Fram Museum Oslo


Bentsen, Bernt (1860-1899)

From northern Norway Bernt Bentsen was the last man to join the 1st Fram Expedition for the drift across the Arctic Ocean 1893-96.

Bernt Bentsen (1860-1899)

Bentsen took his mate’s exam in 1890 and then worked on Arctic Sea voyages. When Fridtjof Nansen’s Fram expedition arrived in Tromsø on the way to the Siberian coast, Bentsen was spontaneously hired to help sail as far as the Yugor Strait. Nansen does not explain in his account why he engaged Bentsen, and in fact there was no extra bunk for him. Bentsen had to share an already full 4-man cabin, which presumably was possible because one man was always on watch. Bentsen stayed with the expedition for the whole duration.

He was apparently a great storyteller, which was useful during the 3-year drift.

Only two years after the Fram expedition and Nansen’s and Hjalmar Johansen’s wintering on Franz Josef Land, Bentsen experienced a similar winter, which was to be his end. He was hired in 1898 by American Walter Wellman for an expedition to the archipelago as a starting point for the North Pole. Bentsen and fellow Norwegian Paul Bjørvik were delegated to winter in a very makeshift stone hut to guard a depot. The hut was in many ways similar to Nansen's and Johansen's on Franz Josef Land during the Fram expedition. Bentsen and Bjørvik were, however, not apportioned sufficient food or fuel for heat and light. During the winter Bentsen became ill and he died in January. Bjørvik kept his corpse in their icy sleeping bag in the hut to keep it from polar bears and foxes. When Wellman arrived at the end of February, Bentsen was buried in a shallow grave covered with heavy stones. The grave can still be seen.