and Alaska in the first third of the 20th century. His career intersected with activities of notable explorers of the period, and with the Russian Civil War. He is credited with leading the rescue of the Karluk survivors from Wrangel Island in 1914. According to historian Thomas C. Owen, Swenson's "practicality and zest for adventure made him an ideal entrepreneur on the arctic frontier..." (en)
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  • Olaf Swenson (en)
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