A visit to the Fram museum in Oslo, and splashing Arcturus

It's over a month now since we first removed the winter cover on Arcturus  and began the enormous task of replacing her engine. As of yesterday, she's back in the water and the engine is running. (As per usual, for those who just want to look at photos, scroll down to the bottom - there is a large selection of them this time).

It was a looong time coming, and as of last week I'd just about had it. That little weekend trip to Norway to see Clint was a freaking needed break. For four days I did almost nothing - just hung out with an old friend, toured around the waterfront is Oslo with Clint and Mia's namesake Maria Karlsson (one of her high school friends, yes, with the same name as her, who now lives in Oslo and has made friends with Clint) and watched the entire  final round of the British Open golf tournament on Clint's couch last Sunday. I got out and ran in the forest behind Clint's apartment as well, this idyllic expanse of criss-crossing trails that exist for runners in the summertime and skiers in the winter. In three days I managed 24 miles on those trails.

On the Monday prior to my return I had the day to myself, as Clint was off working and my train didn't depart Oslo S until 3:45 in the afternoon. He dropped by at the bus stop on his way out and I rode into town for a nice walk from the train station to Aker Brygge, the waterfront area we'd been to with Maria, and the place where the ferries leave from in summertime, bound for Bygdoy, where all the museums are.

Mia and I had been here before, visiting the Kon Tiki museum about Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl's various expeditions. It was fantastic. Right next door is the Fram Museum. When we got back from that last trip, Matt Rutherford gave me crap about not visiting it instead - see, the Fram is easily the most famous arctic ship in history, taking Matt's heros - Nansen, Sverdrup and Amundsen - to the far reaches of the earth, North Pole and South Pole alike. So this time around I had to see it.

The museum consists of two A-frame buildings adjacent to one another. The Fram itself occupies the larger of these, and is installed essentially in it's complete form, sans full rigging (though it does have some stumpy masts for appearances). The exhibits are arranged on three floors surrounding the ship - as you make your way around and up, you finally emerge onto the ship's deck itself, and are invited to wander around topside and explore the cabins and holds down below. Needless to say, this was fascinating! 

My history of arctic exploration is limited really to what Matt has told me before and after his Around the America's expedition (which seems all the more unbelieveable after visiting this museum) and the few books I've read on sailing north, namely contemporary stories by Dave & Jaja Martin and Alvah Simon. 

Everyone knows the name Amundsen, but I think fewer recognize Nansen and Sverdrup. They actually skippered the Fram on it's first two expeditions, while Amundsen was still a boy dreaming of the frozen north. Inside the Fram , the original cabins remain in place, nameplates and all. I stood next to Amundsen's cabin - a simple affair, with a padded bench and a tiny writing desk, just like all the other cabins - and felt a real sense of history coming alive. 

In the adjacent building is the ship Gjoa, the small schooner that Amundsen piloted through the Northwest Passage, to become the first person ever to successfully accomplish the feat (with only six men onboard), and providing Matt with his greatest bit of inspiration. The Gjoa  exhibit was attracting far less attention than the Fram  itself (that side of the museum was jammed with German tourists), so I had the place nearly to myself.

They showed a 15-minute video about the history of arctic exploration. Incredibly, Amundsen went on to fly airplanes and blimps over the arctic after his exploits on the Gjoa  and Fram  were complete, at the time arguably more incredible than the voyages themselves. 

I left the museum that day after about an hour and a half (a good chunk of which I spent in the museum's bookstore, which they claim holds the largest collection of arctic literature in Scandinavia) and came out of it feeling refreshed and inspired. Standing on the deck of the Fram  I felt a sense of belonging that I hadn't felt in a long time. I passed by an exhibit on celestial navigation and smiled to myself, wondering who else in the building at that time actually knows and can do celestial? I felt pride at understanding at least a little bit, of what the men who sailed the Fram  experienced at sea, and moreso, that feeling of excited apprehension they must have felt before they set out. It dawned on me while standing there that I'm doing exactly  what I want to do with my life. 


I returned to work on the boat on Tuesday with renewed vigor that came with a nice break, an inspiring museum visit and the knowledge that by the end of the week the boat would be back in the water. We were just waiting on the new prop now, the Campbell Sailer, en route from North by West Enterprises in British Columbia

It arrived yesterday, and miraculously it fit. I tossed and turned the night before worrying that I hadn't measured the shaft taper correctly or that the keyway would be the wrong size. But my worries were unfounded - it popped right on.  

Tommy came with his remote-control travel lift around 1pm, and we walked with him down to the boat ramp. Launching is always a stressful event, as I'm convinced that I didn't connect a hose right or that the boat will have somehow sprung a new leak that will leave it slowly sinking at the dock. This feeling was compounded this time by the fact that we had done so much plumbing work, on the new engine itself, but also in the galley, the head, and all of the bilge pumps. I needn't have worried, and Arcturus  is happily floating - a little bow-down at the moment, given that all the lockers aft are empty.

She's not yet a sailboat - we have to go and step the mast tomorrow - but she's one step closer. I don't think I've ever mentioned this publicly before, but the main reason we installed this new engine was because this summer will be the last time the boat is this close to home here in Sweden. Next summer we'll start the journey out of the Baltic and up the west coast of Norway, staging for the big jump. The goal is Svalbard (Spitsbergen), that little outpost in the far north that all those explorers of old used as a weigh station en route to the North Pole. The last of the boat work is nearly complete, and Arcturus  is in better condition that she's ever been in. Now it's up to us.