On the Polar Exploration Vessel “Fram”

In October 1892, the “Fram,” a 39 meters long sailing vessel with an auxiliary engine, was launched at Larvik, in Southern Norway.  Between 1893 and 1912, it would be used for famous Arctic and Antarctic research expeditions by Norwegian explorers Fridtjof Nansen, Otto Sverdrup, and Roald Amundsen and can, today, be seen at the Fram Museum in Oslo, Norway.

The author of this paper, a naval architect, has reviewed the literature about the “Fram” available to him.  As so often, attention to technical aspects has proven to be extremely limited.  This paper presents a distillation of that kind of technical information, enriched by some engineering judgement.  In particular, the hull (section III), the rigging and other nautical equipment (IV), the auxiliary engine (V) and the crew quarters (VI) are described and discussed.

Especially during its first expedition, led by Fridtjof Nansen, the “Fram” would be completely frozen into the ice sheet and float with it for months.  The encroaching ice sheet would, thus, tend to put an enormous pressure on the hull.  This was being addressed in two ways:  First, the cross-sections of the hull was such that the encroaching ice would push the ship up so that it would rather sit on top the ice than its structure having to withstand enormous forces pushing on its sides.  Even so, an especially strong and rugged hull was needed due to frequent contacts with ice.  That structure is illustrated in Figure 6.  As can be seen there, aside from several layers of skin, the frame configuration was rather unusual in that there were no ‘open spaces’ between the frames but one frame would abut the next, with a thin layer of marine glue in every other such butt joint.


This paper focuses on the “Fram” as originally built for the 1893 - 1896 expedition led by Fridtjof Nansen – mostly because that configuration is the one for which the relatively most technical information could be found in the published literature.  Lessons learned from that expedition and a second one led by Sverdrup (1898 – 1902) led to conversions of the ship which are briefly touched on section VII.