Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Fridtjof Nansen's ship Fram

As you may know, Hurtigruten's state-of-the-art explorer ship MS Fram, cruising Arctic and Antarctic waters, is named after the Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen's most famous polar ship. Nansens ship "Fram" was a purpose-built, round-hulled ship later used by Roald Amundsen to transport his expedition to Antarctica.

In Norway's capital Oslo you can see Nansen's ship in the Fram Museum. The Fram Museum shows the history of the polar explorers. Here you’ll find the world's most famous polar ship, the Fram, built in 1892. The ship is displayed in its original condition with interior and objects perfectly preserved.

Fridtjof NansenIn 1893, Fridtjof Nansen sailed to the Arctic in the Fram. The ship was deliberately allowed to drift north through the sea ice. The journey took more than three years.

Nansen conjectured the Polar current's warm water "could hardly have been other than the Gulf Stream" and was the agent behind the movement of the ice. During this first crossing of the Arctic Ocean the expedition became the first to discover the existence of a deep polar basin.

After more than one year in the ice it became apparent that Fram would not reach the North Pole. Fridtjof Nansen continued north on foot when the Fram reached 84° 4´ N. The theory that the currents would carry the Fram over the north pole were proved incorrect. Nansen reasoned this was caused due to the Earth's rotation which resulted in polar drift. This was a daring decision, as it meant leaving the ship not to return, and a return journey over drifting ice to the nearest known land some five hundred miles south of the point where they started. Nansen and his companion Johansen started north on 14 March 1895 with 3 sledges, 3 kayaks and 28 dogs. On 8 April 1895, they reached 86° 14´ N, the highest latitude then attained. The two men then turned around and started back. Their watches stopped during a twelve hour trek, however, and they were thus unable to correctly reckon their position, and did not find the land they expected at 83°N (it actually did not exist).

In June 1895, Fridtjof Nansen and Hjalmar Johansen had to use their kayaks to cross open leads of water. On 24 July they came across a series of islands. Here they built a hut of moss, stones, and walrus hides, and wintered, surviving on walrus blubber and polar bear meat. In May of the following year (1896), they started off again for Spitsbergen. After travelling for a month, not knowing where they were, they happened upon the British Jackson-Harmsworth Expedition (led by Frederick George Jackson) whose party were wintering on the island. Jackson informed them that they were in fact on Franz Josef Land. Finally, Nansen and Johansen made it back to Vardø in the north of Norway.

Fridtjof Nansen was the first to note and describe dead water. Dead water is the nautical term for a strange phenomenon which can occur when a layer of fresh  or brackish water rests on top of denser salt water, without the two layers mixing. A ship traveling in such conditions may be hard to maneuver or can even slow down almost to a standstill. The phenomenon is observable where glacier runoff flows into salt water without much mixing, such as in fjords.

This was the crew on Fram's first voyage:
Fridtjof Nansen
Otto Sverdrup
Sigurd Scott Hansen
Henrik Greve Blessing
Theodor C. Jacobsen
Anton Amundsen
Adolf Juell
Lars Pettersen
F. Hjalmar Johansen
Peder L. Henriksen
Bernhard Nordahl
Ivar O. Mogstad
Bernt Berntsen

Fram Museum
Hurtigruten's explorer ship MS Fram

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