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Hurtigruten to name Fridtjof Nansen in Svalbard, 'birthplace of expedition cruising'

PHOTO: ANDREA KLAUSSNER/HURTIGRUTEN CRUISE_Fridtjof_Nansen_Photo_Andrea_Klaussner.jpg
Fridtjof Nansen is also registered in Longyearbyen, the port where it will be named
Hurtigruten began expedition cruises to Svalbard in 1896, and today — 125 years later — plans to name its hybrid battery-powered Fridtjof Nansen there.

The festivities are to take place Sept. 14 in Longyearbyen, in what is touted as the northernmost naming ceremony ever for a passenger ship.

'When looking for a location for the naming of MS Fridtjof Nansen, we couldn’t think of a better place than Svalbard. For expedition cruising, this is where it all began,' Hurtigruten Expeditions CEO Asta Lassesen said.

Birth of expedition cruising

In the late 1800s, exploration was largely the realm of scientific expeditions or a luxury reserved for the few. As yachts and ocean liners made their way north, Hurtigruten founder Capt. Richard With saw a niche for combining local knowledge with smaller passenger ships. In 1896, he started a series of small-ship cruises from mainland Norway to the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. Aimed at international travelers, these included small-boat landings at places like the North Cape and remote Bear Island.

This is why Hurtigruten considers the Svalbard archipelago and the island of Spitsbergen 'much more than just a destination; [they're] part of our history,' Lassesen said.

'As history has told us, we need to work closely with local communities when we develop sustainable tourism for future generations of explorers. When we embark on our Svalbard expeditions, we combine our 125 years of experience with our year-round land-based presence, creating jobs and value for the local community that lasts way beyond our cruise calls,' she continued.

Fridtjof Nansen registered in Longyearbyen

Longyearbyen is also Fridtjof Nansen's port of registry, making it the first cruise ship to call Svalbard home.

The vessel is named for the great polar hero and humanitarians Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930). Norwegian-born Nansen led the first expedition to ski across Greenland in 1888 and ventured further north than anyone else during his Fram expedition in 1893-1896. He later devoted his life to humanitarian work and diplomacy and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts on behalf of refugees following World War I and other conflicts.

His namesake ship features the Nansen Science Center and will host scientists on every cruise.

Ice, not Champagne

The vessel will be named by breaking a chunk of ice rather than the traditional bottle of Champagne, just as sister ship Roald Amundsen was named in Antarctica in 2019. The Sept. 14 festivities in Longyearbyen will be livestreamed.