Kristian Prestrud

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Medal of the South Pole

Kristian Prestrud (1881 - 11 November 1927) was a Norwegian naval officer and polar explorer who participated in the Amundsen Antarctic Expedition between 1910 and 1912. Prestrud was first officer of the Fram and leader of the Norwegian expedition's Eastern Sledge Party to the Scott Nunataks[1]

Biography[edit]

Roald Amundsen was secretive about his real attentions with regards of the Fram expeditions, the only persons to know in advance were his brother, and the ship's commander, Lieutenant Thorvald Nilsen. Lieutenant Prestrud and one other of the crew, Hjalmar Fredrik Gjertsen, were trusted with the information on the eve of the Fram's departure from Norway. The rest of the crew of 18 was only to know upon Fram's stop-over at Madeira. During the winter stay at Framheim in Antarctica Prestrud, assisted by Hjalmar Johansen, made scientific observations.

Prestrud was assigned to the original group of eight men that made the unsuccessful attempt to reach the Pole on 8 September 1911. Although they were forced to retreat due to extreme temperatures, they decided to head for the depot at 80°, unload their sledges and race back to Framheim. The disordered return was made in scattered groups, with the last two men arriving more than six hours after the others. Johansen and Prestrud stumbled into Framheim totally exhausted, having found the camp in the dark and fog only by following the barking of the dogs. It is likely that Prestrud would have frozen to death if Johansen had not taken care of him and brought him to safety.

The next morning Amundsen was heavily criticised by Johansen, who had experience from his Arctic exploration with Fritjof Nansen. Such opposition was unheard-of and Amundsen then reorganized the Pole party by reducing its number. Consequently, Johansen, together with Prestrud and Stubberud was separated from the Pole team and tasked with the exploration of King Edward VII Land. In order to dishonor Johansen further, the less experienced Prestrud was put in charge of this. A cairn erected by Prestrud's group at Scott Nunataks, Alexandra Mountains (77°11′S 154°32′W / 77.183°S 154.533°W / -77.183; -154.533) on 3 December 1911 is considered a historic site of Antarctica.

For his participation in the expedition, Kristian Prestrud was awarded the Medal of the South Pole (Sydpolsmedaljen), a Royal Norwegian award instituted by King Haakon V in 1912 to reward participants in Roald Amundsen's South Pole expedition. In 1926, Prestrud was appointed assistant port of Kristiansand, but died the following year.

See also[edit]

On their return to Norway Kristian Prestrud was promoted to Captain and taken into the king's household where he became companion and tutor to the crown prince. He later was appointed air and sea attache to both England and France. Family history has it that he fathered twins and retired to the family farm, "Prestrud" (Priest's Place) where he later committed suicide. Why? No one knows. A nephew of his said, "He was not a melancholy man."

Sources[edit]

Roald Amundsen wrote about the expedition in Sydpolen published in two volumes in 1912-1913. The work was translated into English by A. G. Chater, and published as The South Pole: An Account of the Norwegian Antarctic Expedition in the "Fram," 1910-1912

References[edit]

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