A Greenland-born Inuit polar explorer named Jørgen Brønlund had no choice but to burn his own faeces in order to survive the dire conditions of Greenland’s North-eastern Territories.
Jørgen Brønlund (explorer, teacher and catechist) took part in two Danish expeditions in Greenland. He underwent the 1907 expedition with two other explorers. Danish ethnologist, Ludvig Mylius-Erichsen who led the expedition and Niels Peter Høeg Hagen who was the cartographer.
The three men were trying their best to make it back to their basecamp, yet not one of them ever managed to complete their journey. The three men were part of a team who were trying to explore the Independence Fjord (also known as independence Sound, it is a large fjord or sound in the eastern part of northern Greenland. It is about 200 km (120 mi) long and up to 30 km (19 mi) wide.)
Unfortunately, the three men had been misled by maps and their journey ended up being seriously prolonged. They could not make it back to their ship on time and so they were forced to spend the summer there without the necessary equipment needed for hunting.
This left the men short of food and they ended up having to sacrifice two out of their three teams of dogs, just so they could eat. Out of the three men Jørgen Brønlund was the last to die.
The first was Niels Peter Høeg Hagen who died of starvation and exhaustion, closely followed by Ludvig Mylius-Erichsen a few days later. The body of Jørgen Brønlund was the only one to ever be discovered. He was found frozen to death in a remote cave in 1907.
One of Jørgen Brønlund’s main responsibilities during this expedition was to drive the dogs and another was to keep a travel diary. When he was eventually found he was next to his diary (this is currently on display at the Royal Library in Copenhagen) in which he had written about the expedition as documenting his final moments alive ‘I reached this place under a waning moon, and cannot go on, because of my frozen feet and the darkness. The bodies of the others are in the middle of the fjord.’
The diary also contained a heavy black smudge on the last page which has always confused experts. But, after recent tests and extensive analysis, researchers have now confirmed that the black smudge on the diary consisted of rubber, oil and faeces.
Under such constant and increasing duress, and having failed every other way imaginable to light the stove, the scientists concluded that the presence of feces in the once mysterious black spot “speaks to the dire circumstances and poor conditions during his last dismal days.” ~ Ancient Origins
Dr. Kaare Lund Rasmussen (Professor in the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Pharmacy at the University of Southern Denmark) said that when the black spot was originally tested, they couldn’t be sure of what it was made of. But with the top-of-the-range methods of analysis being used nowadays, such as X-ray fluorescence and plasma mass spectrometry, the results are now conclusive.
It turns out that Jørgen Brønlund had been trying to light a petroleum burner with his own faeces as a last-ditch attempt to try and stay alive. Sadly, despite his best efforts, he ended up starving and freezing to death.
To some people this might seem like an over the top decision to make, but for Jørgen Brønlund he had no other choice, it was life or death. Having already watched his two colleagues perish, he was aware that his chances of survival were incredibly slim. According to researchers he had gone for weeks without food and he was ‘tired beyond capacity and freezing.’
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It is assumed by scientists that he must have tried every way imaginable to try and light the stove, and that his failures are what led him to those desperate measures in those dire conditions.