Fram Museum Oslo


The Second Fram Expedition (1898-1902)

Two years after Otto Sverdrup and the Fram returned from the drift across the Arctic Ocean, they set off again with 15 crew members for northwest Greenland. Difficult ice conditions led them over to the Arctic islands north of Canada’s mainland, and here they carried out an impressive programme of mapping and scientific investigations.

The Second Fram Expedition (1898-1902)

The Fram´s first successful voyage across the Arctic Ocean gave rise to a wave of popular enthusiasm and stimulated the interest of the Norwegian people in polar exploration. This was evidently a field in which Norway could make her mark, and the Norwegians felt themselves better suited to take up the challenge of the North than any of their neighbours. Accordingly, it was soon decided that the time had come to equip the Fram for a new voyage into the unknown. Otto Sverdrup, who had captained the ship on her first voyage, was urged to lead the second expedition. He had already proved his fitness for the task, not only on the Fram´s maiden voyage, but also when he and Nansen had crossed the Greenland ice cap on skis in 1888.

One of the lessons learned from the Fram´s first voyage was that a few alterations would improve the ship even more. Sverdrup therefore raised the freeboard by six feet and built a new deck extending forward from the engine room, thus providing six extra cabins in the forepart of the ship. A false keel was also added to improve lateral stability.

It was easier to get scientists to join the 2nd Fram expedition than the daring first expedition, and Sverdrup brought five scientists and ten crew members.


Seated from the left: cartographer Gunerius (Gunnar) Isachsen, 2nd-in-command Victor Baumann, Otto Sverdrup, mate Oluf Raanes, zoologist Edvard Bay, Sverre Hassel. Standing from the left: cook Adolf Henrik Lindstrøm, geologist Per Schei, 1st machinist Karl Olsen, stoker Rudolf Stolz, 2nd machinist Jacob Nødtvedt, Ivar Fosheim, botanist Herman Georg Simmons, Peder Leonard Hendriksen, assistant and stoker Ove Braskerud, doctor Johan Svendsen.

The expedition’s first year

On midsummer´s day 1898 the Fram was again ready for sea. The mission was to survey northern Greenland and to explore and survey the unknown northeastern coast. The first winter was spent at the north end of Rice Strait between Ellesmere Island and west Greenland, in a bay they called Fram Haven near to Pim Island. The ice blocked further progress north. The surrounding area of Ellesmere Island was explored by dog-sled expeditions, including one across to the west side. In summer 1899 the ice still blocked Smith Sound and Kane Basin, and in addition Sverdrup’s expedition had met with Robert Peary’s Greenland expedition and Sverdrup was not interested in an apparent exploration competition. He therefore turned the Fram south and westwards into Jones Sound to explore the unmapped area west of Ellesmere Island. They left behind a memorial cross to the doctor, Johan Svendsen, who had committed suicide and been buried through the ice at Fram Haven


The 2nd Fram Expedition was supposed to last for three years. However, it lasted for four, which naturally caused a lot of anxiety back home. The three winters were spent on the south coast of Ellesmere Island, firstly at Harbour Fjord - next to Grise Fjord - and then at Goose Fjord at the southwest corner of Ellesmere Island. When the summer 1901 did not melt the ice in Goose Fjord enough for the expedition to slip out, the fourth wintering became an unwelcome fact. Sadly a second expedition member, Ove Braskerud, died in October 1899 of an illness.

Scientific results

With great efficiency long sledge trips were made over a large area during the four years. Unknown parts of Ellesmere Island, Amund Ringnes Island, Ellef Ringnes Island and Axel Heiberg Island (the latter named after the expedition’s sponsors) were successfully explored and in all 200 000 km² of unknown land were surveyed, an area equal to southern Norway. Many of the Norwegian place names are still in use. The land was “claimed in the name of the King of Norway” by Sverdrup. However, the Norwegian government neglected to follow this up. In 1925 Canada proclaimed the sector principle, ie that all land lying between Canada’s east and west borders and the North Pole belonged to Canada, and the area discovered by Sverdrup’s expedition became Canadian without official protests from Norway. In 1930, just before Sverdrup died, he was granted a sum of money from the Canadian government for his scientific work and mapping during the Fram Expedition.

The scientific results were sensational. Thousands of plant samples, 2000 glass containers of smaller animals, large quantities of plankton, rock and fossil varieties, data about the ice, temperature, the earth´s magnetism, and data related to other scientific fields meant that it was many years before the results of the expedition were scientifically processed. In 1919 four volumes were published. An additional volume was published in 1930. All in all the work contained 39 papers. 

Return home

The men were finally able to extract the Fram from the ice in early August 1902 and the 14 remaining members returned home on 18 September. Once again the Fram had completed a remarkable pioneering expedition and returned safely.

Fram's route 1898-1902: