(nĭls ä'dôlf ā'rĭk nur'dənshöld), 1832–1901, Swedish geologist and arctic explorer, first to navigate the Northeast Passage, b. Finland. He served as geologist on several expeditions to Spitsbergen under Otto Torrell, the noted Swedish geologist, on one of which he found plant fossils of the Tertiary period. From 1864 he commanded a series of expeditions in the course of which he mapped Spitsbergen, reached (1868) lat. 81°42'N (the highest then attained), made a journey (1870) on the inland ice of Greenland, and at Spitsbergen (1872–73) gathered extensive zoological and botanical collections. After 1872 he became interested in discovering the Northeast Passage as a possible route of trade. He reached Novaya Zemlya, crossed the Kara Sea, and ascended (1875) the Yenisei River, which he explored again in 1876. After these reconnoitering trips, he set out in the Vega in 1878, rounded Cape Chelyuskin, but was stopped by ice at the entrance to the Bering Strait. In 1879 he passed East Cape and sailed into the Bering Sea (northward extension of the Pacific). He completed the trip to China and returned to Sweden in 1880 and was created baron. In 1883 he penetrated for about 75 mi (120 km) the great ice barrier E of Greenland and in 1890 paid his sixth visit to Spitsbergen. During the last twenty years of his life Nordenskjöld wrote several valuable books on geography, cartography, and travel. Among his translated works is The Voyage of the Vega (1881). His Facsimile-Atlas (1889) and Periplus (1897) are especially interesting for their collections of early maps, charts, and geographical documents.
- See The Arctic Voyages of Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld (ed. by A. Leslie, 1879).