Throughout the centuries, Norway has fostered several ground-breaking explorers, dating all the way back to the Viking era. It’s time to get to know the brave explorers that gave names to some of our most iconic ships.
The Redheaded Explorer
One of Norway’s earliest infamous explorers is Erik Thorvaldsson, better known as Erik the Red (or Eiríkr rauði in Norse), because of his flaming red hair and beard, as well as his red-hot temper. He was born in Jæren, Norway, in around 950 CE, but left Norway as a child when his father was exiled after having been accused of manslaughter. The whole family fled to Iceland, where Erik himself was eventually exiled for killing several people over various disputes. This was what pushed him out to sea on an exploration to find land he had only heard tales about.
Although several had seen and even tried to inhabit Greenland before him, Erik the Red holds the title of the first Norseman to inhabit the icy island. Upon returning to Iceland (when his exile was over) he told exciting tales of a large country, and he gave it the tempting name of Grænland. His great tales resulted in groups of people migrating from both Iceland and Norway to permanently settle in Greenland.
Some of History’s Greatest Explorers
Now, let’s move forward several hundred years, from the Viking era to the late 1800s. You can’t talk about Norwegian explorers without mentioning Fridtjof Nansen. He is internationally known as a pioneer polar scientist and explorer, and for venturing out on expeditions on skis that no man had done before him. To this day, he is said to be one of the most internationally recognised Norwegians in our history, and he even won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922 for his humanitarian work. But he was also a brave explorer.
Nansen led the first ever crossing of Greenland in 1888, which in itself was an accomplishment that earned him a place in explorer history. But this was just the beginning. He is most known for his ventures with the ship Fram, constructed by Colin Archer on his behalf. Nansen and his crew set sail with Fram in 1893, with the purpose of ending up at the North Pole by drifting with the polar ice from Siberia. This was a technique that was questioned by many polar explorers. In the end, Nansen had to leave Fram and venture out on skis, and he ended up making it further north than anyone had done before him. To this day, his expedition is considered the most vigorous and important polar expedition in history and his scientific findings have had immense impact on further science.
Another important Norwegian explorer is Nansen’s second in command on the expedition to the North Pole, Otto Sverdrup. Sverdrup was originally a polar scientist and a man of the sea. From 1898 to 1902, he led Fram’s second voyage, discovering the great sea areas west of Greenland. He discovered large and unknown parts of Ellesmere Island, as well as several islands that were later named the Sverdrup Islands. He and his crew gathered a lot of important geological knowledge during the expedition, and it was considered the greatest geographical land acquisition of its time.
Last, but not least, we have Roald Amundsen, who holds several impressive titles to his name. Amundsen was also a polar scientist turned explorer who ended up leading history’s first known expedition to reach the South Pole. He and his crew also became the first explorers to sail through the Northwest Passage on one ship.
Like both Nansen and Sverdrup, Amundsen is connected to the Norwegian polar ship, Fram, as he used it for a historic expedition that became the ship’s third voyage. In 1910, he sailed to Antarctica, and this is where his famous expedition to the South Pole began. Together with four other crew members, he was the first to reach it on 14 December 1911, five weeks before his biggest competition, explorer Robert F. Scott.
All these men have had an important impact on our history, and their bravery and curiosity are why we have named some of our finest ships after them. Join us on an expedition of your own and let’s explore the seas together!