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Nansen the Explorer As Hero

Roland Huntford

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ISBN 10: 076071262X / ISBN 13: 9780760712627
Published by Barnes Noble Books, 1998
New Condition: New Soft cover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Nansen the Explorer As Hero

Publisher: Barnes Noble Books

Publication Date: 1998

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition:New

About this title

Synopsis:

Behind the great polar explorers of the early 20th century - Amundsen, Shackleton, Scott in the South and Peary in the North - looms the spirit of Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930). He was the father of modern polar exploration, the last act of territorial discovery before the leap into space began. Nansen was a prime illustration of Carlyle's dictum that "the history of the world is but the biography of great men." He was not just a pioneer in the diverse fields of oceanography and skiing, but one of the founders of neurology. A restless, unquiet Faustian spirit, Nansen was a Renaissance Man born out of his time into the new Norway of Ibsen and Grieg. He was an artist and historian, a diplomat who had dealings with Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, and played a part in the Versailles Peace Conference, where he helped the Americans in their efforts to contain the Bolsheviks. He also undertook famine relief in Russia. Finally, working for the League of Nations as both High Commissioner for Refugees and High Commissioner for the Repatriation of Prisoners of War, he became one of the first of the modern media-conscious international civil servants. This is a full-scale biography of Nansen, drawing on diaries and other documents.

Review:

The index for Roland Huntford's biography of polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen lists the following subcategories under Nansen's name: "academic career," "skiing pioneer," "explorer and innovator in polar equipment," "pioneering oceanographer," "Norwegian statesman," and "women: attractiveness to." Not a bad summary of Nansen's life, really. Fridtjof Nansen packed a lot of experiences into his 68-year lifetime, and Huntford explores them all in Nansen: The Explorer as Hero. It's not surprising, however, that the heart of this book is the Fram expedition, Nansen's three-year attempt to reach the North Pole. Though Nansen failed, turning back some 200 miles before reaching it, he did get 146 miles farther north than had ever been reached before and was celebrated as a hero upon his return to Norway. He turned this celebrity into political power, embarking on a diplomatic career and pressing for Norwegian independence. Along the way, Nansen engaged in a number of romantic intrigues (including an alleged affair with the wife of his polar rival, Robert Scott), helped popularize skiing, developed the neuron theory, and won a Nobel Peace Prize.

Nansen's life should make for excellent reading; Nansen, however, is less than engagingly written. Huntford's prose is frigid at times, but frequent quotations from Nansen's own letters, journals, and published works allow Nansen's voice--and his remarkable life--to shine through.

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