The Book of the Month. Nansen's "Furthest North"
Regular Feature, Abstract
Nansen 1897 Nansen 1890 Bain 1897
photo. ; map 
Publishing, Reading, Exploration, Endeavour, Physical Geography, Oceanography, Heroism, Hypothesis, Steamships, Discovery
Joseph Wiggins , Otto N Sverdrup , Hjalmar Johansen
Comments on the 'Nansen boom' of the last month, and notes that it is 'many years since any publisher has reaped as golden a harvest as Messrs. Constable' have with Fridtjof Nansen's latest book, for which, rumour has it, the publishers paid him £10,000 (276). Although Nansen's Arctic explorations have succeeded in establishing a fact 'possessing immense scientific importance [...] viz., the existence of a deep western current flowing from the north of Siberia to the East of Greenland', it is 'not one that appeals to the popular imagination'. Rather, what has stirred interest beyond that of the 'Arctic expert' in Nansen's account of his voyage is its 'record of the combat of Man with Nature in her sternest moods [...] the great unchained, untamed forces of savage nature' (277). Indeed, the brilliant cricketer 'Prince Ranjitsinhji, probably, was the most popular man last year with the masses of the people, for the same reason that Nansen is popular this year [...] they both represent men who have pitted their strength and skill against great odds and have come off triumphant' (279). Recounts how Nansen determined to test a hypothesis developed in the 1880s that items from a ship wrecked in northern Siberia had 'drifted on a floe across the polar sea' and reached the south-west coast of Greenland, and, by building a steam-ship 'strong enough to be wedged into the ice that drifted westward', was able to demonstrate that in the current lay 'the route to the North Pole ready to hand' (282). As well as verifying the existence of 'a steady current that can be relied upon for transport purposes', Nansen's expedition has also 'finally exploded one of the favourite delusions of Arctic authorities' by proving that, rather than being 'shallow and extremely cold throughout', the Arctic Ocean in fact 'contains the respectable depth of two thousand odd fathoms, and [...] is much warmer than any one had any idea of' (285).
© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020
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