Ice Ship

The Epic Voyages of the Polar Adventurer Fram

Charles W. Johnson

In the golden age of polar exploration (from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s), many an expedition set out to answer the big question—was the Arctic a continent, an open ocean beyond a barrier of ice, or an ocean covered with ice? No one knew, for the ice had kept its secret well; ships trying to penetrate it all failed, often catastrophically. Norway’s charismatic scientist-explorer Fridtjof Nansen, convinced that it was a frozen ocean, intended to prove it in a novel if risky way: by building a ship capable of withstanding the ice, joining others on an expedition, then drifting wherever it took them, on a relentless one-way journey into discovery and fame . . . or oblivion. Ice Ship is the story of that extraordinary ship, the Fram, from conception to construction, through twenty years of three epic expeditions, to its final resting place as a museum. It is also the story of the extraordinary men who steered the Fram over the course of 84,000 miles: on a three-year, ice-bound drift, finding out what the Arctic really was; in a remarkable four-year exploration of unmapped lands in the vast Canadian Arctic; and on a two–year voyage to Antarctica, where another famous Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, claimed the South Pole. Ice Ship will appeal to all those fascinated with polar exploration, maritime adventure, and wooden ships, and will captivate readers of such books as The Endurance, In the Heart of the Sea, and The Last Place on Earth. With more than 100 original photographs, the book brings the Fram to life and light.

Cloth: $29.95 | E-book: $19.99
ISBN-13: 9781611683967
Pages: 336 | Size: 8.5 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: October 7, 2014


  • Beyond the geography and derring-do, there is plenty in this biography to satisfy the boat-minded among us. . . . Ice Ship is beautifully illustrated and produced, and wonderfully researched; it’s a remarkable account of a remarkable ship.

    Wooden Boat
  • The author is clearly very familiar with Arctic exploration literature. . . .  The author has put together a compelling story about the three larger-than-life characters, Fridtjof Nansen, Otto Sverdrup, and Roald Amundsen. . . . By using Fram as a centerpiece  he has broadened the scope of the book far beyond episodes directly related to the history of the vessel. His presentation includes many sidebar statements on topics such as polar ice in general, personal experiences in the Arctic, comments on polar seasons, and the general differences between the two polar regions.

  • Charles Johnson’s Ice Ship beautifully captures the essence of the Norse spirit that fills in the answer to the one remaining question: Why?

    Willem Lange
    Valley News
  • The story of a ship is actually three stories: its design, construction, and voyages; the record of the work she did; and the story of her owners, officers, and crew. A successful ship’s biography weaves these together seamlessly, as does Charles Johnson [in his] admirable book, Ice Ship: The Epic Voyages of the Polar Adventurer Fram.

    Sea History
  • An ambitious chunk of polar history.

    The International Journal of Maritime History

About the Author

Charles W. Johnson

Charles W. Johnson is the former Vermont state naturalist, a twenty-year veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, and the author of several popular books on natural history. He has a lifelong interest in polar regions and exploration. He lives in East Montpelier, Vermont.

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