New Land: Four Years in the Arctic Regions

Volume I:

p. 82, on Fram at Christmas: Then came the mental part of the festivity. Assisted by the wittiest of the expedition as contributors, the doctor had started a paper, the Friendly One, named after the leader in Baumann’s team, of which the first number was read aloud that evening. Some portions of it are reproduced on the following pages, though much of it must necessarily be unintelligible to the great majority of my readers. The wit and sarcasm of the Friendly One resulted in the publication of a rival paper, the Arctic Fox, which appeared on New Year’s Day, but was withdrawn the same evening for want of subscribers; and therewith ended our journalistic efforts on board the ‘Fram’ for the winter. [p. 84-87 are reproductions from the Friendly One (Den Venligsindede)—they are in German gothic type.]

p. 145-46, Norwegian Independence Day, May 17, 1899 [also described as Constitution Day] on board the Fram… .


May 17, 1899.

7 a.m. Choral music from the fore-cabin. (Solo by R. Stolz.)

8 “ Breakfast a la Lindstrom. (Toasts for the day to be proposed by


11 “ Procession to the Seal-hole in Rice Strait.

12 noon. Salute. Speech in honour of the occasion. (By a dilettante.)

Unveiling of Fosheimsæter.

1 p.m. Diner à la3 Kroner.

Cafe, liqueurs.

6 “ Supper, with sups to follow.

In the evening dancing and music in the fore- and after-cabins, fireworks, and the midnight sun.

N.B. — No newspaper will be issued in honour of the day.—Ed.

p. 167, on the funeral service of Dr. Svendsen: We arrived on board on June 15, at ten in the forenoon. The overwhelming impression made by the doctor’s death is indescrib able, and there were some among those strong healthy men who did not recover from it until many months were over.

The body was placed down in the cable-tier until the funeral could take place. On June 16 I wrote: —‘The flag is flying at half-mast from the peak to-day. It is the first time it has been in this position on board the “Fram,” let us hope it will indeed be the last.’

The funeral was a seaman’s one. With the body and bier covered by flags, we walked out to Rice Strait, where a large hole was opened in the ice. It was an affecting moment. The doctor’s lifeless body was lowered to the water-side, the prayers read, and a hymn sung. Then followed the moment when he slowly slipped into the deep. We shall never forget it. We sang a hymn, and said the Lord’s Prayer.

p. 200, on letters delivered from an American ship: We found one of Peary’s ships lying a little distance up the fjord, and about an hour after we had dropped anchor, Captain Bartlett came to see us, together with Dr. Dedrick and one or two other members of the expedition. We spent several pleasant hours in their agreeable company. They gave us some newspapers, and told us that one of Peary’s ships, which had come from America, had a mail on board for us, but that she had left it at Payer Harbour. We also learned that Peary was here in active preparation for wintering. His other ship was out walrus-catching, probably down near Northumberland.

Baumann called upon Lieutenant Peary, who was kind enough to invite us to send letters with his ship to our nearest friends; on condition that nothing should be made known with regard to the expedition itself.

The following day we had a visit from Peary’s owner, Mr. Bridgman, and from Professor Libbey, also an American. Mr. Bridgman very kindly offered to let one of the ships bring our mail every year, promising to let the Tram’s’ owners know at what date the ships would be due to sail.

p. 274, notes a birthday poem composed in honor of Sverdrup: A poem too had been composed in my honour. Fosheim was the bard on this occasion, and possibly Schei may have had something to do with the authorship; I imagine they had written it in the tent during my absences. They made so much of the hero of the day, that he felt quite bashful. But a birthday of the kind may be very enjoyable once in a way. We had an extremely pleasant evening, and sat up till nearly eleven, at least a couple of hours longer than usual.

p. 306-307: reading from cook book after finding a pastry creation had frozen: Our hopes of a successful baking sank in a disquieting degree; and they sank still lower when Schei, who had been intently studying the cookery-book, read out, in a trembling voice: ‘ Pastry must not be exposed to a temperature so low that it will freeze.’ There then, was our fate, sealed in clear incontrovertible terms!

p. 312, New Year’s Eve 1899: Then came New Year’s Eve. Out of consideration for Simmons, we again trooped off to the after-cabin to finish the evening. When we were settled round the punch-bowl, Isachsen read aloud the first and last number of the Friendly One for 1899. Again this year Baumann had taken the initiative with regard to the paper. Last year the doctor had edited it; for 1899 Baumann was the responsible editor as well, and brought out, as aforesaid, the first copy on the last day of the year, and that, too, as an ‘Extra Number.’ The reading took some time, for the contents were important and varied; one volley of laughter succeeded another; nobody got off scot-free, and all the others hugely enjoyed the good-natured hits at their comrades.

At last, about twelve o’clock, we reached what the editor called the ‘ice-foot of the paper,’ and he was rewarded with such applause as has seldom or never fallen to the lot of a newspaper editor from his subscribers.

p. 410: ‘To say that I was proud [killing his first bear] is nowhere near the mark; but it was too dark for me to enjoy the sight of my fallen enemy, and besides, I was in my stockings. I therefore at once repaired to the tent, lighted the “Primus,” and made myself some coffee. Such a festal meal as I then had, of coffee and Christmas cake from the “Fram,” I had never had before, and can hardly hope to have again. I then lay and read for a while, but as soon as it was half-past two, and a little light, I was constrained to go out and enjoy my triumph. Then I came back and lay down with the intention of going to sleep for a couple of hours, but with only partial success.

p. 452: ‘Now passed a long and monotonous period, broken only by visits from passers-by, for no more bears came to the hut itself. I cannot say that I ever felt really dull. I must confess that I slept a great deal, and, secondly, always made myself some work to do outside the house, and went, in addition, regulation walks. If the weather was bad, which it generally was, I lay in the bag as much as possible and read. A great, nay, momentous, part in my life at this time was, of course, played by my meals, of which, during the greater part of my sojourn, I had two a day—breakfast and dinner. Later on I always had three meals a day. I lived all this time almost exclusively on two kinds of food—soaked biscuit fried in fat and bear-steaks. Practice makes perfect, and I think I really attained perfection in the cooking of these two excellent dishes, which I ate day after day without ever tiring of them. On Sundays and other feast days I generally had something extra, but the two first-named courses always formed the nucleus of my meals. My beverages were coffee and hot milk.

p. 453: ‘The period which now followed was the least pleasant of my stay at Björneburg, chiefly because I had come to an end of my literature and was obliged to read the only book in my possession (the others had been sent back to the “Fram”) over and over again.

p. 454: When some visitors brought a new book he felt better: The following period was short, but the pleasantest I spent at Björneborg—new books to read, good food and good weather.

Volume II:

p. 97-98, following an accident that needed medical attention: As soon as we arrived on board I set Simmons to find some of the doctor’s books and see what we had better do for Olsen’s arm. We found some diagrams and various directions as to how a dislocation should be reduced, and after some consideration chose the way which seemed easiest and most simple.

The operation would have been easy enough had we dared to chloroform our patient, but we had no desire to attempt such a thing. What were we to do? Several days had elapsed, and the arm was swollen and angry. Inexperienced as we were we should probably torture poor Olsen most horribly before we got his arm into place again.

I therefore decided to make him thoroughly drunk — the effects of that we could better grapple with. For this purpose we first tried naphtha, but that did not do; he disliked the taste of it so much that I could not bring myself to force more on him. Good — we had other things that tasted considerably better. I entered into partnership with the brandy fiend; sent for a bottle of the very best Cognac; and began to give him dram after dram. But it really was too much to expect him to drink himself half-seas-over on dry nips all alone, without any other diversion, so I sat down and talked to him about everything I could think of. At first he was very much taken up with his arm, but from that we went on to the expedition in general, then to shooting in general, and lastly, after innumerable excursions, landed in the Lofoden Islands [Iceland], in which as a Nordlænding he was much interested, and had himself taken part in the fisheries there. In this way I brought him little by little into brilliant spirits; he grew livelier at every dram…. When he had swallowed something like half a bottle of brandy we thought he must be about ripe to be taken.

p. 99: In his semi-conscious condition Olsen took the whole thing with the greatest calm, and said nothing when Fosheim and I then tried our hand on him. To our surprise we were successful at the first attempt! That it was with unspeakable relief we heard the crack of the arm as it slipped into its socket, I need hardly say. As for Olsen, notwithstanding all he had taken down, it had not had much effect on him while we were doing our worst — the pain and excitement had kept him sober — but the instant the arm was in its socket he became dead drunk.

He was carried to his cabin in a hurry, put to bed, and a man set to guard him. We thought perhaps he might become delirious, or something of the kind, for, as I said before, he was not quite sober. Fosheim took first watch. But Olsen behaved nicely the whole night, and next morning was quite himself again. We bandaged his arm so that he could not move the joint, and thus he was to go for three or four weeks.

Olsen’s happiness, as he went about with his arm in the sling after his successful cure, was quite touching to behold. He had not had the slightest hope about himself, and during the agony he went through had painted the future in very gloomy colours. If Olsen was glad, we quacks were no less so, and proud into the bargain. We had discovered a brand-new Arctic surgical treatment, with the brandy fiend himself as assistant. But it is ever the same: genius is simplicity, and evil for evil is only fair play.

p. 338, at sea aboard Fram outside Havnefjord in 1900: ‘Of this my second hermit life there is really—though with one exception—nothing to say, and, besides, it did not last very long. The days passed uniformly in reading and short walks on the point, where I was invariably, though vainly, on the look-out for game. September 26 was marked by my shooting a raven of a kind which I had not yet been able to add to the zoological collection of the expedition. I began to feel rather dull, and hoped somebody would turn up from the “Fram”—a visit had been suggested, but did not take place. It did not seem either as if the meat could soon be taken on board, for the fjord was still free of ice. Now and then a little brash formed, but it always drifted away after a shorter or longer time. But then something happened which enlivened me considerably, and made an end of my hermit life.

‘On September 30 I lay reading till late in the evening, and, when eventually I put out the light, I remained awake for some time. Just as I was falling asleep, I was suddenly aroused—without any kind of preparation—by a series of frightful howls from “Susamel.” I have often heard dogs howl from pain or fear, but such terror as this expressed I had never heard before. [His reading was interrupted by his frightened dog.]