Polar Heroes

There’s an explorer in each of us. The itch for new adventures, to travel to new places, to see beauty and wildlife with our own eyes, and to come home with amazing stories to tell.

The drive to explore has been around well before the Polynesians embarked on epic voyages to see what was beyond their paradise islands. In Moby Dick, Herman Melville said “As for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.”

And this drive to explore is universal –  it crosses across all cultures and demographics. Explorers define their own adventures according to their needs and abilities. For some it’s a physical challenge. For others, it’s a mental one. Sir Edmund Hillary, the first to summit Mt. Everest, was a beekeeper who said “You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things – to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated.”

A History of Polar Adventures

At Hurtigruten, we understand and admire the grit, dedication, and mental strength it takes to rise to a challenge and persevere. We’ve lived it as explorers every day since 1893, when we started delivering the mail through remote and uncharted polar waters from Trondheim to Hammerfest, and in 1896, when we started our ‘Sports Route’ between Hammerfest and Spitsbergen. We launched our first expeditions to Antarctica in 2002, and have been expanding our adventures ever since.

Adventure is a way of life on a Hurtigruten voyage, with expeditions to Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland, Spitsbergen, and Arctic Canada, sailing in the wake of the great explorers of the past. And it’s why we named one of our expedition ships after the original Fram – one of the most famous expedition ships of all time.

As part of Fridtjof Nansen’s expedition, the original Fram was the first ship to sail across the Arctic Ocean. The original Fram was then used by Otto Sverdrup to survey the Canadian territory of Nunavut, the largest area to be surveyed on a single expedition at that time. Most famous of all, in 1910 the original Fram took Roald Amundsen to his starting point in Antarctica and became the first person to reach the South Pole

Roald Amundsen reached the North Pole by airship in May 1926, flying from Spitsbergen to Alaska with 15 other explorers, and becoming the first person to reach both poles. 

Hurtigruten's Modern Explorers

Meet Rune Andreassen, Captain of the MS Fram, who has been sailing with Hurtigruten for over 30 years, the last 10 of which have been in the polar regions. Rune says that in addition to being prepared, he has to be flexible, open-minded, and have sound judgment because of factors such as extreme weather and ice conditions. And of course, safety always comes first! Every single expedition is customized as the landing sites and activities are subject to the current weather and ice conditions. Some days on Antarctic expeditions, there will be two shore excursions. On another day, there may not be any because of unsafe weather and ice conditions in one of the harshest environments on Earth. But Hurtigruten’s Antarctica expeditions are planned during its austral summer, February and March, to maximize our chances of making shore landings. As the polar ice melts, you'll have access to points much farther south than you would during other travel seasons. This is when to travel to Antarctica if you're an explorer who wants to see as much of Antarctica as possible!

Although we know vastly more about the polar regions now than we did a century ago and have used echo sounding, a type of sonar, to map the seafloor, Hurtigruten is still feeding the knowledge base for future explorers. Rune says “many parts of Antarctica, Greenland, and Svalbard are still undetected. When we sail in these waters, we use sound and sonar as an extra aid for safe navigation.” The data Hurtigruten collects is saved in the Norwegian navigation system. “We use this information and cooperate with other operators to make new and more precise maps so journey is safer for those who follow in our wake.”

Educated in polar studies at Norwegian universities and around the world, Hurtigruten’s expedition team is extremely knowledgeable and certified by IAATO (Association of Antarctica Tour Operators). They are carefully selected for their local knowledge, expertise, and most important of all, their enthusiasm, curiosity, and love for the areas we visit. They are modern-day explorers. They are on board to facilitate and ensure a genuine expedition experience by interpreting observations of wildlife and landscapes; pointing out things of interest; giving educational lectures on topics such as biology, geology, and history; and guiding you to all the most interesting sites.

Expedition team leader Karin Strand says of Antarctica, guests “like to step into a world where the normal man-made infrastructure they surround themselves with fades into the background and nature and wildlife in its natural habitat takes over all their senses. The feeling of being small in this mighty natural world fascinates people and sends shivers down their spines. When we silently glide by an icy landscape, I will never find words to do the scenery justice. You just have to be there.”

As a child, Hurtigruten guest Silje Våtvik admired explorers such as Roald Amundsen, Ernest Shackleton, and Robert Falcon Scott. During her journey to Antarctica with Hurtigruten, she not only explored in the footsteps of these great adventurers, she became a great adventurer too. After sailing through the Drake Passage and spending two days on the open sea, Silje eventually got a glimpse of land. That was a soul-touching moment she’ll never forget “Most people ran out on deck and I was one of them. Finally I got to breathe the same air as my heroes did more than 100 years ago.” Being there in the more comfortable environment of MS Fram, Silje reflects on her predecessors: “When we left those waters, my thoughts went out to the early polar heroes who put their lives at stake on the toughest continent in the world.”

Hurtigruten’s unique heritage, combined with highly skilled crews and a diverse fleets of nimble, intimately-scaled expedition ships, provide breathtaking nature-based experiences in remote corners of the world. Hurtigruten answers to travelers who value learning, adventure, and personal growth more than excessive luxury. And we take pride in offering life-changing experiences in a way that leaves the smallest environmental footprint possible.

Expedition Leader Tessa Van Drie says this: “Come on board with an open mind; take risks you never thought you would take, and be flexible… Follow these simple guidelines and we [the expedition team] will help you make the most out of your expedition.”

Travel on a Hurtigruten expedition and connect with your inner explorer!