by Per Johan Moe
Jules Verne and Arctic exploration
– about the author’s view on the explorers F.Nansen (1861-1930) and A.E.Nordenskiöld, (1832 – 1901)
and their reception of his work.
Verne’s VE series, starts inside the blank spot on the map of Africa. Then he sets sail for the poles, the last places on the planet not visited by man. After collecting exotic, northern inspiration, visiting Norway in 1861, he writes the story about Captain Hatteras. Just like ‘Five weeks’, the novel is almost a textbook on exploration history, and his true-to-life descriptions inspired Arctic explorers. This presentation aims to have a two way -look at this topic. Both Verne’s writings about selected explorers and what these explorers themselves expressed about the author, will be commented. The Scandinavian Peninsula was, between 1814 and 1905, a ‘loose’ union between Norway and Sweden. In several novels, Verne writes about these two nations as being one country. The Hetzel book L’Épave du Cynthia in 1885, which is set in Scandinavia (although not a true Verne novel) can be seen as a homage to the Arctic explorer Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld’s success through The Northeast passage, six years earlier. Verne also points to ‘le célèbre’ Nordenskiöld in Sans dessus dessous (1889). Then in 1892, indicating inspiration from Verne, Nordenskiöld wrote the foreword in a Swedish reissue of the Hatteras novel. Several articles have concluded, without providing evidence, that The Norwegian polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen named his vessel «Fram»1 after Cpt. Hatteras’ ship «Forward». And, it is true, the theories presented in Hatteras, on ocean currents and pack ice, are quite similar to those implemented by Nansen, trying to reach the Pole in 1893-96. After Nansen’s return, Verne wrote a telegram praising Nansen. This presentation aims to indicate connections and clarify as to what extent Dr. Nansen’s had detailed knowledge about the Hatteras project.
1 Norwegian word, meaning forward
Keywords: North Pole, Arctic, Hatteras, Nansen, Cynthia, Nordenskiöld, [works commented: AH/ Voyages et aventures du capitaine Hatteras (1864) – TL/ De la Terre à la Lune (1865) – PF/ Le Pays des fourrures (1873) – EC/L’Épave du Cynthia (1884) – SD/Sans dessus dessous (1889) – EM/En Magellanie (1898)– BV/Bourses de voyage (1903),
Per Johan Moe (1956) is assistant professor at University College of Southeast Norway,
Department og Languages and Literature Studies.