Gjøa

It never ceases to amaze me. The tenacity of the human spirit. A person gets a kernel of an idea and then, over time, it grows into a fully fledged enterprise. Of course, it is not magic. The truly great accomplishments require a multitude of resources, both human and financial. Or do they?

Roald Amundsen was the expedition leader and Master of the Gjøa, which was the first vessel to transit the Northwest Passage. The first thought that comes to mind is how small the ship is, as you can see by the photo. But Amundsen wanted a small crew, they were to live off the land and avoid all the excess, (cargo and people) which had plagued John Franklin’s expedition.

It was built and served for 28 years as a herring fishing vessel. And Amundsen had little experience in Arctic sailing. When you look at all these facts mounting up against him, it is a wonder that this mission was completed at all.

But there were a series of things that happened and contributed to success. Preparation was key. Technical knowledge had to be brought on board. But the people involved on this epic journey must have possessed the most important skill of all. For me, that would be the ability to effectively communicate. That is the pre cursor to everything in life that turns out well.

When the going got tough in the high Arctic, they turned to the Inuit for help. On display at the Maritime Museum in Oslo, there are many, many photo’s showing the details of surviving and even thriving while locked in the ice for 3 winters.

I have not personally spent time in the Arctic, but I have 2 family members that have. Stories from them detail some of the hardships that life up North can dish out. There is a level of preparedness that is required as winter sets in that us Southerners can hardly comprehend. And then put this into the context of the time and circumstances of the Northwest passage.

Truly a worthwhile visit, if you find yourself with a free afternoon in Oslo, Norway.

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