Kristian Prestrud (1881-1927)

Prestrud was a naval officer and first mate on Roald Amundsen’s expedition with the Fram to Antarctica 1910-12. He was a member of the wintering party on land and he led the three-man expedition to King Edward VII Land.
Kristian Prestrud (1881-1927)

Kristian Prestrud was born on 22 October 1881 in Hveberg in the county of Hedmark. He was baptized in Grue church in January 1882. His father, Christen Christiansen Prestrud, was a farmer at Hårstad Østre farm (bought in March 1883) and was also manager at Løiten's distillery.

Krsitian Prestrud went to school in Hamar before leaving for the sea at 15 years of age on the Bark Rolf. After two years on sailing ships he started at the Naval Academy in Horten. He became second lieutenant in 1902 and first lieutenant in 1905. After leaving the Academy he sailed for a couple of years in the merchant fleet.

When Roald Amundsen in early spring 1909 asked captain Sem-Jacobsen to construct a kite or similar that he could use to be lifted up from a ship to gain a better view over the ice, Prestrud was one of the test fliers. The man-lifting kite was constructed with six-seven kites in a row. Underneath there was a chair where the observer could direct the elevation with the help of lines. The kites could lift c. 250 kilo. Sem-Jacobsen and Prestrud were lifted several times up to a couple of hundred metres height, while the kites themselves were as high as 600 metres. The Fram’s captain, ltn. Engelstad, was killed in the attempts when lightening hit one of the kites. Prestrud was asked to be first mate on Amundsen’s expedition with the Fram (which was supposed to go north), and before departure he participated on Bjørn Helland-Hansen’s course in oceanography in Bergen together with Hjalmar Fredrik Gjertsen and Adolf Schröer.

Prestrud was in the eight-man group which made the first start towards the South Pole early in September 1911. The temperature was then still far too low, and the group got into difficulties. The retreat to the base Framheim was a shambles and Prestrud almost lost his life in the extreme conditions. He was saved by Hjalmar Johansen, Fridtjof Nansen’s companion on the North Pole attempt in 1895. Johansen’s criticism of Amundsen’s dispositions during this failed start sent him into disgrace, and both he and Prestrud were left out of the group that finally conquered the South Pole in December 1911.

Johansen and Jørgen Stubberud were instead sent, under Prestrud’s command, eastwards to survey King Edward VII Land for two months.

After the South Pole expedition Prestrud started at the district command in Kristiansand before he was on the armoured ship Norge 1913-14. In 1914-15 he served on the torpedo ship Delfin in Skudenes. Prestrud was appointed captain in 1915 and during the summer he served at the Admiralty in Kristiania (Oslo). In 1915-16 he served on the torpedo ship Sild in Kristiansund and in 1916-17 on the torpedo ship Skarv in Farsund. Later in 1917 he served on the torpedo ship Ravn in Kristiansand, before he in 1918 was transferred to the torpedo ship Viking in Haugesund. In 1919 he was on the armoured ship Tordenskjold.

During the period 1919-21 Prestrud was at the 3rd district command Marviken in Kristiansand. He then became aide to King Haakon VII until 1923. He was with the King on state visits to Belgium and the Netherlands. From 1923 to 1927 Prestrud was naval attaché at the legations in London and Paris. He was appointed harbour master in Kristiansand in 1927.

Prestrud married Randi Usterud from Kristiansand on 22 May 1915, with Thorvald Nilsen as his best man. They had a son Kaare (1916) and daughter Kirsti (1919). Kristian Prestrud died on 11 November 1927.

Kristian Prestrud was presented with the South Pole medal, was knight of the Danish Dannebrog Order, the French Legion of Honour, the Dutch Oranje-Nassau Order and the Belgian Order of Leopold.