January 22, 2014

"Peter Freuchen, six foot seven, lived inside the cave of his breath. "


"That's Peter Freuchen and his wife Dagmar Freuchen-Gale, in a photo taken by Irving Penn. Freuchen is a top candidate for the Most Interesting Man in the World.

Standing six feet seven inches, Freuchen was an arctic explorer, journalist, author, and anthropologist. He participated in several arctic journeys (including a 1000-mile dogsled trip across Greenland), starred in an Oscar-winning film, wrote more than a dozen books (novels and nonfiction, including his Famous Book of the Eskimos), had a peg leg (he lost his leg to frostbite in 1926; he amputated his gangrenous toes himself), was involved in the Danish resistance against Germany, was imprisoned and sentenced to death by the Nazis before escaping to Sweden, studied to be a doctor at university, his first wife was Inuit and his second was a Danish margarine heiress, became friends with Jean Harlow and Mae West, once escaped from a blizzard shelter by cutting his way out of it with a knife fashioned from his own feces, and, last but certainly not least, won $64,000 on The $64,000 Question. -- Kottke, Peter Freuchen
It was so cold that even inside his cabin, even with the small coal stove, the moisture in his breath condensed into ice on the walls and ceiling. He kept breathing. The house got smaller and smaller. Early on, he wrote, two men could not pass without brushing elbows. Eventually after he was alone and the coal—“the one factor that had kept the house from growing in upon me”—was gone, he threw out the stove to make more room inside. (He still had a spirit lamp for light and boiling water.) Before winter and his task ended and relief came, he was living inside an ice cave made of his own breath that hardly left him room to stretch out to sleep. Peter Freuchen, six foot seven, lived inside the cave of his breath. In the Borderlands: The Danish-Jewish explorer Peter Freuchen was...

Posted by gerardvanderleun at January 22, 2014 4:53 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

And his mom had a tattoo that said "Son"!

Posted by: Fausta at January 22, 2014 8:16 AM

Gets my vote.

Posted by: Casey Klahn at January 22, 2014 9:25 AM

He could have stopped at the poop-knife and been legend.

Posted by: Jason in KT at January 22, 2014 12:35 PM

Thanks. Now my life feels even smaller and less significant..

Posted by: Jake in Seattle at January 22, 2014 2:45 PM

Another tip toe through the tulips. I learned what I know about the Arctic from Peter Freuchen books. Though non-fiction, they read like adventure tales. He could make the act of eating seal blubber sound very appetizing.

Posted by: Jimmy J. at January 23, 2014 8:09 AM