nansenThis bust of polar explorer Fritjof Nansen can be seen in Frammuseet, the Oslo museum that contains his ship, the Fram. The basic facts about the ship are: it was built by Colin Archer (a Norwegian of Scottish descent), it was launched in 1892, it’s 39 metres long, its “depth maindeck to keel” is 4.75 metres, and it has sailed further North and further South than any other “conventional vessel” – North latitude 85° 57′ and South latitude 78° 41′. The Fram’s special egg-shaped hull allows it “to be lifted by the ice pressure instead of being crushed.”

So here it is, hanging up in a museum. My phone camera is far too small to fit the whole ship into the picture:
The Fram is very famous for Roald Amundsen’s 1910-12 South polar journey, but I think the Fram’s first voyage is very intriguing. From 1893 to ’96 it drifted across the Arctic Ocean. That’s three years drifting on ice. A bit boring, maybe? Well, there’s a piano on board so maybe the guys had some jam sessions.
The ship didn’t float all the way to the pole, so in March 1895, Nansen and Hjalmar Johansen disembarked, to try to reach the North Pole with skis and dog sleds. This left the Fram in the hands of Otto Sverdrup, and it eventually reached open water Northwest of Spitsbergen.
This painting depicts Nansen and Johansen fleeing Sverdrup’s improvised piano concerto:
Nansen and Johansen
The heroic duo made it to 86° 14′ – the furthest North that had been achieved at the time. They didn’t make it to the pole, but turned back and spent the winter in a stone hut in Franz Josef Land! They eventually met up with a British expedition. The Fram and Nansen & Johansen arrived back in Norway within a week of each other.

Finally, here’s a picture of me. I enjoyed the museum visit so much that I stole the ship. I am currently steering through Arctic waters. See you in 2009!

Barry Kavanagh writes fiction, and has made music, formerly with Dacianos.

Contact him here.