Nansen: the Man, the Bottle... the Sled!

Some OAE's have left their mark on the continent, beyond their exploratory achievements. Field teams still sleep in "Scott tents," and Skidoos pull "Nansen sleds."

The Norwegian, Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930), was a zoologist, artist and Nobel Peace Prize winner. He was the first man to cross the Greenland ice cap. He tested his theory of surface currents in the Arctic Sea by allowing a specially reinforced ship (the Fram) to be frozen into the pack ice so it would drift with the current. Nansen hoped the Arctic current would take the ice and the Fram to the North Pole. When it became obvious that the ship would not reach the Pole, Nansen and a companion set out on foot. He failed to reach the Pole by about 233 miles, but got closer than anyone had before. Years later, Nansen lent the Fram to Amundsen, who made it his main vessel for his successful race to the South Pole.

Nansen designed a device to obtain samples from deep down in the water column. This became the standard instrument for many decades. Made of bronze, copper and tin, it was called the Nansen bottle. When triggered by a weight sliding down the cable, the bottle inverts 180 degrees and tapered valves at each end close.

Today, a newer sampling device, the Niskin bottle, made entirely of plastic, minimizes the problem of corrosion when left in standing water and sample self-contamination from trace metals in the construction of the original Nansen bottles.

Have students be on the lookout for Nansen sleds, still in use, in the videos and on-line journals!

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