Kristian Kristiansen (1865-1943)
Kristian Kristiansen was born 16 February 1865 on the small tenant farm Grinda belonging to the Trana farm in what was then Ogndal County near to Steinkjer. Apart from the time on the Greenland expedition 1888-89 and a couple of years in America at the end of the 1890s, Kristiansen lived almost his whole life in the area, of which 47 years at Sneppen in Steinkjer. Nowadays Kristian Kristiansens Street runs past the house (no. 9) where he lived.
The “Steinkjerleksikon” tells us that when Kristiansen grew up he used to work on both land and sea. He made his mark as a skier when he, 13 years old, gained second place in a skiing race for 16 year olds. After his confirmation - probably in 1879 - he worked as a farm boy on the Øvre Trana farm, and it was here he became acquainted with Otto Sverdrup. Sverdrup’s father Ulrik had bought Trana farm at a forced sale in 1874.
In 1888 Otto Sverdrup recommended to Nansen that he should take Kristiansen as one of the members on the Greenland expedition. Kristiansen was the youngest of the six and Nansen thought that he, at 23, was too young. Nansen himself was 26 and second youngest. However, Nansen had no cause to regret his decision to take Kristiansen. Kristiansen himself was also in doubt; Ulrik Sverdrup needed him for forestry work and, not least, Kristiansen was engaged and about to be married. He was given leave from both “duties” for the six months the expedition was expected to last.
On the expedition he was described as “quiet, but nice”. Nansen wrote later that he could always be relied upon. His and Sverdrup’s handyman experience was invaluable during the dangerous drift in two small boats in the drift ice, when they had to improvise repairs after ice struck a hole in one of the boats. However, Nansen criticised Kristiansen for eating all his weekly ration of ¼ kg butter as soon as it was portioned out and called this “very bad housekeeping”. A craving for fat was something they all suffered from during the expedition. Together with Sverdrup, Balto and Dietrichson, Kristiansen also suffered from lack of tobacco. Nansen only portioned out to them a pipefull each on Sundays. As a substitute the four could, according to Balto, take tarred rope and shave bits into their pipes to smoke and in addition chew the tarred rope while they were on the move.
Nansen wanted them all to use the American Indian snowshoes in deep snow and uphill pulls, but the two Sámi refused. Kristiansen tried, fell, and damaged his knee. After several attempts and more falls, he gave up and changed to the smaller Norwegian type. It was also Nansen’s idea that they should use 3-man sleeping bags, to save weight and for the warmth. Kristiansen shared with the Sámi Balto and Ravna, “the subordinates” as Balto said. The group was also divided in this way when they arrived at Godthaab - Nansen, Sverdrup and Dietrichson stayed with the colony manager Laurits Bistrup, while Kristiansen, Balto and Ravna were lodged in another house. Their room was apparently without curtains, and with the lamp lit in the evenings, the three foreigners were an entertaining sight for the Greenlandic girls who flocked around outside and stared in. Kristiansen and Balto learned a little Greenlandic and became enthusiastic participants in the local dancing parties.
On 30 May the group arrived back in Kristiania (Oslo), where they were met by cheering crowds. For Kristiansen and Sverdrup the celebrations continued first in Trondheim on 10 June and then in Steinkjer, where they were met out on the fjord and welcomed by both the mayor and the magistrate. They were taken in a procession through the streets of Steinkjer while the crowds cheered. All six expedition members received medals from several countries. Kristiansen received amongst others the Norwegian, Swedish and Danish Order of Merit and he was appointed honorary member of the Steinkjer Skiing Club. He received their honorary member medal during their 50th anniversary 29 December 1935.
Nansen was obviously satisfied with Kristiansen since he asked him to join the Fram expedition over the Arctic Ocean in 1893. Kristiansen went on board together with Sverdrup when the Fram arrived at Trondheim on the way north, but he was uncertain as to whether he would go on the 3-5 year expedition. As with both Nansen and Sverdrup he was now married and a father, so he needed time to think through the implications. A week later he left the Fram in Tromsø and returned to his family.
Kristiansen continued to work on Øvre Trana farm for some years, before becoming yard foreman at a timber yard. In 1905 he started as a stevedore at Indherreds Aktie Dampskibsselskab (a steamship company), a job he had for the rest of his working life. According to the “Steinkjerleksikon” he was always present at the Sørsikaia quay when the local passenger boats arrived.
Kristian Kristiansen died on 30 June 1943 in Steinkjer and his funeral on 6 July was paid for by the state.
Steinkjerleksikonet på http://www.steinkjerleksikonet.no/index.php?artikkel=410
Per Egil Hegge: Otto Sverdrup - Aldri rådløs. J.M. Stenersens forlag, Oslo 1996
Roland Huntford: Fridtjof Nansen - Mennesket bak myten. Aschehoug 1996