The last day of the Aesthetics conference in Oslo was a full working day followed by the conference dinner later in the evening so I saw an opportunity to stay in Oslo for an extra day. There may be no late, late night flights from Oslo to Helsinki but that’s besides the point. Who would want to drag their well nourished mind and body over to the airport in the middle of the night? So I had the Sunday to see what I had not yet seen in the Norwegian capital.
I had intended to revisit the Kon-tiki Museum – and it is a Great Place for Drawing you should go – but the last minute I decided against it and turned left to the Fram Museum. All I knew about the place was that it was a maritime museum that had won some big prize for its exhibition design. That’s it. The name sounded vaguely familiar but that was it. It doesn’t look like much from the outside (see the link, it really doesn’t) but I already had dragged myself to the Bygdøy peninsula (all the maritime museums of Oslo are there) so I went in. Was I in for a surprise!
The museum is practically built around the polar exploration ship Fram, launched in 1892 and the first ship built especially for polar explorations and to withstand getting stuck into the pack ice without getting crushed. It’s not a big ship, its one of the points of building an ship that can can withstand the contact with polar ice, but it is formidable. It is massive. Its hull bulks out in a different curvature than any other ship I have seen so far. It smells of wood tar like a proper ship ought to, and you can board it. You can walk on the deck, go bellow, all the way down to the engine room where it still reeks of diesel and oil and tar. The explorers – Fridtjof Nansen and Otto Sverdrup – planned out their three year expedition very, very carefully. So carefully, in fact, that the crew actually gained much weight during the voyage, not something that usually happens when its freezing outside and you’re drifting with the pack ice across the arctic sea. Somehow it felt like all that planning and care and the voyages themselves had got imprinted into ship itself. As if you could feel the enthusiasm and excitement of the crew, the arctic weather, the force of the ice when you’re below deck, the swell of the ocean under the ship when you are on the deck. Literally, I felt really weird when I first boarded the Fram and it took me some time to realise that my body thought that the ship was moving.
They have a pretty cool multimedia show running in the exhibition hall with enticing sounds and changing lights, but I don’t know. The ship felt like alive somehow. As if it had got stuck into two timelines: still partly out there in the polar seas, partly here and now in the museum.
You should go there, really. My only warning is that you might want to go early in the day especially if you want to draw. It’s a fairly tightly packed museum and one of the regular tour sites, so when the tour buses arrive it can get congested. But if you are ever in Oslo, go. I mean it.
Oh, BTW, while Photoshopping the scan I pressed the wrong buttons at one point and accidentally turned the picture into a negative. Look’s fun and interesting, or what?