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Item #: PL145D-167
FARTHEST NORTH: BEING THE RECORD OF A VOYAGE OF EXPLORATION IN THE SHIP "FRAM" 1893-96 2 Vols. Fritjof Nansen 1898 2nd UK ed Hardcover Near Fine
By Nansen, Fritjof
Price: $300.00

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London, 1898, 2nd UK edition. Two volumes: 493 and 463 pp, 120 b/w ills, 16 color plates, 4 maps. AEG. Striking red, gold and silver gilt illustration and lettering on green cloth hardcover. The UK edition is bound more attractively than the US edition. The brightly colored front cover and spines of both volumes makes this set perhaps the most beautiful book from the heroic age of Polar exploration, and is a treasure of every Polar collection. Near Fine condition with some wear to cover and cracked hinge in Vol. 1.

A classic of Arctic exploration; the explorers were adrift in the Polar ice pack for 18 months and made an attempt at the North Pole.

"Norwegian Explorer Fridtjof Nansen was a scientist, statesman and laureate of the Nobel Prize. He crossed the Greenland icecap at the age of 26, and after became the first to sail through the North West Passage from west to east.

When Fridtjof Nansen was born in 1861, there were no new shores to discover. The outlines of the world map had been virtually completed; Nansen helped to fill in the details.

Such was the scope of Fridtjof Nansen's life's work, that his considerable exploratory and scientific achievements formed only a part of it. He was scientist, statesman and laureate of the Nobel Prize. His devotion to humanitarian causes saved the lives of countless thousands after WWI. But he regarded himself first and foremost as an explorer and scientist. It was in this role that he was happiest.

Nansen was born into a family with a distinguished record of service to the nation. A paternal ancestor, Hans Nansen -- one-time mayor of Copenhagen -- had explored the White Sea. Fired with this same urge to probe the unknown, the young Nansen, only 26 years of age, decided to mount an expedition to cross the Greenland icecap. He had caught tantalizing glimpses of Greenland's wild and almost untrodden eastern seaboard during a voyage aboard a sealing vessel in the Arctic Ocean in 1882, and determined to cross its inland snowfields, where no European had penetrated far.

His six-man strong expedition set forth in 1888. It faced a totally hostile environment. Twelve days passed before the team was even able to set foot on the mainland, after leaving the safety of the expedition's main vessel. The men completed the trek across the icecap, reaching the west coast of Greenland in September. Throughout the hazardous journey, Nansen and his men had also meticulously recorded the meteorological conditions and compiled other scientific data.

The six returned to Norway and the nation's acclaim. But Nansen was not content to rest on his laurels. Earlier observations had convinced him that a strong east-west current must flow from Siberia towards the North Pole, and from there down to Greenland.

Determined to prove the truth of his theory, Nansen drew up the specifications for a ship strong enough to withstand the pressure of the ice. The plan was to sail it eastwards along the Northeast Passage to the New Siberian Islands until it froze into the ice. The crew would remain on board the ship while it drifted westwards with the ice towards the North Pole and the straits between Svalbard and Greenland.

Nansen expounded his theory and his plans to the Norwegian Geographical Society and to the Royal Geographical Society in London. The response in Norway was enthusiastic, though mixed with some criticism. In London reactions were largely negative and many expressed doubt as to whether such a ship could be built.

Undeterred by these problems, Nansen carried on with his plan. Funds were procured and a special ship, the 'Fram' (Forward), was designed and built. Though no beauty in the traditional sense, the 'Fram' a squat vessel of enormous strength, was admirably suited to her purpose. The rounded hull gave the ice nothing on which to grip and hold. When the ice started to exert pressure, the ship would simply be pushed upwards. That, at least, was the theory. Happily it proved correct.

The expedition left Christiania (now Oslo) in June 1893, with provisions for five years and fuel for eight. The 'Fram' sailed east along the northern shore of Siberia. About 100 miles short of the New Siberian Islands Nansen changed course to due north. By 20 September, at latitude 79 degrees, the 'Fram' was firmly locked in the pack ice. Nansen and his men prepared to drift westwards towards Greenland.

There followed three long years of total isolation from the outside world. Progress was slow. But the tiny, 400-ton ship stood the test, resisted the encroaching ice, and was a snug and secure home for Nansen and his crew.

The long, frustrating months of barely measurable progress were a heavy strain on Nansen's restless nature. The 'Fram' did not appear to be drifting as close to the North Pole as he had hoped. He resolved to make a bid for the Pole, taking with him one of the strongest and most stalwart of his men, Hjalmar Johansen. The two planned to make for Svalbard or Franz Josef Land after reaching the Pole, leaving the 'Fram' in the capable hands of her captain, Otto Sverdrup.

Their bid was unsuccessful. Conditions were far worse than expected; their way was often barred by ice ridges or by patches of open water which caused delays. Finally, at 86 degrees 14 minutes north, they decided to turn back, and to make for Franz Josef Land. Nansen and Johansen had not reached the Pole, but they had been closer to it than any man before them.

After a further five months and three-hundred miles of crushing toil -- 'enough to tire out giants' -- as Nansen described it, the two men arrived at the northernmost of the islands of Franz Josefs Land. This was later named Jackson Island, after the British explorer Frederick Jackson, whom, by incredible chance, the two men met out on the ice. Prior to this meeting, the two men had spent the winter in a tiny hut which they built of stones, and roofed with walrus skins.

In August 1897 one of Jackson's expedition vessels deposited Nansen and Johansen at the Norwegian port of Vardψ. On that same day, and unbeknown to them, the 'Fram' had shaken off the last of the pack ice near Spitsbergen, and was steaming south for the first time in three years. Nansen's theory had proved correct. It had followed the current that he had argued must be there. Furthermore, the expedition had collected valuable information on currents, winds and temperatures, and proved beyond doubt that there was no land close to the Pole on the Eurasian side, but a deep, ice-covered ocean. For the new science of oceanography, the voyage of the 'Fram' was of major importance. For Nansen it marked a vocational turning point. Oceanography became the focus of his research.

Nansen's major exploring days were over. But before his life took another turn, and he devoted his time and energy to matters of state, and the plight of refugees, he cruised extensively in both the Norwegian Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, compiling scientific data.

One burning ambition remained to Nansen; to lead an expedition to the South Pole. This was not to be. Another young explorer had asked him for the 'Fram'. He wished to mount an expedition to the North Pole; one which might yield valuable scientific data. Nansen decided to allow the young explorer to use the 'Fram'. Though still keenly interested in polar exploration, specifically in airships, he devoted the remainder of his life, until he died in 1930, to other works. The 'Fram' was taken over by the young explorer who had asked for it -- Roald Amundsen."


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