Polar Explorers

petterson-2.pngLars Petterson (1860-1898)

Petterson was the only participant on the first Fram expedition who was not Norwegian; he was Swedish. He was engaged as second engineer.

Because Norway at the time had begun a process to break out of the union with Sweden, Nansen wanted the whole expedition to be Norwegian. Petterson therefore wrote in his application that his name was spelt the Norwegian way – Pettersen – and that, although he was born in Sweden, his parents were Norwegian. In fact his parents were Swedish, but Lars had worked in Horten at the Naval Yard since 1889 as both blacksmith and engineer and in addition he knew both Anton Amundsen and Sigurd Scott-Hansen who would also be on the Fram.

Petterson was born in Odarslöf Parish in South Sweden as the youngest of his farmer parents’ children. In 1881-83 he worked at the Hvilands Foundry and later in Ljunggrens Foundry in Kristianstad. In 1884-85 he worked on the railway Kristianstad-Hasselholm and in 1886 he moved to Norway. In 1888 he was on board the sealing ship Hertha of Sandefjord. He was apparently so taken by the Arctic region that he longed to return. In 1889 he moved to Horten 29 years old, and he married the same year. The couple had four children.

Petterson was the 2nd engineer on the Fram, but also worked in the galley and carried out many other jobs as blacksmith, barber and not least comedian. Nansen has an amusing description of him in his book from an incident when the oven exploded in the galley and Petterson fell out of the door to the main deck black and with soot all over. Nansen found him to be a great comic talent and very good at dancing. Petterson usually kept the accounts when he played cards with three of the others. 

He and Anton Amundsen were celebrated when they arrived back in Horten in 1896. He died in Hamburg two years after the return of the Fram.

"Victory awaits him, who has everything in order - luck we call it.  Defeat is definitely due for him, who has neglected to take the necessary precautions - bad luck we call it"

Roald Amundsen

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