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Topic: Farthest North, by Fridtjof Nansen< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 18 2014, 5:22 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The story of polar exploration through the end of the 19th century is largely one of ships crushed in the ice, with most survivors dying of exposure, or if they lived long enough, scurvy.  Furthermore, it was widely believed that the Arctic Ocean was a shallow basin, perhaps occupied by large landmass, but at least filled by many islands that would impede large-scale ice movements.  Imagine how crazy it seemed for Nansen to propose intentionally freezing a specially-designed ship into the ice pack to drift 3-5 years over the North Pole on a current whose existence he inferred from a few scant clues.

Fortunately, Nansen's reputation as a scientist and polar explorer were convincing enough to get funding for this 1893-1896 expedition, this 678-page account of which he published very soon after it's completion.

While he didn't reach the pole, he did get within 320 miles on a sledge journey, and the ship drifted within 400 miles, surviving three years in the ice without damage.  His theories about land masses and currents were confirmed, and he collected much valuable information about temperature and salinity profiles in that region, all without any but the most minor injuries or calamity.

The first half of the book is a little slow, as it describes the preparation and drifting uneventfully in the ice.  Action picks up in the second half, wherein Nansen and Johansen depart on a year-long sledge/kayak journey, leaving the Fram to finish its journey under Sverdrup's command.  In a bizarre coincidence both legs of the expedition were completed within a few days of each other.  With better luck, Nansen and Johansen might have returned a year earlier.  The last section includes Sverdrup's account of what happened on the ship while Nansen was away on the sledge.

I found this quite interesting, though it lacked the calamity of most British polar exploration tales.  Those with some understanding of Norwegian social norms will get a a tiny bit more out of it than the average reader, but that's just a little bonus.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 20 2014, 8:24 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Have you ever read 'Endurance, the Greatest Adventure Story Ever Told' about Shackleton's shipwreck in Antarctica and surviving by floating on ice floes to eventually make it to South Georgis Island?

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If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 20 2014, 9:33 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(CarFree @ Jan. 20 2014, 8:24 pm)
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Have you ever read 'Endurance, the Greatest Adventure Story Ever Told' about Shackleton's shipwreck in Antarctica and surviving by floating on ice floes to eventually make it to South Georgis Island?

Yes, that's a good one.  My favorite book on that topic is "Shackleton", by Roland Huntford.

For those interested, the second episode of of PBS's "Chasing Shackleton" airs this week.  A small crew recreated the boat journey in the first episode (an almost eerie duplication).  This week they're crossing the island with vintage gear.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 21 2014, 9:19 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thank you, Bugload. My copy of Farthest North vanished and your thread reminded me to reorder it. It will arrive tomorrow as the cold snap continues.

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To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 26 2014, 12:06 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Here's my list of the three best all time non-fiction adventure books:

(3)  Endurance, the Greatest Adventure...
      Alfred Lansing

(2)  Annapurna
      Maurice Herzog

(1)  Into the Heart of the Sea, The Voyage of the Essex
      Nathaniel Philbrick

I agree that Farthest North is a good one. There are many polar adventure books worth reading. Herzog went on to become the President of the French Olympic Committee and the mayor of Chamonix.  The Voyage of the Essex is the true story upon which Melville based  Moby Dick

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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 26 2014, 6:48 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Another great one is "The Worst Journey in the World",  Apsley Cherry-Garrard's account of his experience in the fatal Scott expedition.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 27 2014, 8:49 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Home of the Blizzard by Douglas Mawson is another amazing book about Antarctica. You'll end up wearing a scarf while reading it despite the temperature outside.

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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 03 2014, 5:19 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

[U]I thought I had posted a report about this book a while ago, but I don't see it.  Anyway, I highly recommend In the Land of White Death: an epic story of survival in the Siberian Arctic by Valerian Albonov.  I loved this book. I'd never heard of the "Northeast" Passage before reading this book.  I hope this explanation comes out OK,as I can't see what I'm typing with some stupid add in from of the box.

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”Every tree was dripping and the creeks had swollen. It occurred to me that I had achieved a rare thing: I was living at the center of my heart’s geography. And I knew it.”- Bryce Andrews, Badluck Way
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 03 2014, 10:58 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(mtngrl @ Feb. 03 2014, 5:19 pm)
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I'd never heard of the "Northeast" Passage before reading this book.

That's quite relevant, too.  Nansen's journey started by taking the Northeast Passage as far west as he could get before turning north.   He didn't get as far as he would have liked because the ice came early that year.

I found Nansen's discussion about the effect of islands, shoals, and river mouths on the currents and movement of the ice.  He also mentions seeing driftwood and even mud from the Russian rivers on the surface of the ice a thousand miles away.

The Russian explorers never really got their due, since they didn't have the same sort of publicity machine.
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 04 2014, 8:49 am Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE


(big_load @ Feb. 03 2014, 10:58 pm)
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The Russian explorers never really got their due, since they didn't have the same sort of publicity machine.

Between the language barrier and the censorship of the Soviets on any positives from the Tsarist era, this isn't too surprising. Tragic because the stories that could be told would probably be as harrowing as those from the Northwest passage.

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