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FRIDTJOF NANSEN AND RUSSIA

Дата публикации: 21 сентября 2021
Автор(ы): Vyacheslav MARKIN
Публикатор: Научная библиотека Порталус
Рубрика: ПРИКЛЮЧЕНЧЕСКАЯ ЛИТЕРАТУРА
Источник: (c) Science in Russia, №5, 2011, C.96-104
Номер публикации: №1632216539


Vyacheslav MARKIN, (c)

by Vyacheslav MARKIN, journalist

 

The country, the name of which-Norway-originates from the words "nord vegr", meaning "northern way", stretches along the "ridge" of the Scandinavian peninsula like a narrow strip. This is a way, which leads from the south to the north, into Arctic regions. And it's not accidental that its severe land gave birth to the world's great travelers, explorers of northern nature. Probably, it is also natural that the names of Norwegian pathfinders, above all, Fridtjof Nansen (in 2011 we celebrate his 150th birth anniversary) and Roald Amundsen, became unusually popular in Russia-the country, turned by all its broad front to the north.

 

THE MAN WHO NEVER STEPPED BACK

 

Russian writer Anton Chekhov* gathered information about Nansen, and even intended to visit Norway for this purpose, meaning to embody in a character of his future play an image from his point of view, of an ideal representative of the human race, to which, he believed, belonged the famous Norwegian. Unfortunately, Chekhov had never realized this idea.

 

A lot of his deeds are put down into history: his unprecedented drift on board the ship Fram, frozen in the ice near the Novosibirsk islands in the autumn 1893, subsequent trip through the whole of Siberia, crowned by writing the book To the Country of Future, his aid to prisoners of the First World War, "Nansen passports"--temporary identification cards, introduced by the League of Nations, which proved to be salutary for hundreds of thousands of refugees in Europe in 1920-1921. Exceptional was his role in the organization of international aid to starving people of the Volga Region in 1921 and to Armenia, which suffered from genocide in 1915-1916. But even then, when he seemed to be totally plunged in social activities, the thought of scientific research in the Arctic regions never left him.

 

When an international society for exploration of the Arctic regions with the aid of an airship was founded in 1924 in Berlin, Nansen was unanimously elected its president. The organization of debarkation of a group in the North Pole using a dirigible was discussed during its meetings in Berlin in 1926 and in Leningrad in 1928. Soviet polar explorers were also invited to take part in this expedition. Nansen made a trip with lectures in the cities of the USA and Canada in order to find necessary funds. The airship Graf Zeppelin LZ-127, presented by the German government, was prepared for the flight. But on May 13, 1930, Fridtjof Nansen died, and the initial plan was not fulfilled. Nevertheless, his thought to set up a research station in the North Pole was implemented in 1937, when a group of Soviet polar explorers headed by Ivan Papanin

 

*See: V. Vasilvev, "In Time All My Works Shall See the Light...", Science in Russia, No. l, 2010.--Ed.

 
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(later on Dr. Sc. (Geography), head of the Department of Marine Expeditionary Works in the USSR Academy of Sciences) landed there. It was in Russia, where the last dream of the Norwegian traveler came true,--very warm relations linked him with Russia for decades.

 

Nansen had friendly relations with Russian polar explorers: Baron Eduard Toll*, Admiral Stepan Makarov, and also with "the patriarch of Russian geography" Pyotr Semenov-Tienshansky (honorary member of St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences from 1873). Spiritually close to him was the revolutionary, scientist and Encyclopaedist, an expert of Siberian and Scandinavian glaciation, the author of the project on studying our northern seas Pyotr Kropotkin**--he was the first to tell the world about findings of the scientific expedition on board the Fram.

 

Fridtjof Nansen was born in October 10, 1861, in the family of a lawyer, in his mother's estate (baroness), not far from Christiania (nowadays Oslo). He inherited his father's persistence to achieve his goals, assiduity and diligence. His mother cultivated in him the best qualities, too, paying much attention to physical education. From early childhood he grew fond of skates and skis, took part in contests and became a champion of Norway 12 times.

 

Fridtjof was twenty years old, when he, after graduation from school, decided to become a zoologist, got a job as a probationer on a trapping vessel the Viking, which was setting off to the Arctic Ocean. The first acquaintance with the Arctic regions, its seas, bird colonies on sea-shores, glaciers and icebergs, made the strongest impression on the youth, who had just passed his entrance exams to the University.

 

But the most important thing, that impressed him near the shores of Greenland, were the trunks of Siberian larch-trees, brought with the current from remote Siberia. Probably, already then Nansen had got a bold idea, which was realized by an incredible voyage through the Arctic Ocean with drift ice. As in case of any other brilliant idea, no one from experienced navigators could believe in it, calling it "reckless" and "suicidal". But in almost ten years, Nansen started construction of his famous Fram. Meanwhile, after a fit of sea-sickness, which he suddenly appeared to be susceptible to, he participated in hunting for seals, in the heat of which the Viking froze in the ice and was drifting for the whole month. Carrying out all necessary works to save the ship, Nansen did not forget about scientific observations. He discovered accumulations of micro-algae on the surface of the drift ice. Among them there were species, typical of the seas of Eastern Siberia, which served as another confirmation of the hypothesis about the arctic sea ice drift from the east to the west.

 

Upon his return from the voyage, the young zoologist was accepted as a laboratory assistant at the Bergen Museum, where he devoted himself to histology of protozoa, and particularly, their neural tissue. He published a number of works on this subject, including the monograph The Structure and Connection of Histological Elements of the Central Nervous System, highly appreciated by specialists. He defended his doctoral thesis while preparing for an expedition to Greenland. It was then that he resolutely changed his field of activities--a

 

*See: V. Glushkov, "Sannikov Land: Fact or Fiction?", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2004.--Ed.

 

**See: V. Markin, "Prince Pyotr Kropotkin in Britain", Science in Russia, No. 4. 2003.--Ed.

 

Science in Russia, No.5, 2011

 
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painstaking researcher of microworld became a courageous seeker of new paths in extreme conditions.

 

In 1870, the Swedish polar explorer Adolf Erik Norden-skiold tried to traverse Greenland. He started from the western coast, but had to return there. But Nansen, often following the principle of "burning one's boats", started his trip from the uninhabited eastern coast of Greenland, which was difficult of access for vessels,--it would be pernicious to return there. After this voyage, Nansen became a national hero of the country, which was fighting then for independence, i.e. for breaking off the union with Sweden. The crossing of the Arctic Ocean with drift ice had to become a kind of a symbol of this fight.

 

ALONG THE RUSSIAN COAST

 

In 1890, Nansen developed a plan of the expedition, according to which he set a goal--to pass, if not directly through the North Pole, at least near it. He decided to take on the path, shown by nature itself, using the law of ice drift within the bounds of the ocean. It was only necessary to determine correctly the general direction of the current in the Arctic basin. In its turn, the right direction was prompted to Nansen by the discovery of trunks of Siberian larch-trees and certain species of microorganisms near the western coast of Greenland.

 

The most difficult voyage required a very solid vessel. It was constructed so that the ice, surrounding it from every quarter, instead of crushing it, pushed it out unhurt to its surface. Certainly, the risk was great, but that was a characteristic feature of the brave Norwegian: taking a risk, he always overcame circumstances, even if they were too unfavorable.

 

The name of the ship was given by Nansen's wife, the chamber singer Eva Sars. The Fram (in Norwegian meaning "forward") was the favorite word of Fridtjof himself.

 
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When he proposed to Eva, he added: "But I have to leave for the North Pole." It was not easy for her, but nevertheless she agreed with him, and was waiting for his return for long three years, with no idea about his whereabouts. It was not accidental that dedication in the book about the expedition The Fram in the Arctic Sea sounds so: "To her, who had the courage to wait." Surely, Nansen himself was a very strong-willed man; otherwise he would not be able to succeed in all that he did. But it would be a mistake to consider him just a man of an extraordinary will power, as it follows from the title of the book written by the Norwegian writer Per Egil Hegge Fridtjof Nansen. Only a Will Power. He was known for his humanity, deep humaneness, the gift of love.

 

The expedition on the Fram (1893-1896) mainly passed along the northern Russian outlying districts and its arctic water areas. Russian scientists showed great interest in it. Nansen's report at the London Geographical Society about a future voyage was sent through diplomatic channels to Admiral Stepan Makarov. In contradistinction to British geographers, he highly appreciated this "crazy idea" of ice drift to the North Pole and suggested to form subsidiary expeditions, and also a storehouse for provisions on the Franz Josepf Land. He wrote about it in a letter to Nansen, and enclosed his data about the temperature of water in the east of the Arctic Ocean. The answer with the words of gratitude was not long in coming. A great help in organization of the Norwegian expedition

 
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Map of the 1893-1896 expedition:

 

a-free navigation of the FRAM, July-September 1893;

 

b-drift of the FRAM, September 1893-August 1896;

 

c-sledge-trip of Nansen and Johansen, March 1895-June 1896;

 

d-return of Nansen and Johansen, August 1896;

 

e-the FRAM sailing to Tromso, August 1896.

 

 

was rendered by Eduard Toll, who organized delivery of a team of draught-dogs (40 East Siberian Eskimo dogs) to the moorage of the Fram in Khabarovsk, and also two storehouses for provisions on the Novosibirsk islands.

 

On June 24 1893, the Fram with a crew of 13 men on board under the command of captain Otto Sverdrup left the Norwegian port of Vardo, where a ceremonial send-off was organized, and went out into the open sea. Its further route passed, as it was mentioned above, along the coast of Russian arctic seas. In the beginning of the Yugorski Shar strait, the Fram entered the port of Khabarovo, where they finished loading of the ship with coal and accepted on board a team of Siberian draught-dogs, which Nansen personally examined by making several trial rides. Last letters were sent to the mainland; in the envelope addressed to his wife Eva, left with a newborn daughter Liv, he enclosed a bunch of dried flowers from Russian tundra...

 

The Kara Sea met them with unbroken ice, but it was early to start drifting, and the schooner was moving in littoral lanes. Coming closer to the dry land, they went ashore, and so Norwegian names appeared on the map of Russian seas: new islands were discovered, one of which was called after Captain Sverdrup, another one--after the entrepreneur Axel Heiberg, one of the bays got the name of the Fram's constructor Colin Archer. They landed on a low-lying coast of the Yamal Peninsula and explored it. "What a desolate, cheerless country!"--concluded Nansen. Tacking between the edge of the ice and numerous islands situated along the coast of the Taimyr Peninsula, the Fram steadily advanced to the north. The explorer noted traces of ancient glaciation. Maps did not always permit to orient correctly in the chaos of small islands, bays, straits, and very often he turned to the first of them, made up in the 18th century by the Russian navigator Khariton Laptev. "Our observations entirely coincide with Laptev's map,"--noted Nansen.

 

After the Taimyr Peninsula, they went to the Cape Chelyuskin. When they reached this northern extremity of Eurasia, Nansen wrote in his diary: "...at 4 o'clock in the morning the flags were raised on masts, our cannon fired a salute over the sea. The sun rose, and at the same instant there appeared the troll Chelyuskin, under the charms of which our souls were languishing for so long. On this occasion I was supposed to make a solemn speech... But I just raised my glass, and my speech sounded like this: 'To your health, boys, congratulations on Chelyuskin!'... I badly want to go ashore, but we do not have time for this."

 

The Fram went directly to the north, to the Novosibirsk islands, to the east of which Toll advised to start drifting. The polar night set in, and there began wintering in the ice, without any connection with the motherland and the rest of the world. The ship was like in another dimension, where man never before had an occasion to be. That is why the scientific observations, mainly organized by Nansen, were invaluable.

 

The vessel found itself in dangerous situations a lot of times. Already in October 1893, the Norwegians faced a threatening phenomenon of ice hummocking. A normal vessel would inevitably be crushed, but the Fram survived, thanks to its egg-shaped form. For a long time the ship did not approach the general direction of the drift--it was feared, that the ship had got into a closed circulation of the East Siberian Sea, into a insidious ice trap. But a sudden gust of wind changed the situation:

 
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the Fram quickly dashed off to the north and soon was at a latitude of 87º N. After that the drift became slower and slower, so that for the five months the ship advanced to the north only for a latitude of one degree.

 

Nansen wrote: "Such an ice drift forms one virtue-patience. Our whole expedition was, in essence, one long school of this useful quality." As a reward they got a joy of numerous scientific discoveries. Contrary to the prevailing belief, the central part of the Arctic Ocean proved to be, according to the measurements, not a shallow sea, but a deep hollow. The regularities of ice drift were studied thoroughly. In the ocean's column they had found a deep layer of warm Atlantic water-an evidence of the fact that the Gulf Stream goes far to the east. The weather conditions in the Central Arctic regions were analyzed. It was established that at high latitudes there were various manifestations of life. However, that was not enough for Nansen. He was striving for the maximum.

 

When it became clear that the route of the ship's drift, despite all hopes, would pass to the south of the North Pole, the head of the expedition decided to reach it on skis. At a latitude of six degrees from the Pole, he left the Fram, which continued drifting and got on the march to the North Pole with Hjalmar Johansen--on skis, with dog teams.

 

TO THE FRANZ JOSEF LAND

 

The preparation took several weeks. They had to return twice, but on March 14, 1895, they, accompanied by a parting salute of those who stayed on the Fram, at more than 40 degrees below zero, they started a very dangerous trip. First they went along a flat snow field, but already in a week, during which they passed 120 km, there appeared ice hummocks, and then-unfrozen patches of water in the midst of ice; it was incredibly hard to get over these barriers. But the main obstacle to the Pole was a prevalent southern ice drift. All efforts of the Norwegians to go to the north proved to be futile--they did not manage to reach the Pole. Evidently, this time Fridtjof Nansen suffered a setback. However, thanks to his will power and patience, this failure turned out to be a victory once again.

 

Reaching a latitude of 86ºN, on April 5, 1895, they turned back, to the nearest archipelago--the Franz Josef Land. During the first week the travelers passed along the snow field 120 km, but then again they had to overcome ice hummocks, dragging the sledges with kayaks and freight, and ice clearings--they had to go round them or sail across them in kayaks.

 

These two men spent four months in the middle of an endless ice chaos. Only on July 24, Nansen wrote in his

 
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diary: "A miracle at last! A miracle, we have almost ceased to believe! Land! Land! After almost two years we can see something above this infinitely white line at the edge of the horizon." It took half a month before they could observe it closely. The first detected islands were called by Nansen the White Land, one of them got the name of Nansen's wife, the other--of his daughter Liv.

 

They had to spend a whole week to get to the shore, jumping from one ice-floe to another. And finally, a firm ground. "It is impossible to express in words, what we felt, when... found moss and flowers--wonderful big poppies and saxifrages--in a secluded place, between stones."

 

For a long time they could not understand, on what land exactly they went out: on the Franz Josef Land or Spitzbergen. The probability of meeting people on the first polar archipelago seemed to be zero, on the other--a little bit more. But in any case, forthcoming frosts forced them to stay there for winter and choose the most suitable place. There were no problems in regard of provisions-white bears and walruses were there in abundance. A small lair-like stone hut was built there with crevices closed with crushed stones, moss and lichen. Instead of the roof, they used walrus skins over the stone walls. Nearby they built a more spacious hut, in the middle of which Nansen could even stand upright. In the corner they set up a small fireplace. The chimney was made of ice and snow, a stove-door--of bearskin. Their dwelling was heated and illuminated by fat-lamps, with ursine grease always burning in them.

 

Their life consisted of cooking, sleeping and observing weather conditions. The absence of books and necessary things for making notes--it was impossible to keep them clean and legible--oppressed them. "In essence, the very emptiness in my diary gives an idea about our life during these nine months of wintering,"--noted Nansen. When he was asked afterwards, how they had endured such a life, he, as recalled his daughter Liv, "...shrugged his shoulders habitually and replied with a smile: 'Yes, that's right, it was a little bit boring, I think.'" Indeed, it is difficult even to imagine, how they endured those hard 9 month after the four-month march on the drift ice, when the prospect of returning to the motherland existed only in indistinct hopes. As soon as the polar night was over, they began preparations for their trip to the south. Never expecting to meet people on the uninhabited Franz Josef Land, they were going to sail on kayaks to Spitzbergen, which could take one more year. But they were ready even for this. On May 19, they left their wintering hut, and just a month later something absolutely unbelievable happened...

 

On June 17, Fridtjof Nansen, got out of his tent, climbed to the neighboring hummock to look around. In the hum of cries of guillemots he distinguished the barking of dogs, then saw the obvious footprints of dogs' on sand and heard a human voice...

 

This happy event could not be foreseen: in the south of the Franz Josef Land, Cape Flora, which Nansen and Johansen reached at last, an incredible meeting with the English expedition of Frederik Jackson, who had been working on the archipelago almost for two years, took place.

 

This was salvation and the savior turned out to be the same Jackson, who wanted to take part in Nansen's expedition, but was not accepted for the only reason: the undertaking in the period of the fight for independence of Norway was meant to be exclusively national.

 

HOME COMING

 

For three long years the world knew nothing about the fate of the Fram. And suddenly, in the evening of August 13, 1896, several dozens of cables sent to different addressees and signed by Nansen rained from a small town of Vardo. This seemed incredible: the Norwegian came back from obscurity. But there was no news about the Fram. The vessel of the English expedition Windward took Nansen and Johansen to Norway even before the arrival of the Fram, which successfully finished its voyage a week later.

 
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The crew of the Fram was welcomed by the capital of Norway. Eduard Toll came to Norway specially to participate in celebrations, as a representative of the Russian Geographical Society, and made a speech of welcome.

 

Pyotr Kropotkin, a Russian naturalist, who lived in England as a political emigre at that time, was the first to respond to the return of Nansen and the results of his observations in the central part of the Arctic basin. He published two articles on the subject of these studies in the Nature scientific magazine.

 

Two years later Nansen was greeted in St. Petersburg. He planned to visit it in the summer of 1897, when an International Geological Congress opened there, but his family affairs made him postpone the trip. He was upset and wrote to Alexander Karpinsky, president of the Academy of Sciences: "... I would like to make a personal acquaintance with the Russian scientific world." And this wish came true in 1898. A meeting of the Russian Geographical Society was convened specially in honor of the famous polar explorer. There Pyotr Semyonov-Tienshansky said, addressing the guest: "Doctor Nansen could see only cold and inhospitable northern Russian coasts before his visit, let the brave traveler today receive the warmest greetings of the country, which covered so widely the spaces of the Arctic ocean explored by him." The Russian Government awarded Nansen with the Order of Stanislaus of the 1st degree and the Order of Saint Anna of the 2nd degree; he was also presented with the highest award of the Geographical society--the Grand Golden Medal (Constantine's), and was elected a foreign honorary member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences.

 

In April 16, 1898, the Petersburg newspaper wrote about the visit of Nansen to the Russian capital: "Everyone wanted to come closer to the famous traveler, to shake his hand, say something... The public greeted Nansen as if he were native Russian."

 

One more meeting of Russian geographers and Nansen took place, where they discussed possible variants of getting to the North Pole. Admiral Makarov suggested a project of an expedition to the Pole of the icebreaker Yermak, and his proposal was seconded by the world famous chemist Dmitry Mendeleev* (Corresponding Member of the St. Petersburg AS from 1876). Eduard Toll told them about his project of an expedition to find the legendary Land of Sannikov to the east of New Siberian islands. Later on, according to advice given by Nansen, he bought a whaler in Norway and reequipped it at one of the local shipyards for Arctic voyages. In 1900, the Zarya (the name of the schooner) stopped in Norway in the beginning of the voyage, and Nansen handed over to his Russian friend materials on the navigation of the Fram and skis made according to his own model.

 

The correspondence between Russian scientists and their Norwegian colleague continued for many years. With its help they exchanged scientific data and ideas. The relations between the great Norwegian and Sofia Kovalevskaya (Corresponding Member of the St. Petersburg AS), the first Russian lady professor, an outstanding mathematician, were of purely friendly nature as well.

 

"TO THE COUNTRY OF THE FUTURE"

 

Fifteen years after his first visit to Russia, Nansen received two invitations at once to visit our country. The first was from the Siberian Joint-Stock Company of Steamship, Industry and Commerce: he was offered to head navigation of the steamer Correct from the Norwegian polar town of Tromso to the estuary of the river Yenisei in order to ascertain the possibility of regular commercial trips through the Kara Sea, usually filled up with ice. The second invitation was from E. Vurcel, the manager of the Siberian state railways, who suggested to travel by train from Krasnoyarsk to Vladivostok using the just constructed railway. The matter was to assess prospects of the vast transport line and, as Nansen wrote, "to see Siberia up to its extreme eastern frontiers". And in 1913 the famous traveler headed the navigation of the Correct to the estuary of the Yenisei in order to activate trade and economic relations between Russia and Norway, and returned on the newly constructed railway through Siberia, which he called "the country of the future" in the book written about it. He saw the banks of Lake Baikal--they looked like Norwegian mountains for him. In Vladivostok he met Vladimir Arsenyev*, a tireless explorer of the Far East. Upon his return to St. Petersburg, he received friendly welcome by Russian geographers. The atmosphere of the World War did not permit Nansen to stay long there. However, in less than five years he was in Russia again, this time for charity purposes...

 

*See: M. Savchenko. "Pride and Glory of Russia". Science in Russia, No. 1, 2004.--Ed.

 

*See: V. Yessakov, V. Markin, "Dedicated to the Far East", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2000.--Ed.

Опубликовано на Порталусе 21 сентября 2021 года

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