Hjalmar Johansen


Fredrik_Hjalmar_JohansenHjalmar Johansen participated in Roald Amundsen’s Antarctic expedition 1910-1912 and accompanied Fridtjof Nansen on his attempted dash to the North Pole in 1895.

The Arctic with Nansen

Hjalmar Johansen was Norwegian champion in gymnastics at 20 and was famous for his strength and acrobatics. He applied to join Fridtjof Nansen’s drift across the Arctic Ocean with the Fram 1893-96 and was so eager that he accepted the position of stoker. Most of the voyage he was in fact meteorological assistant for Sigurd Scott-Hansen.

Johansen was chosen by Nansen for the North Pole dash in 1895 and his strength and assistance were crucial in their safe arrival at Franz Josef Land, where the two spent the winter in a miserable makeshift stone shelter. They didn’t reach the North Pole, but they did achieve a new ‘furthest north’ record and were celebrated as heroes on their return to Norway.

Antarctica with Amundsen

Johansen had problems settling down to married life and the military and gradually developed a serious drinking problem. Nansen helped where he could and persuaded Roald Amundsen to take Johansen on his 1910-12 Antarctic expedition.

Johansen was physically very strong, could drive a dog team, was an accomplished skier and knew how to survive in the ice. As such, he was originally one of eight chosen for the South Pole attempt. The team set off from their expedition base Framheim on September 8, 1911, but were driven back by intense cold. Johansen had disagreed with the early start and had to rescue a less experienced member of the party, Kristian Prestrud, from freezing to death on the return journey. Johansen quarrelled with Amundsen about the incident in front of the other men and Amundsen reacted by dismissing Johansen from the polar party. Instead, he and Prestrud were assigned to a secondary expedition towards King Edward VII Land.

Johansen travelled home in disgrace at the end of the expedition and committed suicide in Oslo six months later.

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