Fridtjof Nansen was a natural born pioneer. His greatest ambition was to be first to reach the North Pole and he came up with an audacious plan to do it. He would sail a ship into the Polar ice, allow it to become trapped and then drift with the Arctic Ocean currents up and over the Pole, from eastern Siberia to northern Greenland. For this, he would need a ship unlike any other. It had to be strong enough to resist huge pressures on its hull, secure enough to protect the 12-man crew and warm enough to keep them alive during the long, dark Arctic winter.
Nansen commissioned a Scottish-Norwegian maritime architect, Colin Archer, to build such a ship and the design that Archer came up with was truly revolutionary. Broad and shallow, with almost no keel, the three-masted schooner had a triple-skinned and insulated hull strengthened with cross-beams and was built using the hardest woods available – greenheart from the Amazonian rainforest and European oak. When she was launched in 1892, Nansen christened the new ship Fram – the Norwegian word for ‘forward’, the only direction he recognized.
Fram’s maiden voyage put Archer’s design to the severest of tests. The ship entered the Arctic ice in October 1893 and remained trapped in it for nearly three years, only re-emerging into open water near Spitzbergen in June 1896. Fram and her crew survived three Arctic winters, collected a vast amount of important scientific information about the Arctic Ocean and, although Nansen didn’t reach the North Pole, he did get further north than anyone before: 85° 57’ N in the case of Fram and 86° 13.6’ N in the case of Nansen himself, who left the ship to try and reach the Pole by sledge.
This, though, was only the first of the three remarkable Polar journeys Fram made. Only two years later, in June 1898, she was back in the Arctic Ocean at the start of a four-year voyage to explore and chart the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Then in 1910, Nansen handed Fram on to the next great Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, who used her for his successful expedition to the South Pole in 1910-12.
All told, there are few ships that have played such an important role in the history of exploration. Few ships have been crewed by people of such vision and courage. And few ships have been designed so perfectly to meet the needs of those visionaries and explorers who set out into the unknown.
Unique, pioneering and dependable, robust, adaptable and resilient – the story of this brilliantly designed ship embodies the values of Fram Creative Solutions. With Nansen’s vision, on the one hand, and Archer’s perfect design, on the other, it’s a story which never ceases to inspire us and all we do. That’s why we chose the name, after all, and we hope that it will continue to inspire you too as we bring you more tales about the good ship Fram and the great age of Polar exploration …