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article imageReview: History and maritime exploration at the Bygdøy Peninsula museums Special

By Igor I. Solar     Jul 22, 2013 in Travel
Oslo - For a traveler interested in history and discovery, a visit to Oslo’s Bygdøy Peninsula is a must. Located in close proximity of each other there are several interesting museums with a view of Norway’s past, adventure and ocean-going exploration.
Until about the end of the 18th century Bygdøy was an island in the southwest of Oslo. Around 1800 the narrow strait between the island and the mainland was filled and Bygdøy became a peninsula. During the 18th century it was the location of some of the royal mansions and gradually changed to give place to embassies, private residences, parks, public beaches, and the site of five of Oslo’s most important museums.
The museums are very close to each other and they could be covered in a full day resulting in a captivating although possibly exhausting cultural and historical undertaking. Thus, if one has a bit of extra time, it’s better to spread the visit over a couple of days. There is so much to see and learn that taking a bit of extra time is definitively recommended.
The five museums in the Bygdøy peninsula are The Norwegian Folk Museum, The Kon-Tiki Museum, The Fram Museum, The Viking Ship Museum, and The Norwegian Maritime Museum. A visit to the interesting Norwegian Folk Museum containing a wide array of historic buildings and artifacts from various regions of Norway is described in this Digital Journal article.
Aerial view of the Bygdøy Peninsula  Oslo  Norway.
Aerial view of the Bygdøy Peninsula, Oslo, Norway.
Kon-tiki Museum
The Kon-Tiki Museum
The most important exhibits in this museum are two vessels built with prehistoric designs and materials and used by Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl in his voyages across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. These are the balsa log raft known as “Kon-Tiki” and the papyrus reed boat called “Ra II”.
Kon-Tiki was the raft that Thor Heyerdahl used in 1947 on his expedition of 8,000 km across the Pacific Ocean from Callao, Peru, to the reef Raroia Polynesia. Heyerdahl tried to prove that the peopling of Polynesia may have occurred in pre-Columbian times by sea from South America on rafts as used during his expedition and moved only by the tides, currents and wind power, which is almost constant, east-west, along the Ecuador. Heyerdahl wrote a book about his expedition which was a bestseller translated into 66 languages. Notwithstanding Heyerdahl's demonstration, most anthropologists believe, based on genetic evidence, that Polynesia was settled from west to the east, with migrations from Asia.
Thor Heyerdahl continued his research on ancient navigation methods using boats made of papyrus. To do this, in collaboration with Spanish-Mexican anthropologist Santiago Genovés he built two papyrus reed boats, Ra and Ra II, to demonstrate that the ancient Egyptians may have traveled to America. The first attempt in the Ra did not succeed, but in 1970, with the Ra II, they crossed the widest part of the Atlantic (6,100 km) from Safi, Morocco to Barbados in 57 days.
The raft Kon-tiki was used by Thor Heyerdahl in 1947 to demonstrate that the Polynesians could have ...
The raft Kon-tiki was used by Thor Heyerdahl in 1947 to demonstrate that the Polynesians could have come from South America rather than Southeast Asia. He travelled about 8000 kilometres in 101 days from Callao, Peru, to the reef Raroia in Polynesia.
The papyrus reed boat Ra II was used by Thor Heyerdahl in 1970 to sail from Morocco to Barbados  abo...
The papyrus reed boat Ra II was used by Thor Heyerdahl in 1970 to sail from Morocco to Barbados, about 6,100 Km. in 57 days.
The Fram Museum
The Fram Museum houses the polar exploration ship Fram, which, between 1893 and 1912, sailed further north and further south than any other ocean vessel. This ship was designed by Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen specifically to withstand prolonged pressure of ice-choked waters. The Fram made three outstanding polar expeditions.
In the first one, Nansen attempted to reach the North Pole by drifting the vessel, frozen into the ice, towards the pole. The drift was slow and erratic and after 18 months Nansen and a companion, Hjalmar Johansen, left the ship with a team of dogs and sledges and headed for the pole. They did not reach it, but went as far north as latitude 86°14′ N before returning to Franz Josef Land, Russia, where the two men built a makeshift hut in which they spent the winter.
The second expedition, led by Otto Sverdrup had the objective of charting the lands and exploring the geology, flora and fauna of the Canadian Arctic islands. Fram left harbour on 24 June 1898, with 17 men on board for an expedition that was supposed to last three years. However, being stuck in the ice, it lasted four, causing great concern in Norway. The ship was able to get out of the ice in early August 1902, returning home on 18 September with only 14 remaining members.
The scientific results of the Sverdrup expedition were remarkable. The explorers collected thousands of plants and small animals, large quantities of samples of plankton, rock and fossils, and abundant oceanographic, meteorological and geomagnetism data.
The third Fram expedition was led by Roald Amundsen. After learning that in 1908 and 1909 US explorers Frederick Cook and Robert Peary had claimed having reached the North Pole (claims which until now remain controversial), Amundsen decided to attempt reaching the South Pole. The Norwegian South Pole expedition lasted from 1910 to 1912. Amundsen and four companions reached the Pole on 14 December 1911, five weeks ahead of British explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s five-man team who made it there on 17 January, 1912. On their return from the Pole, Scott and his four comrades died from exhaustion, starvation and extreme cold.
View of the Fram Museum from the ferry to Bygdøy from downtown Oslo (City Hall pier).
View of the Fram Museum from the ferry to Bygdøy from downtown Oslo (City Hall pier).
Visitors admire the equipment and construction details on the deck of the Fram polar ship in the Fra...
Visitors admire the equipment and construction details on the deck of the Fram polar ship in the Fram Museum.
Interior hall in the Fram Norwergian Polar ship.
Interior hall in the Fram Norwergian Polar ship.
The Viking Ship Museum
The Viking Ship Museum houses three ships found in burial mounds in Vestfold and Østfold counties, in the Oslo fjord region. The vessels, known as the Oseberg ship, the Gokstad ship and Tune ship, date from the Viking Age, around the 8th and 9th centuries, and were built for sailing and rowing. The ships were carefully excavated and meticulously reconstructed. About 90 percent of the Oseberg ship consists of original timber. The Tune is the smallest of the three; it was the first ship found and several parts are missing. However, the three Viking Ships shown at this museum are the best-preserved Viking ships existing.
The exhibits also includes decorative and utilitarian items, such as sledges, beds, a horse cart, buckets, wood carvings, tent components, and other grave goods used by the Vikings and found with the boats in the burial mounds.
The 22-meter Oseberg ship was built ca. 820 AD. In 834 was used to bury a prominent woman and her po...
The 22-meter Oseberg ship was built ca. 820 AD. In 834 was used to bury a prominent woman and her possessions. It was discovered in 1903 under a large burial mound on a farm in Vestfold; it was excavated in 1904-1905.
Detail of Vikings workmanship in the Oseberg ship.
Detail of Vikings workmanship in the Oseberg ship.
The 24-meter Gokstad ship was built ca. 890 AD  and was used to bury a Viking chieftain who died in ...
The 24-meter Gokstad ship was built ca. 890 AD, and was used to bury a Viking chieftain who died in or around 900 AD. It was discovered on a farm in Vestfold in 1880.
The Norwegian Maritime Museum
The Norwegian Maritime Museum houses a vast collection of ships, boats, and related artifacts. This museum, housed in a structure in the shape of a Viking ship reviews Norwegian maritime history and its evolution over time. It shows vessels of various sizes and from different eras, model ships, figureheads, marine paintings and other artwork related to Norwegian navigation. It also describes the lives of the sailors on board several kinds of vessels from small canoes to polar exploration ships.
Being interesting, this museum is not as spectacular as the other exhibitions described above, however if you have the time, it’s worth a visit. The Bygdøy Peninsula is easily accessible from the center of Oslo by bus line No. 30.
Related articles on cultural sights in Frogner, Oslo:
Gustav Vigeland’s Sculpture Park and Gardens at Frogner, Oslo
Historic buildings and rural customs at the Norwegian Folk Museum
More about Bygdoy Peninsula, oslo norway, KonTiki Museum, Fram Museum, Viking Ship Museum
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