In a sleepy churchyard in a Berkshire church in the South of England, there is a man with an iceberg for a gravestone. Or a stone representation of one.
Should I say, there was a man? He is no more, and has been no more for 75 years. It is strange, when you see his picture. So vital. So full of energy.
Strange to think that though he is there, sleeping under that stone, he exchanged ice for earth in the long run, and the wild wastes of the Arctic for the Shires. Remember, man.
His name is Frederick George Jackson, and he is inextricably tied up in the strange history of the Arctic, and the scramble for the North Pole. He is the punchline in the story of Fridtjof Nansen.
Nansen: a likeable chap, fair-minded and cerebral and drawn inextricably towards the polar lands. He it was who inspired Amundsen, the man who beat Scott of the Antarctic. Nansen developed a crazy theory about how one might reach the North Pole. What if, he said, one built a sturdy boat and used the natural drift of polar ice to take one far, far North to within travelling distance of the pole?
He built a tough boat which could withstand the jostling of an iceberg or two, and set out, proving his theory correct. But the final stretch across land defeated the expedition, and they turned back without reaching their goal.
Just as with Scott, later, the return journey became a rather desperate affair.Their chronometers gave out, and it was impossible to calculate their position. They travelled towards Franz Joseph Land across the ice, which was becoming unstable with the Summer months. Finally, they spotted land. They made it to the edge of the ice and took two kayaks, making for land, and they reached it safely. And there, they spent the winter.
But by the following June, things were rather bad: they were on the very last of their supplies, and had shot the last husky. It was a grim pass.
So just when things seemed rather hopeless, Nansen heard voices.
Real ones, as it turned out. He went to investigate and found a British man wandering towards them.
Neither really knew what to say. Astonished, Jackson managed to stammer: “You’re Nansen, aren’t you?”
And the explorer replied, “Yes, I am Nansen.”
In the weeks afterwards, Nansen said he could scarcely grasp his good fortune. And in time, he named that island which he had discovered: Jackson island.
And now the two of them are consigned to earth. But they lived long and fully.
And their adventures live vividly after them.
21 thoughts on “The man with an iceberg grave stone.”
“He built a tough boat which could withstand the jostling of an iceberg or two”—-Brrr, makes me want to curl up in a warm blanket in front of a fire. On terra firma…
Yes: the North Pole is at the end of anywhere….bleak, bleak, bleak. Good thing Jackson turned up.
My home town of Cheltenham has renamed the local museum after Edward Wilson who died with Scott. They bred them tough in them days!
They did. Explorers are a singular breed.
Quel bon chance! Lucky (frozen) stiff! 😀
In case anyone else is having a tough time reading the gravestone:
In memory of
Frederick George Jackson
Major. East Surrey Regiment
Commander of the Jackson-Harmsworth
polar expedition. 1894-1897.
He discovered. mapped. and named
the greater part of Franz Joseph Land
and rescued Dr Nansen.
Died 13 March 1938 aged 78 years
Sans Peur et Sans Reproche
His memorial is in St Pauls Cathedral.
His grave is in this churchyard.
Thanks for that, Nancy…sans peur and sans reproche – without fear or reproach. What a wonderful epitaph.
It also looks like a hoodie!
😀 It does. I don’t think the creator necessarily bore hoodies in mind when he created icebergs, but there is a certain resemblance, isn’t there?
He was a tough man and had many great adventures. There is a plaque in St Pauls crypt near Nelsons burial place,
Although he was my grandfather’s brother I’m not much like him
Philip, thank you so much for calling in to read and leave a comment here today. You will know the spot I speak of well. What an adventurer your grand-uncle (is that the term?) was.
might need to get the directions from you one day. Looks like one of those really must visit graves 🙂 Thanks for sharing
It is a lovely patch of a grim-ish new town 🙂 But it has many surprises. I have yet to get inside the church where William Morris had his wicked way, I believe. Well, his way. More florid than maybe some members of the congregation would have approved of in the second half of the nineteenth century. But that’s another story for another day…
ooh intriguing. I shall look forward with anticip
It’s been a long time but I thought I’d read about all the old arctic and antarctic expeditions and explorations. I don’t recall these, however. Thanks for yet another tale of the bravery of our early polar explorers. Such bravery and such hardship.
This post prompted me to further research Nansen. Apparently, his wife, Eva, was a women’s skiing pioneer. They really appreciated freezing cold weather and winter sports. The one and only time I went skiing I could not wait to return to the lodge and a steaming mug of hot cocoa (I could still do dairy back then).
I’ve long admired explorers of any sort. I don’t know that I have the mettle to endure the hardships they did, and do.
I believe I was born without an adventure gene, but I am in awe and with respectful admiration of those who simply must press on to the edge…of wherever! What a wonderful story this is.
Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr! A chilling tale. And a, ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume?’ moment I had not heard of before.
So very interesting a story, Kate.
Have I ever mentioned an explorer we know? A modern one? A long and dear friend’s brother, Alvah Simon, wintered in his small boat in and on the north arctic, and lived to tell his tale in the book “North to the Night”. It is a rather thrilling, and chilling tale.
what an interesting story – I love the quote about seeking out the places labeled unknown. It reminds me of how, before everything was mapped out, they marked the borders of their knowledge with “here there be dragons”.