The most famous ship of her time, Fram was commissioned by Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen for his 1893 quest to be the first to reach the North Pole.
Nansen conceived of a ship that was “so small and so strong as possible…that it was improbable that it could be destroyed by the ice”. One of a kind, Fram was designed with a wide, curved hull that would allow her to rise up and out of the pack ice and so avoid being crushed. Safe in his ice bound vessel, Nansen planned to use the Arctic Ocean currents to drift over the Pole.
On 20 September 1893 Fram entered the pack ice and became ice bound three weeks later. She then spent the following three years locked safely in the ice, only emerging in August 1896.
However after drifting north in the ice for a year and a half, the ocean current began to turn against her and her progress slowed to a halt. On 14 March 1895 Nansen left Fram and set out with a single companion, Hjalmar Johansen, to try and reach the Pole on ski. They achieved a new furthest north but on 7 April with the ice again moving against them, they abandoned their goal. Making for the nearest landfall, on 16 August they reached the Russian islands of Franz Josef Land over 300 miles to the south.
Beyond the reach of any help, Nansen and Johansen were forced to overwinter in Franz Josef Land and were eventually rescued the following year in June 1896 by a British expedition.
Sir Wally Herbert, regarded by many as the greatest polar explorer of our time, described Fram’s voyage more than a century later, as “one of the most inspiring examples of courageous intelligence in the history of exploration”.
Following her voyage north, Fram was requisitioned by Roald Amundsen for his 1910-1912 expedition to the South Pole, when he famously beat British explorer Robert Falcon Scott to the most southerly point on the planet.
Fram played vital roles in two of the most important expeditions in the history of exploration, and in doing so achieved the distinction of reaching the most northerly and most southerly point of any wooden sailing vessel. Left to decay before finally being rescued in the 1920s, she now resides in the Fram Museum in Oslo.