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Arctic Migration

Migration is the movement of people from one place to another. This is the formal definition of migration but to Norwegians it can mean many different things. From the Vikings exploring the Arctic Sea and North Sea and expanding their empire, to a more modern migration of exploration. The latter theme of migration is the one I focus on in this post. Exploration can be migration when the explorer discovers new lands and settles with the locals.

Fridtjof Nansen was a Norwegian explorer born in Oslo in 1861. One of his most famous expeditions was crossing Greenland on ski. He took himself and five other men across the frigid unforgiving terrain of Greenland. Upon reaching the east coast, they missed the boat and would have to spend the winter with an Inuit tribe. Nansen and his men lived with them, learning all they could about how to survive, hunt, and move about the area.

In 1893, Nansen led another expedition to the North Pole. He hypothesized that if the ice drifted, so too could a ship. He commissioned a ship called the Fram (which means ‘forward’ in Norwegian) with a very dense hull, an engine capable of 6 knots, and a full mast. The ship can be seen in the photo above. He along with 12 other men embarked on the expedition from Vardø in Northern Norway. Through exploration he solved one of the great mysteries of his time. In his case, migration can mean moving or traveling with a purpose to discover more than ever imaginable. Nansen was determined to reach the North Pole. After two failed attempts to leave the Fram, they finally adjusted the equipment for the last time and headed out. Even though they did not reach the North Pole, their expedition paved the way for other explorers to attempt the “migration” towards unreachable depths of the planet.

Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen was another famous Norwegian explorer. He was the first to reach the South Pole and to fly over the Artic Sea. He brought aviation to the migration towards the north. Amundsen was very passionate about flying and even commissioned two airboat planes to be built for his flight across the Artic Sea. He too like Nansen, made camp with the local Inuit and received great help including reindeer skins for their further exploration. He was able to migrate north and assimilate much like modern immigrants do. Even though neither of these Norwegian explorers settled permanently, they paved the way for the rest to follow. Almost in the same way the first generation of immigrants does when migrating to a new country. The first come and establish a home and work to send money back in the form of remittances. The next immigrants that come are the family members who reconnect with loved ones. The next explorers came and followed the same paths these two trailblazers burned. Nansen and Amundsen changed the way the Northwest Passage was traveled and mapped out. In every sense of the word, they were migrating north for human kind.