Fredrik Hjalmar Johansen (1867-1913)
Fredrik Hjalmar Johansen was born in Skien in south Norway and participated on the first and third Fram expeditions. Hjalmar Johansen was Norwegian champion in gymnastics at 20 and was famous for his strength and acrobatics, demonstrating his skills in Paris in 1889. His early career otherwise was uninspired, with jobs as a prison keeper and helping on the family farm, and getting only as far as second lieutenant in the military Reserve when he applied to join Fridtjof Nansen’s drift across the Arctic Ocean with the Fram 1893-96. He was so eager to join that he accepted the position of stoker. Most of the voyage he was in fact meteorological assistant for Sigurd Scott-Hansen.
Johansen was chosen by Nansen for the North Pole dash in 1895 and his strength and assistance were crucial in their safe arrival at Franz Josef Land, where the two spent the winter sharing a double sleeping bag for warmth in a miserable makeshift stone shelter. They were celebrated as heroes on their return to Norway.
Johansen had problems settling down to married life and the military in Tromsø afterwards. He participated on some Svalbard expeditions, but gradually developed serious drink problems and his wife took their children back to Skien. Nansen helped where he could, and persuaded Roald Amundsen to take Johansen on his expedition which went to Antarctica with the Fram in 1910. An unfortunate incident, which was Amundsen’s fault more than Johansen’s, put Johansen into Amundsen’s disfavour and took him out of the South Pole group. He travelled home in disgrace at the end of the expedition. Johansen committed suicide in Oslo six months later.