Who led the first crossing of Greenland on skis in 1888?
Norwegian-born Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930) was a polymath and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who led the first crossing of Greenland on skis in 1888. Nansen initially considered using dogs or reindeer to pull the sledges but rejected the idea because neither he nor his team had used animals before. Instead, Nansen made several sledges from ash wood, which is both lightweight and strong, for his men to pull.
Nansen and his team set off in a north-westerly direction from Umivik Bay in the southeast of Greenland on 15th August 1888. They aimed to traverse 370 miles (595 km) of frozen land, eventually reaching the town of Christianhaab on the other side of the island. Crevasses made skiing dangerous, and progress was slow. Several snowstorms also delayed the teams and made pulling the sledges difficult. Eventually, Nansen proposed taking a shorter route to the capital Godthaab, now known as Nuuk, on the western coast, which shortened their journey by 93 miles (150 km).
Nansen was the first explorer to bring a camera on an expedition. He managed to take about 150 photographs, which documented their journey across Greenland. These images reveal the size of the sledges the men dragged along with them, the types of clothing they wore, and the skis they attached to their shoes.
On 3rd October 1888, Nansen reached Godthaab, ending his 49-day journey across Greenland. The Royal Geographical Society in London awarded him with the Founders Medal.