Monday, April 13, 2009

Fridjoft Nansen

Polar explorers, Dr Fridjoft Nansen and Lieutenant Hjalmar Johansen, are much less famous than their corresponding South Pole explorers Amundsen, Scott and Schackleton.

I have lent my current boss, Ken, several books since his arrival some two years ago and have never had such an "intellectual" boss since I started work for my employer back in 1992. And in October last year when he went on leave, he was temporarily substituted by another highly intelligent colleague, Dave, now working in the Philippines. (Ken and Dave - I hope you read this praise!).

Anyway, Ken, for the first time, lent me a book a couple of weeks ago - Norwegian Fridjoft Nansen's account of their trip to the North Pole in the 1890s, the first to make it (well, he far as 4 degrees from the pole but then they didn't have GPS and the international WGS 84 datum standard (fuck it my office is 600 metres further east and our 100-odd metre antenna towers in the sea using the local Portuguese early last-century datum that was used my employer's contractor to build my workplace back in the early '90s).

Fridjoft Nansen clearly surpasses the minimal achievements of myself, Ken and Dave as he went onto to discover the phenomenon of dead water and become the Norwegian delegate/diplomat to the post-WW1 precursor of the United Nations, the ultimately ineffective League of Nations.

The book is highly readable - even the technical details of ship construction and navigational details -and I haven't even halfway finished the book yet (on p. 134 of pp. 678 of a very small font).

Unfortunately, it is without maps and my Times Atlas of the World transliterates the Russian names for Siberian islands from Russian Cyrillic to English rather than 19th century Norwegian names to English - but I have finally found a couple of localities where the name has remained the same in English so I can more or less locate his "current" location - blimey, he still has a long way to go!

Now onto p.141 - Nansen has fever and confiness himself to cabin but is content that the pack ice in which they are enclosed most of the time (it is October) is drifting north-east towards their destination rather than south-west towards their point of origin.

To be continued.

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