Fram Museum, Oslo Norway 2018

     The Fram symbolizes the age of polar exploration. Built originally for Fridtjof Nansen, and reputed to be the strongest wooden ship ever built, it served in expeditions by four polar explorers: Nansen, Otto Sverdrup, Oscar Wisting, and Roald Amundsen.

Fridtjof Nansen

      Mankind had explored most of the planet by the last decades of the 19th century. Earth’s polar regions remained one of few blank spots on the map and the last remaining territory for explorers and sportsmen. The competition to be first to the Poles was cut-throat.

     Nansen required a ship especially adapted for the harsh conditions in the Arctic to sail further north than anyone. The biggest danger to the ships in the age sailing in the northern ocean was to be trapped in the ice during the winter. The ice would exert ever-increasing pressure on the hull of the ship, eventually crushing it completely. Nansen designed a ship that could ‘float’ over the ice. The shape of the Fram’s hull was designed in such a way that it would slowly deflect the ice and sliding down below the ship’s body and slowly lifting it unharmed. Furthermore, the rudder and propeller were designed to be retracted into the ship protecting them from damage. Additionally, The Fram could pack enough supplies to sustain its crew for at least 5 years. The ship had a windmill that ran a generator to provide electric power for lighting by electric arc lamps. Its hull was heavily insulated to ensure protection from the cold.  The ship was given the appropriate name Fram, meaning “Forward” in Norwegian.

The Fram displayed in the museum

     For its first polar mission, in 1893 Nansen launched a 3 year expedition attempting to reach the North Pole. The idea was to intentionally get the ship trapped in the ice and then float, carried by ocean currents, over the Pole. This expedition ended unsuccessfully in 1896.

     Later, the Fram was used by Otto Sverdrup during his exploration of Canadian arctic between 1898 and 1902.

Roald Amundsen

     Perhaps the most famous expedition in which this vessel played a part was the ill-fated race to the South Pole between Roald Amundsen and British explorer Robert Falcon Scott, in 1910-1912. Amundsen gained world fame for winning the race to the Pole; Scott’s entire party died of exposure and starvation in route back, having reached the south pole secondly.

Amundsen’s route to the South Pole
Display at the Fram Museum

     The Fram is the primary attraction at the museum, which also offers a good selection of material about the ship’s voyages and the history of Norwegian polar explorations. On display are maps, personal notes of explorers and variety of objects used in everyday life aboard this vessel. I was able to climb aboard and explore the insides of the ship, as well.

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