The Norwegian explorers

The explorers

Norway has been producing great explorers ever since the Viking Age.

Leiv Eiriksson made history when he discovered America in the year 1000. Since then the Norwegian people's innate urge to explore has brought them to the most remote corners of the world. In Oslo you can admire the vessels and equipment used in some of the great journeys. 

The polar ship Fram

The Fram plays an important part in the history of Norwegian polar expedtions. The ship was used in three historically important expeditions.

The Fram was the strongest wooden ship in the world, built to handle journeys through ice-packed arctic seas. At the Fram Museum on Bygdøy you can see and board the well-restaured polar vessel. The museum also exhibits a lot of the equipment used by Nansen, Sverdrup and Amundsen in their expeditions.  

Fridtjof Nansen

Fridtjof Nansen
Fridtjof Nansen
Photo: L. Szacinski/Owner: Nasjonalbiblioteket, bldsa_1a016

Explorer and scientist Fridtjof Nansen was a pioneer polar scientist. He lead the first crossing of Greenland on skis in 1888 which alone earned him a place in polar history. 

Together with Colin Archer, Nansen was the one who built the Fram, which was to be used for three expeditions to the polar regions.  

The Fram was launched in 1892. The objective of the first expedition was to drift with the ice across the Arctic Sea to prove that there was a current from the east to the north and west. Nansen's theory was confirmed; In the course of three years (1893-96) the vessel drifted across the Arctic Sea. 

But the vessel didn't drift as close to the North Pole as first expected, so in 1895 Nansen tried to reach the North Pole on skis together with Hjalmar Johansen. They got as far as 86' 14'' north, further north than any man had been before.

Fridtjof Nansen was later famous for his great humanitarian efforts, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922. 

Otto Sverdrup

Nansen's crew for Greenland 1888: Nansen, Dietrichson, Ravna, Sverdrup, Kristiansen, Balto
Nansen's crew for Greenland 1888: Nansen, Dietrichson, Ravna, Sverdrup, Kristiansen, Balto
Photo: Siems & Co./Owner: Nasjonalbiblioteket bldsa_f3b030

Otto Sverdrup crossed Greenland on skis with Fridtjof Nansen in 1888, and was captain of the Fram on their journey across the Arctic Sea. When Nansen left the Fram to go to the North Pole, Sverdrup was apppointed head of the expedition. 

Sverdrup also lead the next Fram expedition in 1898. The purpose was to map out "white spots" on the east coast of Greenland, but they failed in this attempt. However, from various bases in the fjords of Ellesmere Island they charted more than 250,000 square kilometers, and collected great amounts of scientific data.

The expedition lasted four years, longer than planned as they became ice bound in Gaasefjorden (Goose Fjord). In Norway people thought the Fram and its men were lost, so it was a joyous moment when the Fram returned in the autumn of 1902. 

Roald Amundsen

Roald Amundsen, 1899
Roald Amundsen, 1899
Photo: Daniel Georg Nyblin/Owner: Nasjonalbiblioteket, bldsa_NBRA0005

Roald Amundsen was one of Norway’s leading explorers and an unrivalled polar explorer. Amundsen discovered the Northwest Passage in his 1903-1906 expedition.

In 1911 he and his men became the first to reach the South Pole. The journey between Norway and the Bay of Whales in the Antarctic was made with the polar ship Fram. Amundsen later tried to reach the North Pole both with the polar ship Maud and by plane, and in 1926 he crossed the Arctic in the airship Norge. 

Roald Amundsen disappeared in 1928 while participating in a rescue mission; The airship Italia had crashed in the northern Polar regions and Amundsen helped look for captain Umberto Nobile and his crew. Nobile survived the accident, but lost many crew members, and Norway lost one of our leading men. 

Thor Heyerdahl

Thor Heyerdahl on the Kon-Tiki raft
Thor Heyerdahl on the Kon-Tiki raft
Photo: Kon-Tiki Museet

Thor Heyerdahl is first and foremost known for his Kon-Tiki expedition. In 1947 Heyerdahl and his crew sailed the pacific Ocean in a light-weight balsa raft. The 101-day journey took them from Peru to the Tuamato Islands in Polynesia. The purpose was to prove Heyerdahl's theory of ancient migration from South America to Polynesia.

In 1969 and 1970 he carried out the two Ra expeditions which, in Heyerdahl's opinion, proved that ancient vessels would have been able to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

Heyerdahl's last great raft expedition took place in 1977-78 when he sailed around the Arabian peninsula in the reed boat Tigris. 

Heyerdahl has also conducted scientific expeditions to the Easter Island, Galapagos, the Maldives and to the ancient pyramids of Tucume in Peru, among other places. 

The Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo (on the Bygdøy peninsula) shows the well-preserved balsa raft Kon-Tiki and the papyrus raft Ra, as well as a large collection of archeological findings from Heyerdahl's expeditions.

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