The First Fram Expedition (1893-1896)

    On June 24th 1893 the Fram set out on her first expedition. Fridtjof Nansen was in charge of the scientific side and Otto Sverdrup captained the ship. The voyage along the rugged coast of Norway proved a touching farewell with her homeland. The Fram and her crew were given a rousing send-off not only at her ports of call, but also in countless hamlets and fishing villages along the coast, as well as by the ships she met en route.
    The First Fram Expedition (1893-1896)

    On July 21st of that year the Fram left Vardø, on the northern tip of Norway, bound for the New Siberian Islands, and by September 22nd she had reached the ice.

    Her subsequent drift across the Arctic Ocean confirmed Nansen´s theory to the hilt, locked in the ice, the Fram was carried for hundreds of miles between the North Pole and Franz Josef Land.


    Nansen bids farewell from the lifeboat

    The voyage took just over three years, and the course of her drift changed many times, leading those on board to fear that they were trapped eddies or back waters of the main current.

    Nor did they get as close to the Pole as Nansen had hoped – the northernmost point reached was 85° 57' N, where they found themselves on October 16th 1895. There is reason to believe, however, that the Fram would have drifted closer to the Pole if the expedition had succeeded in penetrating further east before running into the ice barrier in the autumn of 1893.


    The crew on deck

    When Nansen realized that the Fram would not get as close to the North Pole as he had expected, he and Hjalmar Johansen left the ship on March 14th 1895 and set out with three dog-drawn sledges in a bold bid to make the Pole across the ice. But the pack ice was in constant motion and they were compelled to abandon the attempt on April 9th, by which time they had reached 86° 14' ̒N. They then set course for Franz Josef Land, where they built a crude hut in which they were forced to spend the winter.


    Fram in the ice

    In May 1896 they left their shelter and in two lashed together kayaks made their way along the coast, reaching Cape Flora on June 17th. There, by a remarkable coincidence, they met the British explorer F. G. Jackson, who took them back to Norway on board his ship the Windward. By August 13th 1896 they were back in Vardø. Nansen´s account of the journey he and his companion made across the desolate wastes of ice is one of the most dramatic narratives in the annals of Norwegian polar exploration.


    Nansen and Johansen in two lashed together kayaks


    A "Stanley - Livingstone" moment was described when Nansen met Jackson on Cape Flora


    The Fram, with the rest of her crew, continued to drift westwards along the 85th parallel right up to February 1896, when the current turned her southwards. As Nansen had so rightly foreseen, during the long drift across the Arctic Ocean the ship was subjected to tremendous strain and pressure as vast blocks of pack ice churned and thrust their way onto the deck.

    In January 1895 the situation became so critical that stores and equipment had to be carried quickly to safety on the ice and the crew prepared to abandon ship. But the builder´s faith in his design proved justified, and the Fram was gradually eased upwards, out of the crushing grip of the pack.

    She finally emerged from the ice off the north coast of West Svalbard on August 13th 1896, the same day that Nansen arrived in Vardø, and on August 20th Captain Sverdrup brought his ship safely to the harbor of Skjervøy, not far from Tromsø. On September 9th the Fram returned in triumph to her port of departure, Oslo, bringing with her a wealth of valuable scientific material from regions of the earth never before visited by man.


    Fram's route 1893-1896:

    23 JUNE 1893
    9 APRIL 1895
    16 OCTOBER
    8557' N
    13 AUGUST 1896
    20 AUGUST