home start exploring 	again
North logo

Farthest North
Nansen's inventions
Whaling
New Nansen biography
Aurora borealis
related topics
Payer and Weyprecht
Ard Schenk


Nansen

Man of many talents.

Fridtjof Nansen. Norwegian, explorer, author, poet, artist, athlete, oceanographer, inventor, statesman. Laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize. Rescuer of the lives of countless thousands through his humanitarian work after the first World War.

From a Norwegian point of view, he was very much the right man at the right time: boosting the self-confidence of the nation by his successes as an explorer, playing a key role in establishing its independence from Sweden, and finally putting it on the map of international politics.

All the things Nansen did, he did extremely well. To give an example close to my interests: at eighteen he broke the world record for one-mile skating. The "mile", now converted into 1500 metres, is still the key distance in all round championships. By many, it is considered the most difficult distance to skate. I don't know how much time Nansen needed, probably just less than 3 minutes.

There is a very good short biography of Nansen readily available on the Internet. Instead of adding another one, I will focus on a true "North" topic: Nansen's attitude to the vanity of polar exploration.

"Love truth more, and victory less."

It seems likely that, of all his accomplishments, scientific work was closest to Nansen's heart. On the other hand, he was certainly not entirely immune to the Lure of the Pole. The following passage from "Farthest North" (1897) graphically illustrates the conflict:


I am staring myself blind at one single point - am thinking solely of reaching the Pole and forcing our way through to the Atlantic Ocean. And all the time our real task is to explore the unknown polar regions. Are we doing nothing in the service of science? ... The rest is, and remains, a matter of vanity.
In the end, Nansen did make a dash for the Pole. He failed, and thus didn't reach the goal he had so eloquently stated:
One has to reach the Pole, just to end the obsession.


Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930)
1861 Born in Store Frøen, near Christiania (now Oslo).
1882 First trip to Jan Mayen and the Arctic Ocean. Finds driftwood, probably from Siberia.
1887 Doctor of philosophy, University of Christiania.
1888-1889 Crossing of Greenland, first ever.
1893 Start of "Fram" journey.
1895-1896 Dash for the Pole. Nansen and Johansen reach 8614'N, the closest to the Pole a human being had ever been. "Fram" breaks free from the ice. All return safe to Norway.
1897 Appointed professor of zoology at the University of Christiania.
1905 Plays important role in the dissolution of the Norwegian Union with Sweden.
from 1920 Working for the League of Nations. Appointed commisioner responsible for repatriation of prisoners of war. In charge of famine relief in Russia, Greece and Armenia.
1922 Nobel Peace Prize for his work on behalf of refugees.
1930 Dies quietly, at his beloved home, "Polhøgda", near Oslo.