("Forward") is a ship that was used in expeditions of the Arctic
and Antarctic regions by the Norwegian explorers Fridtjof Nansen,
Otto Sverdrup, Oscar Wisting, and Roald Amundsen between 1893
and 1912. It was designed and built by the Scottish-Norwegian
shipwright Colin Archer for Fridtjof Nansen's 1893 Arctic
expedition in which the plan was to freeze Fram into the Arctic
ice sheet and float with it over the North Pole.
Fram is said to have sailed farther north (85°57'N) and farther
south (78°41'S) than any other wooden ship. Fram is preserved at
the Fram Museum in Oslo, Norway.
Nansen's ambition was to explore the Arctic farther north than
anyone else. To do that, he would have to deal with a problem
that many sailing on the polar ocean had encountered before him:
the freezing ice could crush a ship. Nansen's idea was to build
a ship that could survive the pressure, not by pure strength,
but because it would be of a shape designed to let the ice push
the ship up, so it would "float" on top of the ice.
Fram is a three-masted schooner with a total length of 39 meters
and width of 11 meters. The ship is both unusually wide and
unusually shallow in order to better withstand the forces of
Nansen commissioned the shipwright Colin Archer from Larvik to
construct a vessel with these characteristics. Fram was built
with an outer layer of greenheart wood to withstand the ice and
with almost no keel to handle the shallow waters Nansen expected
to encounter. The rudder and propeller were designed to be
retracted. The ship was also carefully insulated to allow the
crew to live on board for up to five years. The ship also
included a windmill, which ran a generator to provide electric
power for lighting by electric arc lamps.
Initially, Fram was fitted with a steam engine. Prior to
Amundsen's expedition to the South Pole in 1910, the engine was
replaced with a diesel engine, a first for polar exploration
Fram was used in several expeditions:
Nansen's 1893–1896 Arctic expedition
Main article: Nansen's Fram expedition
Wreckage found at Greenland from USS Jeannette, which was lost
off Siberia, and driftwood found in the regions of Svalbard and
Greenland, suggested that an ocean current flowed beneath the
Arctic ice sheet from east to west, bringing driftwood from the
Siberian region to Svalbard and further west. Nansen had Fram
built in order to explore this theory.
He undertook an expedition that came to last three years. When
Nansen realised that Fram would not reach the North Pole
directly by the force of the current, he and Hjalmar Johansen
set out to reach it on skis. After reaching 86° 14' north, he
had to turn back to spend the winter at Franz Joseph Land.
Nansen and Johansen survived on walrus and polar bear meat and
blubber. Finally meeting British explorers, the Jackson-Harmsworth
Expedition, they arrived back in Norway only days before the
Fram also returned there. The ship had spent nearly three years
trapped in the ice, reaching 85° 57' N.
Sverdrup's 1898–1902 Canadian Arctic islands expedition
In 1898, Otto Sverdrup, who had brought Fram back on the first
Arctic voyage, led a scientific expedition to the Canadian
Arctic Archipelago. Fram was slightly modified for this journey,
its freeboard being increased. Fram left harbour on 24 June
1898, with 17 men on board. Their aim was to chart the lands of
the Arctic Islands, and to sample the geology, flora and fauna.
The expeditions lasted till 1902, leading to charts covering
260,000 km2, more than any other Arctic expedition
Amundsen's 1910–1912 South Pole expedition
Main article: Amundsen's South Pole expedition
Fram was used by Roald Amundsen in his southern polar expedition
from 1910 to 1912, the first to reach the South Pole, during
which Fram reached 78° 41' S.
Preservation of Fram
The ship was left to decay in storage from 1912 until the late
1920s, when Lars Christensen, Otto Sverdrup and Oscar Wisting
initiated efforts to preserve her. In 1935, the ship was
installed in the Fram Museum, where she now stands.