NANSEN, Fridtjof

(1861 - 1930)
“The difficult is what takes a little time. The impossible is what takes a little longer.” 

Nansen was an extraordinary man, succeeding as polar explorer, scientist, diplomat and humanitarian. Whilst working in the zoology department of Bergen Museum he devised the idea of crossing Greenland’s interior with a small team, all using skis. He successfully led the party in 1888, spending 2 months of exhaustion and privation collecting previously unrecorded information about the interior and returning to a hero’s welcome. The international race to achieve the Earth’s poles had captured the public’s imagination, and following the success of his Greenland expedition, Nansen conceived, planned and promoted a scientific endeavour to use a ship specially designed to survive being locked into and drifting with the pack ice. The resultant “Fram” expedition of 1893-1896 achieved a record northern latitude of 86°14′, and again he returned to Tromso to a rapturous reception.  He immediately wrote an account of the voyage, remarkably managing to produce the Norwegian text by November 1896 - the English translation,  Farthest North, was ready in January 1897.  The book was a huge success, securing his long term financial future. He retired from exploration, although his techniques of polar travel and his innovations in equipment and clothing influenced subsequent Arctic and Antarctic expeditions. 

For the next few decades his energy and drive were directed towards the diplomatic arena and, following WWI, organising for the repatriation of nearly half a million prisoners of war and resettlement of around two million Russian refugees.  His success was such that he then led the effort to mitigate the Russian famine of 1921-22.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922 for “his work in adding the millions in Russia struggling against famine and for the refugees in Asia Minor and Thrace.”

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