Sven Hedin

The Central Asiatic petrological collections of Sven Hedin (1865 – 1952)

During a 42 year period (1893–1935), the Swedish explorer Sven Hedin led and co-ordinated four expeditions to remote and inhospitable parts of Central Asia (Tibet, Xinjang, Pamir). Along with collaborators he collected a diverse collection of just under 3100 petrological specimens. Petrographic examples of high pressure metamorphic blueschists, mantle peridotites and serpentinites, granitoids, K-rich alkaline lavas, mylonites,and a range of clastic and fossil rich carbonate sedimentary rocks are present. A spreadsheet listing all the samples collected during Hedin’s first three expeditions into Tibet (commencing 1893, 1899, 1906) includes a brief sample description with additional information on the availability of thin sections. Samples are cross-referenced with the geographical position of Hedin’s campsites indicated on maps published with his extensive reports. Most samples, and a number of thin sections, are available for loan.

Click here to download the spreadsheet file (Excel format) Download file

The Hedin petrological collections and the spreadsheet is deacribed in some detail in the article:

Weinberg,F. W. and Green, O. R. (2002) The Central Asiatic (Tibet, Xinjang, Pamir) petrological collections of Sven Hedin (1865–1952) — Swedish explorer and adventurer. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 20 (2002) p. 297-308.

Sven Hedin

pictured as a Mongolian pilgrim in camp approximately 100 years ago.
hedinfoto1.jpg (35122 bytes) Photo:

From the photocollection, NRM

The Expeditions

The Swedish explorer and geographer Sven Anders Hedin (1865-1952) transected Central Asia during several major trips and expeditions. His first major expedition in 1893-1897 was also his third trip to Asia. During this expedition he attempted to climb Mt. Mustagh Ata (7500 m above the sea level), nearly died crossing western Taklamakan Desert, discovered ancient desert settlements, studied the region around the "wandering lake," Lop Nor, and crossed northern Tibet, arriving in Beijing in March 1897. He published a popular two-volume book, Through Asia, and a volume of scientific reports.

During his second major expedition to Asia 1899-1902 he continued his studies of the Lop Nor area, explored and mapped in Tibet, but was prevented from reaching Lhasa. On return he was ennobled by King Oscar II, the last Swede to be so honored. He published results of his travels in the book (2 volumes) Central Asia and Tibet and in several volumes of scientific results.

In 1906-1908 he crossed Iran (then Persia) to India and from there entered Tibet despite British opposition. He made detailed observations of SW Tibet and controversial claims to have discovered a previously unknown Transhimalaya range and the sources of the major Indian rivers. Results of the expedition were published in a popular 3-volume account, Transhimalaya, and a decade later a 9-volume collection of scientific results.

His last major expedition, 1926-1935, involved substantial German and Chinese participation and scientific studies across a variety of disciplines. He spent significant time in Mongolia and en route to the Tarim Basin, was held captive by the forces of the rebellious Dungan warlord General Ma, and studied the historic shift of Lake Lop Nor back into its former location. While the expedition was still underway he wrote several popular books on it and then launched publication of the scientific results, which appeared in 54 volumes down into the 1980s.

tibet.jpg (52007 bytes)

The route of Hedins three first major expeditions.
Green: 1893-1897 expedition
Red: 1899-1902 expedition
Violet: 1906-1908 expedition

Map reproduced with permission of the publisher Bra Böcker, AB Höganäs


muztagh.jpg (20297 bytes) 

hedincamp.jpg (51717 bytes)

From Hedin´s "Southern Tibet 1906-1908" Vol. IX, Stockholm 1922.
Map showing some campsites in eastern Pamir during the "transhimalian" expedition 1906-1908

From Hedin´s "Transhimalaya". Views from different campsites illustrated by Sven Hedin during his expedition 1906-1908

ostpamir.jpg (25757 bytes)

Links to websites with more information on Sven Hedin and his expeditions:

The Sven Hedin Foundation homepage.
Information on expeditions and collections with maps, pictures and drawings.

A bibliography by the University of Seattle historian D.C.Waugh

A chronology of Hedin´s life by D.C. Waugh.

A bibliography and a selected list of his work.

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