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Oslo - Fridtjof Nansens plass, Roald Amundsens gate#

Oslo - Fridtjof Nansens plass, Roald Amundsens gate
Oslo - Fridtjof Nansens plass, Roald Amundsens gate, June 2017, © Walter Pachl, under CC BY 4.0

Amundsen and Nansen are two of most successful arctic/Antarctic explorers and persons who also deserve respect for their action outside the exploration theatre.

Roald Amundsen (1872 – 1928) was heading the first expedition to traverse the Northwest Passage in the Arctic (1903–06). He led the Antarctic expedition of 1910 – 1912. He actually rerouted to the South pole simply because his plan to be the first on the North pole became impossible as he heard in 1909 that the Americans Frederick Cook and Robert Peary had claimed to reach the North Pole as a result of two different expeditions.

Amundsen was indeed the first to reach the South Pole on 14 December 1911, just four weeks before Robert Falcon Scott, a British Royal Navy and explorer who led his second, the ill-fated Terra Nova, Antarctic expedition. Scott had known that he was in a kind of race against Amundsen, yet thought he could be first.

"The worst has happened", he writes in his diary when finding the Norwegian flag on the pole. Scott and his four comrades faced a more than expected difficult 1300 km return trip, among others due to a drop of temperature to below minus 40 in March, rare at this time of the year. A planned meeting with a supporting dog teams from the base camp failed. Scott and his by then only two still surviving companions died only some 18 km from the main depot in a two-week blizzard, details known from Scott’s diary that he kept till the very end. Scott has been celebrated as hero in books and movies, yet some evidence has also surfaced showing some decisions taken by him may have contributed to the tragedy.

Returning to Amundsen: He was also the first in 1926 who led an air expedition to the North Pole. He is thus recognized as the first person to reach both poles.

In June 1928, he took part in a rescue mission for the airship Italia used by Italian engineer Umberto Nobile in his second series of flights around the North Pole. The Italia crashed due to bad weather and mistakes by Umberto Nobile, the exact location of the crash unknown, with a number of crew dead or left in the flying hull of the ship, never to be heard of again. An international rescue effort followed, but was bedevilled by official apathy and political interference on the part of the Italians. Romagna, the commander of the base ship was particularly hampering efforts by indecision. Roald Amundsen joined the areal search for the wreck of the airship. His plane disappeared without trace on June 18, 1928.

Fridtjof Nansen (1861 –1930) was a Norwegian scientist, diplomat, humanitarian and Nobel Prize winner. He led the team that made the first crossing of Greenland in 1888. However, he became particular famous for his North pole expedition 1893–1896 and his later efforts as humanitarian and diplomat.

In his research Nansen saw evidence that there was a drift of ice apparently moving East to West passing the North pole. It was his idea to build a ship, the Fram (the Norwegian word for "forward"), that would not be crushed when frozen into the ice, but lifted up by the ice by using a rounded hull. He was hoping that this way he could use the drift, carrying his Fram to or close to the North pole.

The Fram left Christiania (as Oslo was called then) in June 1893 and got into the drift of ice in September. However, it became clear that the drift would be too slow and not passing over the pole, so Nansen decided to reach the pole together with one companion by dog sledge when reaching a point far enough North. The plan was that when the ship passed latitude 83° he and Hjalmar Johansen would leave the ship with the dogs and make for the pole while the Fram would continue its drift until it emerged from the ice in the North Atlantic. After reaching the pole, Nansen and Johansen would make for the nearest known land, then cross to Spitzbergen where they would find a ship to take them home. The plan worked out, despite many unforeseen hitches. Nansen and Johansen returned to Norway August 1896 learning to their dismay that the nobody had heard of the Fram. However, it was like a miracle: a few days later the Fram also reached Norway, with the full crew healthy! Nansen’s plan had worked out! More on Nansen and the Fram.

During the 20 years following his return from the Arctic, Nansen devoted most of his energies to scientific work and diplomacy. In 1922 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on behalf of the displaced victims of wars.

Roald Amundsen (1872 – 1928) und Fridtjof Nansen (1861 –1930) gehören zu den erfolgreichsten Erforschern der Polargebiete, kombiniert mit der Fähigkeit, komplexe Pläne genau zu erarbeiten und durchzuführen, der Gabe der Menschenführung und einer persönlichen bewundernswerten Integrität.

Amundsen war der erste, der die Nordwestpassage erfolgreich durchquerte (1903- 1906). Er wurde besonders berühmt, weil er als erster Mensch 1911, etwa vier Wochen vor Captain Robert Scott, den Südpol erreichte, und 1926 mit dem Luftschiff Norge den Nordpol. Da alle früheren "Entdeckungen" des Nordpols durch z.B. Frederick Cook 1908 und ein Jahr später Robert Peary nicht klar belegen, ob diese Personen wirklich genau am Pol standen (man vermutet heute, dass Peary nur auf 97 km an den Pol herankam) ist Amundsen auch der Mensch, der nachweisbar als erster am Nordpol stand. Amundsen beteiligte sich 1928 an der Suche nach der verunglückten Expedition des Flugschiffs Italia unter Umberto Nobile. Das Wrack der Italia wurde letztendlich gefunden und ein großer Teil der Besatzung konnte gerettet werden, aber zu den mindest 8 Toten des Italia Unglücks kann man eigentlich auch Amundsen zählen, der auf der Suche nach der Absturzstelle mit seinem Flugzeug offenbar tödlich verunglückte: Ursache und Ort des Absturzes seinen Flugzeugs sind bis heute nicht bekannt.

Nansen durchquerte als erster mit einer Expedition Grönland 1888. Berühmt wurde er durch seine Idee, die sich bewegende Eisdecke im Norden nicht als Feind zu betrachten, sondern als Transportmittel. Er entwarf ein Schiff mit rundem Kiel, die Fram ("Vorwärts!") das vom Eis nicht zerquetscht, sondern emporgehoben werden sollte, und so durch die Eisdrift vom Osten nach Westen in die Nähe des Pols gebracht werden sollte. Die Fram lief 1893 aus. Als es klar wurde, dass die Trift zu langsam war und nicht direkt zum Pol führen würde, brach Nansen mit seinem Freund Johansen mit Hundeschlitten auf, um den Pol zu erreichen. Die Fram mit 10 Mann Besatzung triftete am Eis weiter. Nansen kam bis auf 300 km an den Nordpol heran, musste dann aber den Rückweg nach Süden mit zwei weiteren Überwinterungen antreten. Er und Johansen kamen im August 1896 wohlbehalten nach Norwegen zurück. Von der Fram war zu diesem Zeitpunkt noch keine Spur. Aber nur Tage später kam auch sie mit der gesamten gesunden Mannschaft in Norwegen an! Nach dieser Expedition widmete sich Nansen der Forschung und Diplomatie, vor allem der Flüchtlingshilfe, für die er 1922 den Friedensnobelpreis erhielt.