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Fridtjof Nansen og Aeroarctic-selskapet 1924-1930



f. 1973, PhD 2010, førsteamanuensis ved Institutt for historie og religionsvitenskap, Universitetet i Tromsø, UiT – Norges arktiske universitet.

kari.myklebost@uit.no



f. 1971, dr.philos. 2014, polarhistoriker ved Norsk Polarinstitutt.

jolle@npolar.no

  • Side: 445-469
  • Publisert på Idunn: 2014-09-08

På 1920-tallet ønsket Fridtjof Nansen å fly et tyskbygd luftskip over polområdene, fra Europa til Nord-Amerika. I den biografiske litteraturen har dette blitt beskrevet som en polfarers siste forsøk på å nå sitt store mål, Nordpolen. Men biografer glemmer ofte at Nansen var vitenskapsmann hele livet – og hadde store ambisjoner og uløste oppgaver innen oseanografien. En stor del av Nansens vitenskapelige virke ble i denne perioden kanalisert inn i det såkalte Aeroarctic-selskapet, hvor Nansen ble utnevnt til første president høsten 1924.

Fridtjof Nansen and the Aeroarctic Society, 1924–1930

In 1924, Fridtjof Nansen was appointed president of the newly established Aeroarctic Society – The International Society for the Study of the Arctic by Means of Airship. Aeroarctic was founded on the initiative of German engineers and natural scientists, its primary objective being organization of a transpolar zeppelin flight from Europe to America, while conducting a broad geophysical research programme. Moreover, the society was to establish a circumpolar network of meteorological stations that could serve as a platform for increased international cooperation in Arctic geophysical research. It had close links with the International Meteorological Committee and the first International Polar Year, and among its members had a number of leading scientists from Germany, Scandinavia, the USA and the Soviet Union. 

The history of the society has been given little attention by historians, probably because it failed to conduct the transpolar expedition planned for the summer of 1930. In Nansen’s biography, the 1920s are described as a decade when he let slip his scientific ambitions and concentrated instead on political and humanitarian issues. The Aeroarctic project has been dismissed as unrealistic and an airy dream, and Nansen’s role reduced to that of a minor figure talked into it by nationalistically minded Germans with commercial interests in the project, and used as a galleon figure. Nansen’s own Aeroarctic archive gives us a quite different story: During the last six years of his life, he used his international fame to draw leading geophysicists into the project. In the late 1920s, Aeroarctic had members in 21 countries, had organized two international scientific congresses, both chaired by Nansen, and published the first volumes of the journal Arktis. It is more than obvious that Nansen played a key role in the society, representing a driving force in efforts to realize the expedition.

Keywords: Aeroarctic, Fridtjof Nansen, Polar history, Zeppelin
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