My history hero: Paul Rose chooses Fridtjof Nansen

Adventurer Paul Rose chooses explorer, zoologist and diplomat, Fridtjof Nansen (1861–1930)

A portrait of Fridtjof Nansen, taken after his daring expedition across Greenland. (Image by Alamy)

One of Norway’s most famous sons, Fridtjof Nansen was an explorer, zoologist and diplomat. In 1888, he led the first expedition across the Greenland icecap. Five years later he made an attempt to reach the geographical north pole aboard the Fram, a ship designed to withstand being imprisoned in ice through the Arctic winter as it was carried towards its destination by ocean currents. Beyond exploration, Nansen was an advocate for Norwegian independence from Sweden. He was also the League of Nations’ high commissioner for refugees and the recipient of the 1922 Nobel peace prize for his work on behalf of those displaced by the First World War.

When did you first hear about Fridtjof Nansen?

It was in a book my geography teacher, Mr Gray, showed to me. It helped me to overcome my dislike of learning things from books. Nansen had a look, when he was 30 years old or so: fit as a butcher’s dog, massively committed – a ‘here I go’ sort of look. I thought that this man was going to be a guiding light. Before Nansen, quite a lot of people had attempted to cross Greenland, and they’d tried to go from the inhabited west coast to the east. Nansen realised it was better to go to the east coast, spend a winter and get yourself organised, and with full commitment travel to the west coast. It would be an easier mental process. There was something special in that simple story.

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