Wednesday, April 01, 2009

"Farthest North - the Epic Adventure of a Visionary Explorer" by Fridtjof Nansen

"Farthest North - the Epic Adventure of a Visionary Explorer" by Fridtjof Nansen was given by my youngest daughter to me for my birthday. The kids always know that a book is a "sure thing" for such occasions.

The book recounts Nansen's adventures both aboard his purpose designed ship, the Fram, and on foot in a push to the north pole although he didn't make it. These early explorers wouldn't be considered heroes now, they lived off the land quite a bit and killed many polar bears and walrus.

All in all it was a good book about a great adventure by a man whose life was a continuous great adventure but in the end my mind really got only three things from the story. First, these folks managed to live together in very cramped quarters, in cold weather (which would have been very uncomfortable for me), for several years. Then Nansen and Johansen wintered on an island they found and subsisted the whole winter on polar bear and walrus (including blubber). That is simply impressive. The last thing I remember is poor Mr. Nansen lost his prized double rifle in .577 Express over the side early in the adventure and that that gun cost him £28 in 1893. He did drag the bottom for the rifle, but didn't find it. I can well imagine the disappointment he felt.

What is also interesting to the wooden boat lovers is that this ship withstood 3 winters being frozen in the ice and went on to go to Antarctica. The Fram was so excellent an arctic explorer ship that Roald Amundsen used it. The Fram still exists and is at the Fram Museum in Oslo, Norway. Indeed, the Fram is a perfect example of why Nansen was successful. His planning was attentive to detail. I've discovered that is usually all you need.

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