• WorldView
  • 4 Min Read

Women Explorers: Wanny Woldstad

In two-three days I was converted from a taxi-driver in Tromsø to a female trapper on the way to Svalbard aboard Maiblomsten.

First Female Arctic Trapper in Svalbard, Norway

Norwegian Wanny Wolstad garners a well-deserved spot on our list as the first female Arctic trapper. But this intrepid woman was ahead of her time off the ice as well—before heading far north she was the first female taxi driver in Northern Norway. While driving her cab around Tromsø in the 1920s she would often pick up trappers along her route and deliver them to the Mack Brewery Bar where they were eager to spend some of their profits earned hunting polar bear in Svalbard.

 

Wanny was captivated by their stories of life in the icy wilderness. So it didn’t take much convincing when Anders Sæterdal, one of those trappers home on summer leave, persuaded her to take a leap and join him for a life of solitude and adventure. Though she was a mother to two teenage sons (and twice widowed), Wanny jumped at the opportunity. She ended up spending no less than five consecutive seasons as Anders’ trapping partner in Hyttevika at Hornsund.

Here are a few more reasons why we celebrate this fearless taxi-driver turned trapper:

 

03_wanny_woldstad_portrait.jpg

Just five feet two inches, Wanny quickly proved to be a fierce and equal partner. Even before coming to Svalbard she was used to guns and hunting and had won trophies for marksmanship. A fast learner, Wanny held her own with Anders and accompanied him on almost every outing and hunting expedition.

 

She shot her first polar bear on December 12, 1932 near Isbjørnhamna, the closest satellite station to her main station in Hyttevika. Wanny’s accurate shooting skills also helped her catch seals, geese, ptarmigan, arctic foxes, and even beluga whales, which brought in a significant profit.

 

During the winters of 1933-34 and 1934-35, Wanny brought along her sons Alf and Bjørvik Jacobsen who both eventually became experienced trappers in their own right.

 

When her career ended in 1937 Wanny became famous among certain circles in Tromsø. Based on the diaries she kept, she published a book about her life as the first female trapper on Svalbard and became a popular lecturer on the subject.

 

After surviving all those harsh Arctic winters Wanny sadly died after being hit by a truck while visiting her son in Sørkjosen in 1959.