Otto Sverdrup

Otto Neumann Sverdrup Knoph ( born October 31, 1854 in Bindal, † November 26, 1930 in Sandvika, just outside Oslo ) was a Norwegian sailor and Arctic explorer. He was the captain of the Fram, Fridtjof Nansen's North Pole expedition of 1898-1902 and led a very successful polar expedition, until then unknown land mapped 150,000 km ² in the Canadian Arctic.


Early years

Otto Sverdrup was born in 1854 as son of the farmer Ulrik Frederik Suhm Sverdrup ( 1833-1914 ) and his wife Petrikke ( " Petra" ) Knoph Neumann ( 1831-1885 ) on his father's farm Haarstad near Bindal. At 17 he began his nautical career. He went on several Norwegian and American ships, put 1875 his helmsman examination and received in 1878 a captain's license. The age of 24 he had the command of the steamship trio.

Greenland crossing

  • The dotted line shows the journey of Jason until July 17. The solid line shows the ice drift until July 29, and the walk along the coast until the 11th August.
  • The originally planned route of Sermilik after Christianshåb.
  • The real route from 15 August to October 3rd.

About his friend, lawyer Alexander Nansen (1862-1945), he met his brother Fridtjof Nansen know. Sverdrup joined this when he put together a team for the first crossing of Greenland on skis. On May 2, 1888, she left on the Jason the port of Christiania. The project was threatened when the ship, the East Greenland coast could approach nearer than 20 km because of the existing ice. After a month of waiting, the six men were trying to achieve on 17 July the coast in two boats. You could check the ice belt but not overcome, and about 380 km from the strong currents were driven off to the south, before they entered near the 62nd parallel country on July 29. The men now followed the coast north to the Umivikfjord where they made on August 15, heading west on the road. They had to pull their sleds to a height of up to 2720 m. Your plan to drive Christianshåb, they gave up after twelve exhausting days. Instead, they now directed their course on Godthåb. Within 42 days they covered a distance of about 560 km above the Greenland ice sheet, before they reached the Ameralikfjord on September 26. With a Behelfsboot Sverdrup and Nansen reached on October 3 Godthåb and let the rest of the team to pick up. Autumn was now so far advanced that no ship sailed to Europe. This circumstance presented for Sverdrup and Nansen later things turned out to be favorable. During the winter in Godthåb they learned from the Inuit how to survive in the Arctic, and in particular how to lead dog sled. It was only on April 25, 1889 drove Nansen and his men aboard the Hvidbjørnen of Godthåb first to Denmark. After a stopover in Copenhagen, the expedition members met on board the ship postal M. G. Melchior on May 30, 1889 in Christiania.

On October 12, 1891 married his cousin Otto Sverdrup Gretha Andrea Engelschiøn ( 1866-1937 ). Their daughter Audhild Sverdrup (1893-1932) was later the wife of the linguist Carl Marstrander.

First Fram Expedition

  • The Voyage of the Fram from Vardo along the Siberian coast to the New Siberian Islands and the pack ice (July to September 1893).
  • Ice drift of the Fram from the New Siberian Islands to Spitsbergen ( September 1893-August 1896 ).
  • The march of Nansen and Johansen up to a width of 86 ° 13.6 'N (then Northern record ) and the subsequent return trip to Cape Flora on Northbrook Island of Franz Josef Archipelago ( March 1895-June 1896 ).
  • Return of Nansen and Johansen from Cape Flora by Vardo ( August 1896 ).
  • Return of the Fram from Spitsbergen to Tromso ( August 1896 ).

Immediately after returning from Greenland, Nansen was planning his next expedition. 1884 were parts of three years earlier lost north of the New Siberian Islands previous Jeannette on the southwest coast of Greenland have been found. Nansen made ​​the decision, where George De Long's expedition had failed, an ice drift to begin by the Arctic Ocean, to learn more about the movements of Arctic ice and to come close to the North Pole as well. But this he needed a ship that would withstand the expected strong ice pressure. From the outset, Nansen, Sverdrup was referring to his plans with one, who oversaw also the construction of the ship by Colin Archer 1890-1893 personally.

Logically Sverdrup Captain of the Fram. He navigated the ship in 1893 through the Northeast Passage to the New Siberian Islands and drove it there on September 25, right in the pack ice, to let it freeze. The ship drifted with the ice towards the northwest, and it soon became clear that his course would not directly over the North Pole. Nansen decided to leave the ship and to attempt to reach the Pole by dogsled. End of February 1895 Nansen and Hjalmar Johansen broke with two dog teams head north on. Sverdrup took over so that the leadership of the expedition. It was from this point until the end of the drift solely responsible for the ship, the crew and the scientific program. It was not until the summer of 1896 came the Fram free at Spitsbergen and ran on August 14, the Danes Island (Norwegian Danskøya ), where Salomon August Andrée was waiting for a favorable wind to take the balloon to the North Pole can. It was a cordial meeting both polar explorers aboard the Fram. End of August, Sverdrup Tromsø, seven days after Nansen and Johansen were also returned safely to Norway.

In the summer of 1897 Sverdrup captained the Lofoten seven -week tourist trips to Spitsbergen by. On behalf of the Vester Aalen Dampskibsselskab wrong the ship between Hammerfest and the Advent Bay where the shipping company near Longyearbyen ran a hotel.

Second Fram Expedition

At the suggestion of Nansen, Sverdrup began in 1896 to prepare your own expedition with the Fram. The plan was coming to pass through from the Baffin Bay the Nares Strait between Greenland and Ellesmere Island and to contact them in the Lincolnsee eastward. On the north coast of Greenland should be overwintered in a suitable bay to find on sledge traveling the northernmost point of Greenland and to explore the unknown north-east coast. The attainment of the North Pole was not one of the objectives of the expedition. The financing took over most of the owners of the Ringnes brewery, the brothers Amund (1840-1907) and Ellef Ringnes (1842-1929) and Axel Heiberg.

On June 24, 1898 to the day exactly five years after the start of their first expedition, the Fram left the port of Christiania. On board next to the boat crew of the cartographer Gunnerius Ingvald Isachsen, the botanist Herman George Simmons (1866-1943), zoologist Edvard Bay (1867-1932), the geologist Per Schei (1875-1905), the physician Johan Svendsen were (1866 - 1899) and the subsequent companion Roald Amundsen's conquest of the South Pole in, Sverre Hassel. The Nares Strait was this year but impassable. An ice barrier blocking the way forward in Smith Sound to the north. After several futile attempts to overcome this, Sverdrup went to a safe anchorage in the Rice street between Pim Iceland and Ellesmere Island to spend the winter here. During his hunting trips, he found that the Bache - island connected to the west via a land bridge to the Ellesmere Island and so is a peninsula. In spring, the expedition took two extended sled rides into the interior of Ellesmere Island. With Edvard Sverdrup Bay reached at Bay Fiord first time the west coast of the island.

Since the Smith Sound was blocked in the summer of 1899, Sverdrup had to abandon his original plan to explore the north of Greenland. He decided to explore the still completely unknown territories west of Ellesmere Island. He navigated his ship south into Baffin Bay and then west into the Jonessund where he let go on the south coast of Ellesmere Island at anchor the Fram for the second winter in the Harbour Fiord. In September he began with three men, the north coast of Jonessunds. They were detained with their boat in the Baad Fiord from the ice and had to wait several weeks until the sound was so much frozen that they could return to the ice to Fram. At this time two members of the expedition had already died.

Winter has been used to make improvements to the carriage. On March 20, 1900 Sverdrup broke up with seven men towards the west. The Jonessund was abandoned by the Hell Gate, the strait between Ellesmere Island and North Kent Iceland and reached the Norwegian Bay. Now began a period of discoveries. On April 7, entered Sverdrup Axel Heiberg Iceland, Amund Ringnes Isachsen reached Iceland and Schei researched Graham Iceland, Buckingham Iceland and North Kent Iceland. In the summer of Sverdrup tried in bringing the Fram closer to the newly discovered territories. He could but neither the Cardigan Strait still happen Hellgate and searched for the third winter finally an anchorage located in Goose Fiord on.

In the spring of 1901, the sled expeditions encountered in the Eureka Sound and Greely Fiord before in the northwest of Ellesmere Island. Isachsen mapped the coast of Amund Ringnes Iceland and discovered another large island that Ellef Ringnes Iceland was called. Despite intensive efforts with Eissägen and explosives failed expedition in the summer, to break through the ice barrier at the outlet of Goose Fiord, so that the fourth winter had to be tackled. This opened up the opportunity to make further slides trips in the spring of 1902. Sverdrup wanted to finally settle the question of whether Axel Heiberg was in fact an island, and drove with the Eureka Sound disc and the Nansen Sound all the way up to its output into the Arctic Ocean without a connection between the Axel Heiberg and Ellesmere Island to find. Sverdrup reached here at 81 ° 40 ' the northernmost point of the expedition. Isachsen examined now the unknown north coast of Devon Island. On August 6, the Fram was released and reached Stavanger on September 9, 1902.

The most important result of the expedition was the discovery and mapping of Axel Heiberg Iceland, Amund Ringnes and Ellef Ringnes Iceland Iceland as well as a number of smaller islands, which today is called Sverdrup Islands and the terms of their surface exceed the Spitsbergen Archipelago. In addition, the west coast of Ellesmere Island and most of the north coast of Devon Island was mapped. The scientific results in the fields of geology, botany, zoology, meteorology and archeology fill 39 books in four volumes and a supplementary volume.

Sverdrup took the newly discovered areas for Norway in possession. The Norwegian government renounced in favor of Canada but in 1930, the $ 67,000 for his cards and logbooks paid to Sverdrup.

The historian of science William Barr called the Second Fram Expedition " one of the most impressive achievements that were in polar research ever reached" and Peter Dawes is one of " the most successful expeditions in the history of Arctic research ."

Later Arctic Travel

1914 instructed the Russian government Sverdrup with the execution of a search and rescue operation for the expeditions of Vladimir Rusanov and Georgy Brusilov. Both were down in 1912 with the aim of first Russian conquest of the Northeast Passage in the Kara Sea and has since been lost. Also from the expedition Georgi Sedov, which was broken up in 1912 in the direction of Franz Josef Land to reach the North Pole, you had no message. The coordinator of relief efforts in the Russian Navy Office, Leonid Breitfuß had chartered in Norway two ships, one of which Hertha, under Russian occupation after Franz Josef Land to search Sedov drove of those. The whereabouts of the Rusanov - as well as the Brusilov expedition were completely unknown, but it was hoped to find them at one of the coasts of the Kara Sea between the north island of Novaya Zemlya and Cape Tscheljuskin. Sverdrup was commissioned this field as captain of the Eclipse, a former whaler scan.

On July 13, 1914 Sverdrup stood out from Oslo to sea and passed a month later, the Karastraße. Three days later the Eclipse was stuck in the ice and drifted eastward. On September 9, she began unexpectedly on a radio message from the icebreaker Taimyr and Waigatsch who were in distress at the Firnley Islands off the Taimyr peninsula. The ships under the command of Boris Wilkizki came from Vladivostok and were advised at the Cape Tscheljuskin in heavy ice pressure, which had particularly badly damaged the Taimyr. In January 1915, the Eclipse was able to establish radio contact with the Russian mainland and report on the plight of the two ships for the first time. This Sverdrup learned of the return of the Sedov expedition and the tragic fate of the Brusilov expedition.

The Taimyr and the Waigatsch had enough provisions on board, but only if they would have come free in the summer and winter not a second time in ice. As a precaution, it was decided to evacuate half the crew of the ships. Immediately after the end of the polar night began Sverdrup food depots to be applied between the Eclipse and the icebreakers. On April 29, he went with three men and three dog sled trailer combinations to Taimyr. From there, he led 39 men over 280 km to the Eclipse, which was reached on June 4. From Turuchansk came a rescue team with reindeer sled, and brought the sailors to safety. End of July, the three ships were released. Sverdrup bunkerte in Dikson coal and thus supplied the icebreaker, as he met her a short time later near the Scott -Hansen Island. Subsequently, the Eclipse continued their search for Rusanov and controlled the island solitude, without finding a trace of the lost expedition. Sverdrup's contract was terminated.

In the spring of 1920 Breitfuß Sverdrup responsible for another bailout. The icebreaker Solovei Budimirowitsch (later Malygin ) was frozen in the Kara Sea with 87 people on board. The coal and food reserves were almost depleted. It succeeded Sverdrup, with the chartered icebreaker Svyatogor (later Krasin ) penetrate to Solovei Budimirowitsch and to free the ship from the ice. In 1921, he led the icebreaker Lenin (the former St. Alexander Nevsky ) one consisting of five cargo ships convoy safely to the mouth of the Yenisei River and back again. This was a first step to establish the northern sea route in the Soviet Union as a trade route.

Later years

Sverdrup was active in the 1920s tirelessly to save his old ship, the Fram, which was unused in Horten since 1914, prior to the expiration. In 1925 he was elected Chairman of the Fram Committee. He succeeded, with the help of Lars Christensen to procure the financial resources that made ​​it possible that the Fram was restored from 1929 to 1930 under Sverdrup's supervision. The establishment of the Fram Museum did not live Sverdrup. He died on November 26, 1930 in his home in Sandvika.


For his service during the Fram expedition in 1896 awarded the Commander's Cross with Star and 1902, the Grand Cross of the Order of St. Olav from the Norwegian Otto Sverdrup King Oscar II. He was also winner of the Prussian Order of the Crown, First Class and the Russian Order of St. Anne, Second Class. The University of Saint Andrews awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1926. The Royal Geographical Society awarded him their 1903 Gold Medal ( Patron's Medal ) for his discoveries in the Arctic and its important role as captain of the Fram Nansen's Fram expedition on.

The archipelago was discovered by him in the Canadian Arctic is named Sverdrup Islands today. There is also the Sverdrup channel. On Devon Iceland the Sverdrup Glacier can be found on the coast of the Bay Jonessund Sverdrup Inlet. Named after Otto Sverdrup also are the Sverdrup Island in the Kara Sea and another to the north-west Greenland offshore island. Also, a lunar crater named after him.

The Norwegian Navy in 2008 introduced his namesake missile frigate Otto Sverdrup of the Fridtjof Nansen class in service.


  • New land. Four years in Arctic regions, 2 volumes, Brockhaus, Leipzig 1903 ( Original title: Nyt Country Fire Aar i arktiske Egne. )
  • Under Russisk flag, Aschehoug, 1928 Oslo (Norwegian)