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Who is Fridtjof Nansen, the subject of today’s Google Doodle?

Nansen was born on October 10, 1861 near Oslo.   | Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Fridtjof Nansen (pronounced FRID-choff NAN-sən) wore many caps in his lifetime — scientist, explorer, adventurer, trekker, zoologist, humanitarian, diplomat, a champion skiier who could ski 50 miles a day.

This 1922 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate led one of the most interesting lives in the 19th-20th centuries. He studied the polar ice caps, dabbled in oceanography, repatriated prisoners of war, rescued refugees and was part of a group that was the first to cross Greenland.

Today’s Google Doodle, in honour of his 156th birthday, features a neat gif of the adventurer skiing across the frozen tundras of the North. The doodle also features the legendary ‘Nansen passport’.

Nansen was born on October 10, 1861 near Oslo. Even as a child, he had a finger in several pies — swimming, skiing, the sciences and, oddly enough, drawing as well. According to the Nobel Foundation, it was his proficiency in skiing that enabled him to explore as much as he did.

He also has the honour of being one of the earliest to study the North Pole. “Nansen and one companion, with 30 days' rations for 28 dogs, three sledges, two kayaks, and a 100 days' rations for themselves, set out in March of 1895 on a 400-mile dash to the Pole. In 23 days, they traveled 140 miles over oceans of tumbled ice, getting closer to the Pole than anyone had previously been,” the Nobel Foundation wrote.

Humanitarian efforts

Nansen became closely involved with humanitarian aid during the World Wars. He helped repatriate prisoners from WW1, helped with famine relief in Russia, but most of all, gave relief to refugees from across the world — Russia, Turkey, Armenia, Assyria and more — as head of the High Commission for Refugees, set up by the League of Nations. His efforts ensured that survivors of the Armenian genocide lived. “The majority of Armenians alive today are descendants of those few that survived,” a columnist in the Burlington Free Press would go on to claim.

His efforts fetched him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922. The Nansen International Office for Refugees also received the Prize in 1938.

Nansen’s work and influence, especially his work with refugees, are starkly relevant even today. His ‘Nansen Passport’ gave recognition to hundreds of thousands of stateless refugees. The passport, which was in use till 1942, ended up being recognised by 52 countries and is said to have repatriated nearly 450,000 refugees. Several experts have even suggested the reintroduction of the passport as a solution to the ongoing refugee crisis.

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Printable version | Mar 3, 2021 8:01:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/who-is-fridtjof-nansen-the-subject-of-todays-google-doodle/article19832934.ece

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