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Fridtjof Nansen
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Fridtjof Nansen

Fridtjof Nansen (October 10, 1861 - May 13, 1930) was a Norwegian explorer, scientist and international statesman.

Born at Store Frøen, Oslo, he made his first voyage to Greenland waters in a sealing ship 1882, and in 1888-89 succeeded in crossing the Greenland icefield on skis from East to West. In 1893, he sailed to the Arctic in the Fram (a purpose-built, round-hulled ship later used by Roald Amundsen to transport his expedition to the Antarctica,) which was deliberately allowed to drift north through the ice, a journey that took more than three years. When it was apparent that Fram would not reach the North Pole, Nansen, accompanied by Hjalmar Johansen (1867-1923), continued north on foot and reached 86° 14´ N, the highest latitude then attained. The two men were forced to spend the winter, surviving on walrus blubber and polar bear meat, on Franz Josef Land, where they eventually connected with a British expedition.

Nansen was professor of zoology and oceanography at the University of Christiania (now Oslo) and Norwegian ambassador in London 1906-08. After World War I, Nansen became League of Nations high commissioner for refugees, in which capacity he originated the Nansen passport for refugees. For this work he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922.

At the time of Norway's dissolwing of its union with Sweden June 7th 1905, Nansen was a devoted republican, together with other prominent Norwegians like the author Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson and former Norwegian Prime Minister Otto Blehr. Despite being popular in Norway and giving hardy speeches on behalf of a Norwegian republic, most Norwegians felt differently and voted for a monarchy in the following referendum. After the First World War there was an unsuccessfull effort on Nansen's behalf to make him the Prime Minister in a broad government based on all the non-socialist parties to counter the growth of Arbeiderpartiet, the Norwegian labour party. In 1925 he co-founded Fedrelandslaget (The Fatherland Society), an anti-socialist political organisation that folded at the outbreak of the Second World War.


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