Friday, December 08, 2006

Are you Jackson?

There's a rather good BBC4 series called Voyages of Discovery on at present. This is where I say 'hurrah' for the Freeview box, as BBC4 is only on digital. It's not to say that programmes don't appear on BBC1 or 2 later, but it's much later. Things like Voyages I don't think I can wait for. We've had Magellan, who trusted he wasn't going to fall off the end of the world. Last week it was the super James Cook. What a great sailor; he was still a lieutenant when sent off on his mission to find the 'southern continent.' As well as being a great navigator, he also worked out how he could avoid the scourge of scurvey so that his crew didn't start dying of it. And yesterday it was the turn of a polar explorer: Nansen.

Nansen was definitely a natural for polar exploration. Being born a Norwegian seems to have helped, as he had the instinct for surviving on the ice. Not only did he build a ship (The Fram) which he said would rise above the pack-ice rather than being squished by it, he was actually right. Making a dash for the North Pole was admittedly bonkers, but somehow he and his companion survived for months in the artic while lost. They were eventually found, by a Mr Jackson. This Jackson was an Englishman who Nansen had rejected from his team, as he wanted them to all be Norwegian. Nothing daunted Jackson launched his own expedition, and quite by chance came across Nansen in the vast wilderness of the artic. Nansen heard dogs barking and a voice shouting, went to investigate. Walked up to the man and recognised him. Almost unbelievable. Luck and good sense is absolutely required for polar expeditions ...

Talking of which, I did indeed get The Last Place on Earth for my birthday, and I'm off to watch episode two now. There are seven episodes, running at around 1 hour 15 minutes each, so it's a relatively leisurely pace. And of course, Nansen, has put in an appearance, which is pleasing. All the early 20th century south polar explorers consulted him, so he should appear. We're getting to see both Scott and Amundsen's story, so that aspect is great. However, it's based on Huntford's book, so I'm keeping my mind open to some possibly dubious stuff. Scott is possibly being shown as more incompetent than he really was, for example. I'm also interested to see how they introduce the Polar party. Will Birdie Bowers get a good look-in, or will he just be in the background, for example?

6 Comments:

At 4:39 pm GMT, Blogger Carla said...

Great programme, wasn't it? I missed the others in the series but managed to catch this one. I didn't know that much about Nansen before - he must have been an amazing man. I think he deserved a break meeting Jackson like that, after discovering polar drift the hard way :-)

 
At 5:50 pm GMT, Blogger Alex Bordessa said...

Lucky, lucky, lucky. Like Shackleton :-) There was a preview of this programme and it said the main danger was of being bored! Eh?

And as for Nansen throwing all caution to the wind and changing his underpants after a year at Christmas, in that dugout ... Well, that's blokes for you ;-)

In Last Place on Earth, Amundsen takes Johansson (Nansen's companion on that trip) on his expedition. They fell out big time, and it seems that Johansson eventually committed suicide on his return :-( It happened a fair amount to these chaps who came back from the Pole and just didn't fit in elsewhere.

 
At 6:02 pm GMT, Blogger Carla said...

What amazed me is that he had a spare pair of underpants at all. Had he carried them all that time? Did he carry the dirty pair home? Or did he leave them for the polar bears? Mind boggles.

What a shame about Johansson. That really isn't fair. Something similar happened to one or two of the Telemark Raid commandos. I guess you're right and they just don't fit in to the ordinary world; perhaps after an experience like that the rest of your life stretches ahead like one long anticlimax. Conversely, others seem to come back and go on to excel at something else completely different - one of the ex-Telemark chaps went on to be something senior in the Norwegian Tourist Board.

 
At 7:16 pm GMT, Blogger Alex Bordessa said...

Did he have a spare pair, or did he just turn them inside out ...? Doesn't bear thinking about. Still, they weren't exactly in polite company, I guess, what with those polar bears lurking about the place.

 
At 5:40 pm GMT, Blogger Olga said...

What an amazing story about Nansen! And I can't believe I missed your birthday. It was on the seventh, right? Sorry! I hope you had a great and very Happy Birthday!

 
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