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Polar explorers

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. Several modern-day explorers keep the Norwegian adventurers’ legacy alive.

Roald Amundsen: first to reach the South Pole

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, like the writer Roald Dahl, have been named after Amundsen.

Fridtjof Nansen: skiing across Greenland

Fridtjof Nansen first made a name for himself for crossing Greenland on skis, and subsequently for 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 for political activism, he sought to put an end to Norway’s union with Sweden in 1905. After World War 1, he worked relentlessly to help improve the plight of refugees, an effort for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922.

Monica Kristensen Solås: reality and fiction

The glaciologist and meteorologist Monica Kristensen Solås has both led and participated in numerous polar expeditions, both in the Arctic and the Antarctic. In two of her expeditions, one of her aims was to retrieve and bring back the expedition tent once used by Roald Amundsen, but several of nature’s obstacles forced her to abandon the ambition, like when a man on her team fell down a crevasse and died. As early as in 1989 she was the first woman for nearly 50 years to receive The Royal Geographical Society in London’s Founder’s Medal for her achievements. In addition, she has published crime novels set to Svalbard, to international acclaim.

Liv Arnesen’s unsupported crossings

When Liv Arnesen crossed the Greenland ice sheet in 1992, she became the first woman to do so without external support. Two years later, she became the first of her gender to reach the South Pole alone and unsupported, on a skiing expedition of 50 days and 1,200 kilometres. During three months in 2000 and 2001 she teamed up with American explorer Ann Bancroft to be the first women to cross the Antarctic. She has also written several books about her discipline, like Snille piker går ikke til Sydpolen (Nice girls do not ski to the South Pole).

Børge Ousland’s one-man expeditions

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. Whilst 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 kilograms, was also much lighter than Amundsen’s.

Erling Kagge and the Three Poles Challenge

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 so-called “Three Poles Challenge”.

Cecilie Skog and the seven summits

She has become a national icon in Norway by climbing numerous mountains with a smile on her face, both on and off the television. Cecilie Skog has reached the famous “sevens summits”, the peak of the highest mountains on each continent. She is also a polar explorer. In 2009 she and the American Ryan Waters spent 70 days on the 1,800 kilometres across the Antarctic from coast to coast. In 2006 she reached the North Pole after nearly 50 days despite several unexpected ordeals.

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