In 1857, Adold Erik Nordenskiöld (1832–1901), a Finnish geographer and mineralogist, was forced to withdraw from his position at the University of Helsinki because of a conflict with the czarist officials in Finland. He then moved to Sweden, where he became one of the most celebrated explorers of his time. Most famous of his polar expeditions was the discovery of the Northeast Passage. Nordenskiöld made his voyage in the wooden steamship Vega in 1878–79.
Vega started its voyage on June 22, 1878, and was directed in a course around Scandinavia and along the Siberian coast toward Bering Strait. Nordenskiöld's plan was to reach the Pacific Ocean during the summer months, but this was hindered by unfavorable ice conditions. At the end of September the sea was blocked by ice fields, and the Vega had to pass the winter on the northern coast of the Chukchi Peninsula (67°4′49″N, 173°23′2″W)—exasperatingly close to the open waters of Bering Strait. The ship could not set sail any sooner than the following July when the sea was free again. After visiting Japan, China, and Ceylon, the Vega passed through the Suez Canal and finally, on April 24, 1880, arrived at Stockholm.