Hinrich Johannes Rink

Dr. Hinrich Johannes Rink (first name sometimes as Henrik) (26 August 1819 – 15 December 1893) was a Danish geologist,[1] one of the pioneers of glaciology,[2] and the first accurate describer of the inland ice of Greenland.[3] Rink, who first came to Greenland in 1848, spent 16 winters and 22 summers in the Arctic region,[3] and became notable for Greenland's development. Becoming a Greenlandic scholar and administrator,[4] he served as Royal Inspector of South Greenland and went on to become Director of the Royal Greenland Trading Department.[5] With "Forstanderskaber", Rink introduced the first steps towards Greelandic home rule.[5]

Hinrich Johannes Rink
Hinrich Rink.jpg
Born(1819-08-26)26 August 1819
Died15 December 1893(1893-12-15) (aged 74)
Alma materUniversity of Copenhagen;
University of Kiel
Known forFounder of the first Kalaallisut language newspaper
AwardsSilver medal, Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters (1852)
Scientific career
FieldsGeology and Greenlandic research

Rink carried out and printed in four volumes[6] the first systematic collection of Greenlandic oral tradition stories.[7] He was the founder of Atuagagdliutit, the first Kalaallisut language newspaper.[8]

Early yearsEdit

Rink was born in Copenhagen to Holstein parents. His father was Johannes Rink (1783–1865), a Kiel, Germany merchant, and his mother was Agnese Margaretha (née Hedde) Rink (1793–1865); both were from Dithmarschen.[9] He had a brother, Johan Jacob Rink (1815–1849).

Initially taught by a private teacher, he later went to study at the Sorø Academy.[3] He studied physics and chemistry at the University of Kiel, receiving the university's Gold Medal[3] in chemistry in 1843. For a time, he served as Assistant Professor under William Christopher Zeise. He graduated with a Ph.D. from the University of Copenhagen.[3] Rink studied medicine during the winter of 1844–45, taking an anatomy course and listening to lectures in Berlin. He was often depressed and vacillated with regard to his future.


Rink was part of the expedition crew of the Galathea, depicted at the Nicobar Islands in 1846.

At the suggestion of Hans Christian Ørsted,[10] it was in Berlin that he received an offer to participate as a mineralogist for the first of the Galathea expeditions[11] aboard the frigate Galathea. The voyage lasted from 1845 through 1847. He was intent on going to Calcutta, but he ended up at the Nicobar Islands, colonized by Denmark at the time, to investigate them geographically. After five months he fell ill with Nicobar Fever, weakening him the rest of his life, and forcing his return to Denmark. On the return trip, he stopped in Cairo and Malta, where, in October 1846, he collected geological materials.[12] In 1847, his first major geographical work, "The Nicobarese islands", was published.

From 1848 until 1851, with public support, he went to Western Greenland for geological and glaciological studies[2] at Upernavik and Umanak. Here, he lived among the Kalaallit which gave him an opportunity to study them. But his objective was to create a map of Greenland based on the surveys that he performed and those of others. He was able to survey large areas of Western Greenland's fjords and their glaciers. In the last year, he spent some time in Ilulissat and sailed to Paakitsoq, a bay in Western Greenland. He travelled by sledge to Sermeq Kujalleq in the spring of 1851. He mapped the Greenland coast, and made the first geological map of it. Rink's surveys are notable as the first in a series of ice margin change surveys that have lasted over 150 years.[2] Rink returned to Copenhagen in 1851 where he took a seat in a Commission that dealt with the trade monopoly in Greenland. On behalf of the Commission, he went back to Greenland in 1852, and subsequently published the book About the monopoly of trade in Greenland.

The following year, he entered the service of the monopoly trade and was the first colonial administrator in Godthaab and Julianehåb. He studied the Arctic Ocean ice, its origins, movement and composition and in 1853, he published his essay, On the spread and movement of ice over the North Greenland mainland. From 1857 to 1868, he was a royal inspector of South Greenland. During his years as a civil servant, he published his main work, Greenland and statistically described geography, which is the first standard work on Greenland after Hans Egede's "Perlustration" of 1729.

In 1855, Rink found the late 18th century printing press of missionary Jesper Brodersen and began printing small items, the first of which was a handbill dated 21 October 1855. Two years later, Rink acquired a small, Danish printing press and a lithographic press.[13] Rink established a print shop in Godthaab in 1861, the South Greenland Press,[14] and founded the first Greenlandic language newspaper, Atuagagdliutit (translation: "Readings"). Its first issue was published in January 1861, and it was published monthly thereafter. In addition to the newspaper, the print shop published pamphlets.

Rink actively cared for the welfare of the Inuit, with whom he had close contact. It was his idea and under his guidance, that the Commission's board members were introduced, which ensured Greenlanders' influence on their own affairs. In 1858, he called on local people to learn their artistic traditions. He helped discover and promote the artists Jens Kreutzmann and Aron of Kangeq. Rink studied the Greenlandic language and folklore; Eskimo tales and legends was published in 1866.

In 1868, forced to leave Greenland for health reasons, Rink again returned to Copenhagen. From 1871 until 1882, he served as Director of the Royal Greenland Trading Department.[11] In that capacity, he headed the Greenlandic trade administration. In Copenhagen, he founded the Grønlænderhjem for young Inuit to learn a craft so they could more easily obtain employment.

Rink was a Corresponding Member of the Royal Geographical Society.[3] He received the Silver Medal from the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters in 1852.

Personal lifeEdit

Kalatdlit asavai ilisimavai. (translation: "He loved the Greenlanders, knew and defended them.") Inscription on a memorial plaque in Godthaab.


Rink, tall and thin, was almost emaciated in frame.[3] In 1853, he married Sophia Nathalie Nielsine Caroline Møller (born 1836, Godthaab), nicknamed Signe. Signe was born and raised in Greenland. She was the daughter of Paamiut colonial administrators Jørgen Nielsen Møller and Antonette Ernestine Constance Tommerup. Signe published short stories about the lives and problems of Greenlanders. She is considered to be the first woman who wrote about Greenlandic culture. She was also instrumental in preserving the works, woodcuts and watercolors of Jens Kreutzmann and Aron of Kangeq.

Little is written about Rink's children; there may have been three.[16] As their only daughter, Antoinette Margrethe Rink (b. 1855)[17] moved to Christiania, Norway, Rink and his wife retired there in 1882, and he finished his last work. Rink died in 1893 as the leading expert of his day on Greenland. A memorial built of stone in Godthaab contains a plaque with the inscription kalatdlit asavai ilisimavai (translation: "He loved the Greenlanders, knew and defended them").[15]


Rink Glacier, northwest Greenland

The Hinrich Rink collection[18] of over 140 manuscript maps also includes cards upon which he and others had drawn. It is now in the Royal Danish Library.[15]

Rink Glacier (Kangilliup Sermia) and Rink Glacier (Melville Bay) in northwest Greenland are named in his honor.

Partial worksEdit


  1. ^ Hardy, Thomas; Björk, Lennart A. (1974). The literary notes of Thomas Hardy. Volume 29 of Gothenburg studies in English. Vol. 1 (Digitized May 15, 2008 ed.). Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis. p. 381. ISBN 91-7346-002-8.
  2. ^ a b c "Observations and theories: 1845-1950". geus.dk. December 19, 2008. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Brown, Robert (Jan 1894). "Obituary: Dr. Hendrik Rink". The Geographical Journal. 2 (1): 65–67. JSTOR 1773608.
  4. ^ Malaurie, Jean; Feldstein, Peter (2007). Hummocks: journeys and inquiries among the Canadian Inuit. McGill-Queen's Press. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-7735-3200-7.
  5. ^ a b Bravo, Michael; Sörlin, Sverker (2002). Narrating the Arctic: a cultural history of Nordic scientific practices. Science History Publications. p. 238. ISBN 0-88135-385-X.
  6. ^ Campisi, Jack. "Legends from Greenland... Or What Became of the Norse?". pequotmuseum.org. Archived from the original on 23 May 2010. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  7. ^ Helldén, Jan; Minna Skafte Jensen (2002-07-09). "Inclinate Aurem. Oral Perspectives on Early European Verbal Culture". Bryn Mawr Classical Review: 280.
  8. ^ Stern, Pamela R. (2004). Historical dictionary of the Inuit. Historical dictionaries of people and cultures. Vol. 2. Scarecrow Press. p. 35. ISBN 0-8108-5058-3.
  9. ^ Bricka, Carl Frederik; Laursen, Laurs; Steenstrup, Johannes Christoffer Hagemann Reinhardt (1900). Dansk biografisk lexikon: tillige omfattende Norge for tidsrummet 1537-1814 (in Danish). Vol. 14 (Digitized Mar 12, 2009 ed.). Gyldendal (F. Hegel & Søn). pp. 125–128.
  10. ^ "The Galathea Expedition, 1845-1847". natmus.dk. Nationalmuseet. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  11. ^ a b "Hinrich Johannes Rink". denstoredanske.dk (in Danish). Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  12. ^ Steenstrup, K. J. V. (1893). Dr. phil. Hinrich Johannes Rink: Født 26/8 1819 / 15/12 1893. Kjøbenhavn. (in Danish)
  13. ^ "Taissumani: Jan. 21, 1926 - The Passing of Lars Møller, Greenland's Printer". Nunatsiaq Online. January 20, 2006. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  14. ^ Doucette, Vernon. "Letter from the Editor". Qajaq Journal. 3.
  15. ^ a b c Kaalund, Bodil (1983). The art of Greenland: sculpture, crafts, painting. University of California Press. p. 173. ISBN 0-520-04840-7.
  16. ^ "Hinrik og Signe Rink med familie". arktiskebilleder.dk. 2005-10-31. Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  17. ^ Pedersen, Ane Marie B. (2003). "Signe Rink (1836 - 1909) - Rink, Nathalie Sophia Nielsine (Signe) Caroline". kvinfo.dk. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  18. ^ "Information about the materials in the Map Collection". kbdk. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  19. ^ Nellemann, George (Summer 1969). "Hinrich Rink and Applied Anthropology in Greenland in the 1860s". Volume 28, Number 2. Society for Applied Anthropology. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  20. ^ International Plant Names Index.  Rink.
  • Garboe, A. (1961). Geologiens historie i Danmark: 2. Copenhagen: Reitzel.

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