In the golden age of polar exploration (from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s), many an expedition set out to answer the big question—was the Arctic a continent, an open ocean beyond a barrier of ice, or an ocean covered with ice? No one knew, for the ice had kept its secret well; ships trying to penetrate it all failed, often catastrophically. Norway’s charismatic scientist-explorer Fridtjof Nansen, convinced that it was a frozen ocean, intended to prove it in a novel if risky way: by building a ship capable of withstanding the ice, joining others on an expedition, then drifting wherever it took them, on a relentless one-way journey into discovery and fame . . . or oblivion.
Ice Ship is the story of that extraordinary ship, the Fram, from conception to construction, through twenty years of three epic expeditions, to its final resting place as a museum. It is also the story of the extraordinary men who steered the Fram over the course of 84,000 miles: on a three-year, ice-bound drift, finding out what the Arctic really was; in a remarkable four-year exploration of unmapped lands in the vast Canadian Arctic; and on a two–year voyage to Antarctica, where another famous Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, claimed the South Pole.
Ice Ship will appeal to all those fascinated with polar exploration, maritime adventure, and wooden ships, and will captivate readers of such books as The Endurance, In the Heart of the Sea, and The Last Place on Earth. With more than 100 original photographs, the book brings the Fram to life and light.
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CHARLES W. JOHNSON is the former Vermont state naturalist, a twenty-year veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, and the author of several popular books on natural history. He has a lifelong interest in polar regions and exploration. He lives in East Montpelier, Vermont.Review:
“Ice Ship is a vivid séance drawing the late nineteenth century into the present with photographic immediacy. It is also as splendidly composed a biography of the magnificent vessel Fram as it is a portrait of the courageous men who sailed her into the daunting Arctic. Through impeccable research and evocative prose, Charles Johnson brings the last true age of exploration fully alive. This book deserves to be on the shelf with Stefannson and Matthiessen―an indelible masterpiece.” (Howard Norman, author of Next Life Might Be Kinder)
“A well-researched and highly readable account of the greatest of all polar exploration vessels. Charles Johnson unearths a great deal of rarely seen material about Norway’s great triumvirate of explorers―Nansen, Sverdrup, and Amundsen―and the ship to which they owe their success and even their survival. A must for any polar library.” (Jerry Kobalenko, author of The Horizontal Everest: Extreme Journeys on Ellesmere Island)
“Charles W. Johnson has accrued an extensive knowledge of the subject, also of sources still only in Norwegian, and has provided an admirable overview of the ship, the expeditions, and the leaders in an easy-flowing style that still takes care of all the necessary details while moving the story forward in a compelling fashion.” (Susan Barr, president of the International Polar Heritage Committee)
“The literature of polar exploration is littered with ships crushed by the relentless pressure of the ice. And yet there was one great, uncrushable vessel―a ship still intact, purposely designed to ride the floes and harness the very forces that doomed all others: the Fram. Charles W. Johnson’s account is among the greatest of all tales of Arctic endurance, one in which the ship herself emerges as the principal character of a chronicle of perseverance unlike any other ever told upon this earth.” (Russell A. Potter, professor of English and media studies, Rhode Island College)
“In this splendid book, we at last have a full account of those significant Norwegian polar explorers―Fridtjof Nansen, Hjalmar Johansen, Otto Sverdrup, and Roald Amundsen―whose expertise put to shame their more celebrated British and American contemporaries. But wait! I have forgotten perhaps the most expert Norwegian explorer of all―the Fram . . . traveled through ice-riddled waters with utmost confidence, grace, and muscle . . . [and] Charles Johnson’s narrative travels through those same waters with a similar confidence, grace, and muscle.” (Lawrence Millman, author of Last Places, Lost in the Arctic, and Hiking to Siberia)
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