Norway’s polar exploration heroes Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen never managed to sail all the the way to the North Pole, but a vessel from the country’s coast guard finally did on Wednesday. The ship’s captain and an Arctic researcher planted flags on the North Pole at exactly 9:32am.
“It all went much faster than we’d thought,” Ottar Haugen, chief of coast guard operations, told TV2. “We thought we’d hit much thicker ice on the way and were clearly aware that we might not make it all the way.”
Even though the thinner ice and sailing conditions are likely a negative result of climate change, the expedition nonetheless marked what Haugen called a “milestone” for Norway’s Kystvakt, which literally translates to “coast guard” and is part of the Norwegian defense department but is officially known as the Norwegian National Coastal Administration.
It’s charged with patrolling Norwegian waters and being able to help both the military and police. Its primary duties are enforcement of fishing regulations, environmental protection, search and rescue operations and anti-smuggling efforts. It can also respond to calls for help from Norwegian customs officials and the maritime directoratet.
TV2 reported Wednesday that its specially built vessel KS Svalbard has been on assignment for the Nansen Center in Bergen, charged with placing special instruments on the Arctic sea floor to monitor temperatures and climate in the Arctic.
The successful voyage to the North Pole was dubbed as “historic” and confirmed, according to Haugen, “that we have a vessel that can operate right up to the pole and over the entire Arctic.”
Kystvakten has a fleet of 15 vessels based at Sortland in Vesterålen, Northern Norway.