Nor­we­gian ex­pe­di­tion ves­sel vis­its St. An­thony

MS Fram com­bines lux­ury with learn­ing while trav­el­ling from the Arc­tic to Antarc­tica

Northern Pen - - Focus - BY THOM BARKER SPE­CIAL TO THE NORTH­ERN PEN

The re­cep­tion area of the MS Fram typ­i­fies the lux­u­ri­ous ap­point­ments of the ves­sel.

Although she is not chart­ing new wa­ters like her 19th cen­tury name­sake, there is still a spirit of ex­plo­ration to the MS Fram.

The Nor­we­gian ship, which dropped an­chor just out­side St. An­thony Har­bour Oct. 2, is not your av­er­age party ves­sel.

“There’s no swim­ming pool on this ship,” said Camille Sea­man, ex­pe­di­tion pho­tog­ra­pher. “There’s a Jacuzzi, but that’s re­ally more for those tired mus­cles af­ter your 10-km hike. I strug­gle to call this a cruise ship; we call it an ex­pe­di­tion ves­sel.”

The MS Fram trav­els the West­ern Hemi­sphere all year round, spend­ing north­ern sum­mers in the Arc­tic and south­ern sum­mers in Antarc­tica. In be­tween, she ex­plores the At­lantic coast of North Amer­ica then passes through the Panama Canal and cruises down the Pa­cific coast of South Amer­ica.

“We dif­fer from nor­mal cruis­ing be­cause we are a smaller ship, fewer pas­sen­gers and we are more flex­i­ble in the way we op­er­ate,” ex­pe­di­tion leader Mario Ac­quarone ex­plained.

“We can do na­ture land­ings, which big pas­sen­ger ships can­not do, and we go a lit­tle bit off the beaten track and try to give a theme that is ei­ther a his­tor­i­cal or nat­u­ral theme to our voy­ages.”

In place of night­clubs and theatres, the Fram has lecture halls. There are no casi­nos or deck sports, but there is a sci­ence lab and a mu­seum. The en­ter­tain­ers

are not singers, ma­gi­cians and co­me­di­ans – they are sci­en­tists, his­to­ri­ans and naturalists.

“We’re sci­ence ed­u­ca­tors; we try to elu­ci­date dif­fer­ent sci­ence con­cepts and make them avail­able to peo­ple of gen­eral knowl­edge,” said Wayne Brown, a Cal­i­for­nia marine bi­ol­o­gist who and is part of a hus­band-wife team on the ex­pe­di­tion staff with Karen Brown, a whale re­searcher.

Karen noted pas­sen­gers the Fram at­tracts are very en­thu­si­as­tic about learn­ing.

“I would say most of them love it,” she said. “For in­stance, yes­ter­day we had some bro­ken sea urchin tests, so we put them un­der the mi­cro­scope and it’s fas­ci­nat­ing to see what they look like re­ally close up.”

All of this is not to say the pas­sen­gers and crew are rough­ing it. From the well-ap­pointed cab­ins, to the pol­ished tile floors and gleam­ing wood trim, to the fine din­ing restau­rant, to the 270-de­gree panoramic view from the com­fort of the ob­ser­va­tion lounge, the Fram of­fers lux­ury all the way.

Fram legacy

Lux­ury was de­cid­edly not the case on the orig­i­nal Fram, which means ‘for­ward’ in Nor­we­gian. That ship was de­signed and built to be frozen into the Arc­tic ice pack in an at­tempt by Nor­we­gian ex­plorer Fridtjof Nansen to reach the ge­o­graph­i­cal North Pole by us­ing the nat­u­ral east-west cur­rent of the Arc­tic Ocean.

seasNansen left Nor­way in July 1893 and went into the ice north of the New Siberian Is­lands in Septem­ber. From Septem­ber 1893 to Au­gust 1896, the Fram drifted in pack ice. But the drift was slower and more er­ratic than Nansen had pre­dicted. Frus­trated, he set off in March 1895 with one com­pan­ion, Hjal­mar Jo­hansen, by dogsled. They never reached the pole, but set a record of 86 de­grees, 13.6 min­utes north, be­fore re­treat­ing. The Fram came out of the ice in Au­gust 1896.

While Nor­we­gian ex­plor­ers and boats may not be the first that come to mind to North Amer­i­cans, Nansen and the Fram are part of a long his­tory and tra­di­tion of ex­plo­ration and ship­build­ing that dates to the Vik­ings who came to the North­ern Penin­sula 1,000 years ago.

“I think the Nor­we­gians are very un­der­stated in their mas­tery of ex­plo­ration, es­pe­cially in polar re­gions, but they have in­cred­i­ble pride,” said Sea­man. “So this Fram, we are on this ship with pride be­cause we know what Fram rep­re­sents as a his­toric legacy and what we’re do­ing with it cur­rently.”

For­ward-think­ing

The cur­rent MS Fram and Hur­tig­urten, the com­pany that owns her, pride them­selves on be­ing en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly. While diesel-pow­ered, the Fram’s stack fea­tures state-ofart-par­tic­u­late fil­ters, ex­plained Ac­quarone.

There is also the lat­est and great­est in garbage and wa­ter treat­ment sys­tems, and a com­plex garbage re­duc­tion pol­icy that in­volves pro­vi­sion­ers avoid­ing prepacked food and tak­ing on lo­cal in­gre­di­ents wher­ever pos­si­ble.

“We have no sin­gle-use plas­tic on this ship,” Sea­man added. “We re­ally try and walk the walk; we re­ally are con­cerned about cli­mate and pol­lu­tion, es­pe­cially plas­tic pol­lu­tion in the ocean.”

They are even con­cerned about noise pol­lu­tion. The ship has no rud­der or rear-fac­ing pro­pel­lers. In­stead, two 360-de­gree swiv­el­ling mo­tors hang­ing be­low the bow pull the ves­sel for­ward.

Lo­cal re­ac­tion

Ex­pe­di­tion staff and pas­sen­gers were im­pressed with their stop in St. An­thony.

On-shore ac­tiv­i­ties in­cluded a trip to L’Anse aux Mead­ows, which Ac­quarone said was the high­light of the voy­age so far.

THOM BARKER PHOTO

The bow of the MS Fram tow­ers above one of the ten­ders used to ferry pas­sages to shore and back.

THOM BARKER PHOTO

Crew wel­come back pas­sen­gers at the ten­der port on the MS Fram.

THOM BARKER PHOTO

MS Fram ex­pe­di­tion leader Mario Ac­quarone ex­plains the voy­age in the ob­ser­va­tion lounge.

THOM BARKER PHOTO

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