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Fridtjof Nansen

Posted 12-15-2010 at 04:18 AM by Steve Bucknell
A strange exploration: Fridtjof Nansen took his ship Fram and froze her into the pack-ice in the Eastern Arctic Ocean, then waited for the drift to carry her towards the North Pole. Impatient with the slow speed and erratic character of the journey, after 18 months Nansen and a chosen companion, Hjalmar Johansen, left the ship with a team of dogs and sledges and made for the pole. They did not reach it, but they achieved a record Farthest North latitude of 86°13.6'N before a long retreat over ice and water to reach safety in Franz Josef Land. Meanwhile Fram continued to drift westward, finally emerging in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Nansen's first task on his return was to write his account of the voyage. This he did remarkably quickly, producing 300,000 words of Norwegian text by November 1896; the English translation, titled Farthest North, was ready in January 1897. The book was an instant success, and secured Nansen's long-term financial future.

From Fridtjof Nansen's Farthest North. London. George Newnes Ltd. 1898:

The Winter Night.

December 15th. 1893. This morning Peter saw a fox on the ice astern, and he saw it again later, when he was out with the dogs. There is something remarkable about this appearance of bears and foxes now, after our seeing no life for so long. The last time we saw a fox we were far south of this, possibly near Sannikoff Land. Can we have come into the neighbourhood of land again?

I inspected ‘Kvik’s’ pups in the afternoon. There were thirteen, a curious coincidence- thirteen pups on December the thirteenth, for thirteen men. Five were killed; ‘Kvik’ can manage eight, but more would be bad for her. Poor mother! she was very anxious about her young ones, wanted to jump up into the box beside them and take them from us. And you can see that she is very proud of them.

Peter came this evening and said there must be a ghost on the ice, for he heard exactly the same sounds of walking and pawing as yesterday evening. This seems to be a populous region after all.

According to an observation taken on Tuesday, we must be pretty nearly in 79’’ 8’ north latitude. That was 8’ drift in three days from Saturday; we are getting on better and better.

Why will it not snow? Christmas is near, and what is Christmas without snow, thickly falling snow? We have not had one snowfall all the time we have been drifting. The hard grains that come down now and again are nothing. Oh, the beautiful white snow, falling so gently and silently, softening every hard outline with its sheltering purity! There is nothing more deliciously restful, soft and white. This snowless ice-plain is like a life without love-- nothing to soften it. The marks of all the battles and pressures of the ice stand forth just as when they were made, rugged and difficult to move among. Love is life’s snow. It falls deepest and softest into the gashes left by the fight—whiter and purer than snow itself. What is life without love? It is like this ice—a cold, bare rugged mass, the wind driving it and rending it and then forcing it together again, nothing to cover over the open rifts, nothing to break the violence of the collisions, nothing to round away the sharp corners of the broken floes—nothing, nothing but bare, rugged drift-ice.
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