1896 - Frederick Jackson
Nansen is alive!
Just after dinner Armitage came rushing in to tell me that through his field-glass he could see a man on the floe to the S.S.E. of Cape Flora, about four miles off. I could hardly believe it, such a thing seemed utterly impossible, and thought he had mistaken a walrus on the ice for a man; but having got a glass I could see he was correct. I could also make out somewhat indistinctly a staff or mast, with another man standing apparently near it close to the water’s edge. It occurred then to me that it might be one of my own men, although they had all been at dinner a few minutes before, but I, however, found out that all were present. I got a gun with all speed and firing off a shot on the bank to endeavor to arrest the stranger’s attention, I started off to meet him coming across the ice, having placed Armitage on the roof of the hut to direct my course, as the high hummocky ice hid him from me when I got down upon the floe. On nearer approach I shouted to him and waved my cap. I thought at first that some accident had happened to the Windward, which had started earlier than expected, and that this man had come off in a boat from her to communicate with us.
On our approaching each other, about three miles distant to the land, I saw a tall man on ski with roughly made clothes, and an old felt hat on his head. He was covered with oil and grease, and black from head to foot. I at once concluded from his wearing ski that he was no English sailor, but he must be a man from some Norwegian walrus sloop who had come to grief, and wintered somewhere on Franz-Josef-Land in very rough circumstances.
His hair war very long and dirty, his complexion seemed to be fair, bit dirt prevented me from being sure on the point, and his beard was straggly and dirty also.
We shook hands heartily, and I expressed the greatest pleasure at seeing him. I inquired if he had a ship. “No,” he replied, “my ship is not here” – rather sadly I thought – and then he remarked, in reply to my question, that he had only one companion, who was at the floe edge.
It then struck me that his features, in spite of the black grease and long hair and beard, resembled Nansen, whom I had met once in London before he started in 1893, and I exclaimed:
“Aren’t you Nansen?”
To which he replied:
“Yes, I am Nansen.”
With much heartiness I shook him warmly by the hand and said:
“By Jove, I am d--d glad to see you”, and congratulated him on his safe arrival. Then I inquired:
“Where have you come from?”
He gave me brief sketch of what had occurred, and replied: “I left the Fram in 84° North latitude and 102° East latitude after drifting for two years, and I reached the 86° 15’ parallel and have now come here.”
“I congratulate you most heartily,” I answered; “you have made a good deuced trip of it, and I am awfully glad to be the first to congratulate you.” Again we shook hands.
He then gave me a brief sketch of what had occurred. How he had passed close to the New Siberian Islands; had entered the ice about the 80° north, had drifted for two years in a North-West direction to the 84° North and 102° East longitude. He had then left the ship with Lieutenant Johansen (who was taking care of the two kayaks at the floe edge) and a team of dogs in March, 1895. They had pushed north as far as 86° 15’ North latitude, 90° East longitude, and then judged it advisable to return and try to reach Spitzbergen via Franz-Josef-Land. How they had passed the previous winter on the land a little to the South of our farthest point North, reached in the spring of 1895, on an island in Cecil Rhodes Fjord (named by me). There they made a small hut of stone and walrus skin, near the entrance to Gore-Booth-Fjord (named by me after Sir Henry Gore-Booth), and had come South down the British Channel and De Bruyne Sound, and round Cape Barents, and had been lying at the floe edge off here for two days.
I replied, “I congratulate most heartily. You have made a jolly good trip of it, and I am awfully glad to be the first person to congratulate you,” followed by a good deal more handshaking.
I fancied by what he had said that the Fram was at the bottom, and that he and Lieutenant Johansen were the sole survivors. I consequently abstained from asking any further questions about the ship, and gave my fellows a hint later, not to do so as I feared to hurt his feelings. It was not till nearly an hour had elapsed that from some remark he made I gathered that the Fram was all right, and that he expected her to be on her way to Norway. Owing to discrepancies in Payer’s map he could not make out where he was, and they had let their watches run down, consequently could not get their longitude and tell their position. For two days they had been lying at the floe edge repairing their kayaks before we saw them.
Nansen had fancied he heard dogs barking and two gun-shots yesterday (I had fired about twenty shots at looms near the top of the talus of Cape Flora), but he had come to the conclusion that they were only noises made by the ice. He was uncertain as to the date. Finding themselves on the 80° North latitude, they were pushing West, knowing that by doing so on that parallel they might hit Spitzbergen, where they hoped to fall in with a walrus sloop. After hearing the noises I have mentioned, Nansen thought he might be in the neighborhood of Eira harbor, and that I might be there, as he knew something of my plans of going to Franz-Josef-Land, so he set off to walk to the nearest point to get upon an elevation to have a look round.
His first question was in reference to his wife, and his second as to the politics of Norway and, “Were Norway and Sweden at war?” He was going gamely, but looks pale and anaemic and is very fat.
On approaching our hut I told him again how delighted I was to be the first to congratulate him and welcome him on his return. Nearing the hut all my party came forward on the floe to meet us, and I introduced them all to Nansen and told them that he had come from the 86° 15’ North latitude, and called for three cheers for him, which was responded to most vigorously. This seemed to please him, and he repeatedly said: “This is splendid.”
I then sent Armitage on to tell Hayward to cook some food at once, and heat the bath-water – of course I did my utmost to make him and Johansen comfortable.
On entering the hut I handed him a packet of letters I had brought from London for him. There was no letter from his wife, at which he was very downcast, and I had again to assure him that she was very well when we left London in 1984, but a letter from his brother explained matters. He then had some fried looms, rice-pudding and jam, and any little luxuries we could supply. (He and Johansen had lived almost entirely on bear and walrus meat for the last nine or ten months.) He afterwards had a bath, and I found him a change of clean clothes. I had sent all the party, except Heyward, with two sledges to bring up Johansen and the kayaks, and on his coming up I looked after him in the same manner as I had Nansen. Johansen was, if possible, in a dirtier condition as his leader, and was as black as a sweep with dirt and grease.
Contrary to Dr. Nansen’s experience, our sense of smell must have become considerably lessened by long absence from civilization, for, strain our noses as we may, we fail do discover the slightest trace of the “Monkey or any other known brand” about our distinguished visitors from the North.
Johansen is a short, sturdy, muscular little chap, and looks as fit and well as he might have done had he just come off a yachting trip. He hasn’t turned a hair, but looks the picture of health. He is a capital fellow. Nansen, and I, on meeting, had fired four shots in quick succession to let Johansen know he had met someone.
My fellows, on approaching Johansen and seeing the Norwegian flag hoisted to the mast of a kayak, had given three cheers. Johansen told one of the party in German that they were “lost” and did not know where they were, which is hardly surprising, for they had no means of ascertaining their whereabouts, as Payer’s map North was unrecognizable, and they could not get their longitude owing to their watches having run down. They had a lump or two of evil-looking walrus-meat and two or three draggled-looking looms in their kayaks, which was all the food they had with them poor chaps. On the night of Nansen’s arrival we sat up talking till 8 a.m. the following day, and then turned into our blankets, but we soon turned out again and renewed our conversation for hours. He said, “he did not want to sleep, he felt so happy”.
Jackson, Frederick G.
Thousand Days in the Arctic
New York/London 1899