The FRAM museum displays the golden era of the Polar Expedition history of Norway. There are two original ships inside the museum, Fram (meaning “Forward”) & Gjøa. Personally, this is one of my favorite museums in Oslo.
Btw. The museum has been Number 1 on the TripAdvisor Top Attractions in Oslo list for several years, and is considered a must see! In this article I’ll give you a description of some of the highlights in the museum.
Get tickets for the FRAM museum here
Fridtjof Nansen & The Fram Ship
When you travel to Norway you can’t escape the name Fridtjof Nansen. Nansen was a scientist, a diplomat, a humanitarian and a great explorer. He was the first man to ski across the inland ice of Greenland back in 1888. His techniques and innovations of polar travel when it comes to equipment and clothing, has influenced a generation of expeditions in the Arctic and Antarctic.
Recommended reading: The First Crossing of Greenland & Farthest North Vol 1 &
Fram Expedition in 1893–1896
With the Fram Expedition in 1893–1896, Nansen made an attempt to be the first to reach the geographical North Pole. He had calculated that he could use the natural east–west current of the Arctic Ocean to drift towards, or close to, the North Pole. His plan was to deliberately sail the Fram ship into the ice, and let it drift with the current.
The drift went slower than anticipated, and not far enough north, so after 18 months in the ice he decided to leave the ship. With him he took his companion Hjalmar Johansen, dogs and sledges and they set off into the vast areas of ice, aiming for the North Pole.
They did not make it all the way, but at that time they held the record of being farthest North on latitude of 86°13.6′N. Afterwards they had to start a long retreat over ice and water until they reached safety in Franz Josef Land. Meanwhile, the Fram ship continued its drift towards the west, until it emerged in the North Atlantic Ocean, and sailed back to Norway.
Nansen and Johansen had to spend the winter in a small hut in Franz Josef Land. They survived on meat from polar bears, walruses and seals. To stay warm during the night, they shared a sleeping bag made out of seal skin. Back at those times it was normal to address one another with a formal noun. According to Nansen, after they slept several months in the same sleeping bag, one morning Johansen woke up, turned around, and asked Nansen if perhaps it was time they could start to use the informal noun….
You might also like: Who was Fridtjof Nansen?
The Fram expedition and ship at the museum
The Fram expedition to the North Pole is well described at the museum. Together with many artifacts and other stories together with other expeditions by Nansen.
Perhaps one of the highlights of the museum is to climb onboard the Fram ship. It’s quite a sight as you enter the museum, to suddenly have this big ice breaker just in front of you. In addition to strolling around on deck, you can also go inside the ship. Here you’ll find the cabins, the galley, storage rooms, the engine room and much more. It really gives a good impression of how it must have been to crew on this ship. At the same time trying to image how it must have been to spend years in such small spaces, surrounded by ice, polar bears and the biting cold weather.
The Fram ship was also used by polar explorer Roald Amundsen when he sailed to Antarctica, as part of his expedition to become the first man to reach the South Pole. This expedition is also well explained at the museum!
Roald Amundsen & The Gjøa Ship
If Nansen is our number one, then Roald Amundsen would be a good number two amongst Norwegian Polar Expeditioners. He is the first man to sail through the Northwest Passage, the first to set foot on the South Pole and one of the first explorers verified to have reached the North Pole.
Recommended reading: The Northwest Passage
Through the Northwest Passage with Gjøa in 1906
The Northwest Passage is a sea route through the Arctic Ocean, between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans on the Northern coast of Canada. For many centuries there was an ongoing search for a navigable passage as a possible trade route to Asia. However, numerous expeditions were not able to find their way through the ice. This was until the Amundsen expedition between 1903 and 1906.
Roald Amundsen set out with a crew of six. Sailing with Gjøa, a herring boat, much smaller than a usual boat for such an expedition. However, with the shallow draft of Gjøa, Amundsen was planning to hug the shore, and live of whatever limited resources they could find on land, and he also realized that in order to keep the crew well fed, they had to be as a few as possible. It’s worth mentioning that Amundsen was in an economical crises at this time, and the reason for sailing away was also to escape creditors. He needed this expedition to be a success, in order to return to Norway and pay off his debts.
Gjøa left Oslo in June 1903, and sailed to a natural harbour on the south shore of King William Island. Eventually they were iced in, and the expedition stayed for almost two years. Meanwhile they were doing scientific research by undertaking measurements to determine the location of the Magnetic North Pole. They also spent time with the local Inuit people, learning their traditions and methods of survival. Fun fact: Today the only permanent settlement on the island is named Gjoa Haven (click to see Google map).
In 1906 Amundsen completed the journey, sailing through the ice and the Rae Strait all the way to Herschel Island. He anchored Gjøa next to the island, and set out on an impressive 800 kilometres (500mi) long journey on ski, so that he could reach Eagle, Alaska and notify the world by telegram, that his expedition had been a success. Then he skied the same distance back again to rejoing the ship and his crew.
Sailing through the Northwest passage was an astounding achievement back then. All though the route he chose, going through the Rae Strait, proved some very shallow waterways (3 ft (0.91 m) deep). This made the route less suitable for commercial vessels.
The NWP expedition and the Gjøa ship at the museum
The Gjøa ship is put in a building next to the Fram, and they are connected by an underground tunnel. The Northwest Passage expedition is well covered, and I find it especially interesting to learn about the close connection that Amundsen got with the Inuits. This was still at a time when Inuits roamed free and practiced their old way of living. Amundsen’s diary from this journey is an important time witness for future generations to read and learn the ways of a nomadic people.
For now you can not enter the deck of Gjøa, but I’ve heard talk that this might be possibly in the future.
Recommended reading: The Northwest Passage – A diary by Roald Amundsen
5 Reasons to visit this museum
You’ll learn about the golden age of Norway’s Polar Expeditions
You’ll see plenty of original items that were used during these expeditions
You get to climb onboard and go inside the huge ice breaking ship FRAM
You’ll get a feel for how it must have been to participate in these expeditions
You’ll appear as a knowledgable person about an important part of Norwegian history. A plus when you converse with Norwegians 🙂
Get tickets for the FRAM museum here
I hope you enjoyed this article! Please share it with someone you might think be interested, or who is going to travel to Oslo.
Tusen takk, thanks a lot for reading,