For people with an interest in polar expeditions, Amundsen and Nansen need no further introduction. They are far from the only prominent polar explorers from Norway, however. Børge Ousland and Erling Kagge are two examples of modern-day explorers who keep the Norwegian adventurers’ legacy alive.
Roald Amundsen made history, and became a national hero in Norway, when he beat Captain Robert F. Scott to the South Pole. Accompanied by four men, he arrived on 14 December 1911. As if this wasn’t enough of an achievement, he was also the first man to navigate the Northwest Passage, and the first to fly across the Arctic Ocean.
A number of places, ships and people, for example the writer Roald Dahl, have been named after Amundsen.
Fridtjof Nansen first made a name for himself crossing Greenland on skis, and subsequently trying to reach the North Pole on the ship Fram. Today, however, he is remembered as much more than a polar explorer. Nansen was an accomplished scientist, statesman and humanitarian. Using his fame as a political activist, he sought to put an end to Norway’s union with Sweden in 1905. After WW1, he worked relentlessly to help improve the plight of refugees – an effort for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922.
In 1994, some 85 years after Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole, the Norwegian explorer Børge Ousland repeated the feat. Ousland made the journey solo however, which made him the first man to cross the Antarctic unassisted – albeit under very different circumstances. While Amundsen had worn sealskin, Ousland wore Gore-Tex. Instead of determining his position with a watch, calendar and sextant, Ousland used GPS technology. Ousland's kevlar sledge, at just six kilos, was also much lighter than Amundsen’s.
Børge Ousland didn’t always venture out alone; he also had several travel partners. In 1990, for example, he travelled 800 kilometres on skis together with Erling Kagge, another prominent Norwegian explorer.
After travelling to the North Pole in 1990 and the South Pole in 1992, Kagge climbed Mount Everest in 1994. This made him the first person to complete the “Three Poles Challenge”, i.e. the first to have reached the the North Pole, the South Pole, and the summit of Mount Everest.
The history and traditions of a country often reveal a great deal of fun facts about the people and their customs. Norway is no exception.
Elaborately carved wooden churches were once present in many parts of northwest Europe. Today, they are almost exclusively found in Norway.