About Isobel Wylie Hutchison (1889-1982)

Born in 1889, at the dawn of moving pictures, Isobel Wylie-Hutchison became a respected film-maker. The daughter of Thomas Hutchison and Jeanie Wylie, she lived a quiet, sheltered life until her mid-30s when her life as a traveller, film-maker, poet and novelist began.

Isobel travelled to the Arctic, filming the things she saw around her — the landscape and the wildflowers growing there and the daily lives of the indigenous people.

Other travellers of the time who wrote of their discoveries did not dwell on the domestic detail that makes Isobel's work unique.


Her first exploration was to East Greenland in 1927, followed in 1928 by a year in Umanak, North Greenland.

She filmed Inuit collecting ice for water and hunting seals from a kayak, the wild flowers of Umanak and the Governor's coffee party! Scottish whalers had taught reels and other dances to the locals, Hutchison filmed them a century later still dancing with enthusiasm.

In 1934 Isobel set out for Alaska, travelling by coastal steamer from Vancouver to Skagway and then overland to Nome. Here she found a very small freighter to take her along the north coast of Alaska, ending with 120 miles by dog sledge and returning on mail plane to Alberta. Isobel brought back samples of the plant life for the Royal Horticultural Society and the Natural History Museum.

Royal Scottish Geographical Society

Isobel also had a long connection with the Royal Scottish Geographical Society as Honorary Editor of its magazine and as a Fellow and Vice-President.

Isobel was awarded the Mungo Park Medal as a tribute to her explorations and in recognition of her original and valuable researches in Iceland, Greenland and Arctic Alaska. She wrote several travel books, including 'North to the Rime-Ringed Sun' and 'Stepping Stones from Alaska to Asia', as well as four volumes of poetry.

In later life she gave frequent lectures, using her own films and lantern slides, describing her travels for film-making and writing articles for 'National Geographic' magazine. She held the distinctions LLD (a doctorate-level academic degree in law) and FRSGS (Fellow of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society).

Isobel died in 1982.


Isobel Wylie Hutchison