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Sven Hedin








Sven Hedin  spent almost twenty years of his life on Asian soil. Originally, he aspired to follow the path of other late nineteenth century Swedish explorers and engage in polar research. But an offer to serve as private teacher to the son of a man who worked in the naphtha fields of the Nobel family in Baku directed his attention to Asia. After completing his work he embarked on a ride through Persia, which taught him how to endure both physical and economic hardship en route.

Hedin’s Persian exploits drew him further into Asia, acquainting him with its people and history. The book he wrote upon his return set the tone for a string of travelogues, which were to make him into one of the best-read explorers of his day. His prolific writing and extended lecture tours provided him with the financial means to maintain his family and also to finance future expeditions. He held no public or academic position.

Hedin’s first expedition lasted four years — 1893–97.  Apart from unearthing archaeological artifacts in the Pamirs and the Tarim Basin, then Kashgar and Khotan, his main goal was to map and explore unknown areas of northern Tibet.

Hedin’s second expedition (1899–1902) was again devoted to the Tarim basin. He mapped the Tarim River in minute detail and expended great efforts into unravelling its lower courses and the position of the enigmatic Lop Nor.  Following Cherchen darya he encountered amazingly well preserved mummies of apparently Indo-European origin. Of greater importance, however, was the discovery his servant, Ördek, made on 28 March 1900, when he stumbled upon ruins of an old settlement in the then dried up terminal areas of Kontje darya.  The rest of this expedition was devoted to an aborted attempt to reach Lhasa and a final crossing and mapping of the Tibetan high plateau.   His next expedition (1905–1908) was devoted to work in Persia and Tibet. 

His fourth and final expedition lasted eight years (1927–35). It was actually a succession of expeditions, with different sponsors, participants and programmes. It covered Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang and Northern Tibet.

Hedin became a member of several academies, and few if any comparable persons have received so many international decorations and honours. Admittedly some of these were revoked when Sven Hedin entered the political arena advocating a pro-German stand, a political position that proved mistaken in both World Wars. Right up to his death Hedin remained loyal to these political and social ideas: vestiges of his nineteenth-century upbringing.


My Life as an Explorer

Sven Hedin

ISBN 1590480767






This is that rarest of books, the one you grab when the house is on fire, or you’re about to be marooned on a desert island with nothing else to read. Sven Hedin was not only one of the greatest explorers of the nineteenth century, he was also a brilliant storyteller. Nowhere does the Swedish author tell a tale of excitement, adventure, danger, travel, and hair-raising escape like he does in “My Life as an Explorer”.  
Written in an engaging anecdotal style, Hedin explains how he first went to Persia in 1885. Even this first trip was full of mishaps, as he nearly lost his life riding across the snow-covered Elbruz mountains during a fierce snow-storm. Yet Hedin miraculously survived and went on to meet the Shah of Persia. Thus was set the pattern for his remarkable future, which was one part royalty and ten parts danger.
“My Life as an Explorer” regales the reader with almost more adventure than one can bear to read. Hedin raids the burial grounds of a secret Asian sect. He courts disaster with the Emir of Bokhara. He climbs accursed mountains in China, discovers lost cities in the Gobi desert, infiltrates Tibet, outwits Torgut bandits, and of course becomes close friends with royalty from Peking to London, including the rulers of both the Russian and British empires. In short Hedin lived a life so full of adventure and escape that merely reading about it is exhausting.
Illustrated with dozens of his own drawings, Hedin’s “My Life as an Explorer” remains the single most exciting adventure travel book written in the early twentieth century.

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