The Norwegian who raised the Chilean flag in Antarctica

The last thing we did before leaving Punta Arenas was to visit the cemetery and honour the memory of Adolf Amandus Andresen. “Capitan Adolpho Andresen” from Sandefjord is the unknown Norwegian who initiated commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean. He harpooned his first whale in the Strait of Magellan in 1903.
Harald Dag and Stein at the monument marking the grave of Adolf Amandus AndresenThe historian and the adventurer contemplate the monument marking the grave of Norwegian-Chilean whaling pioneer Adolf Amandus Andresen. Photo: Harald Dag Jølle / Norwegian Polar Institute

Captain Andresen also has the distinction of being the first to raise the Chilean flag on the continent of Antarctica. This means it was a Norwegian who paved the way for Chile’s territorial claims in the Antarctic. Andresen has a central place in this city’s history as well as its graveyard.

This is the story: Adolf Andresen immigrated to Chile in 1894 at the age of 22 and worked as a tugboat captain in the waters outside Punta Arenas. After noticing the huge numbers of whales, he travelled back to Norway, learnt the whaling trade off the coast of Finnmark, brought back a harpoon cannon to Chile, mounted it on one of his tugboats – and harpooned his first whale on New Year’s Eve 1903. That was a couple years before the more famous Carl Anton Larsen came to South Georgia.

Andresen subsequently founded the Chilean whaling company Sociedad Ballenera de Magellanes and was the first to establish whaling along the Antarctic Peninsula. The company had a whaling station on Deception Island where Andresen’s wife became the first woman to spend an entire winter in Antarctica.