First female among men
Hanna Resvoll-Holmsen was the first female scientist in Svalbard. She was a botanist who hungered for knowledge about arctic plants.
She was a botanist who hungered for knowledge about Arctic plants. She was one of several scientists in a team of Norwegian scientists who participated in an expedition funded by Prince Albert of Monaco in 1907. The fieldwork she did piqued her interest, and she returned to Svalbard the following year with a team of geologists: Adolf Hoel, Gunnar Holmsen and Hjalmar Johansen. Armed with her plant press, botanist’s chest, photographic equipment, provisions – and a rifle – she went ashore at several locations along the west coast of Svalbard to explore the plants. The results were published first as a thesis on Arctic plants, and later as a book: Svalbard flora.
Hanna was a pioneer. She laid the foundation for systematic mapping of Svalbard’s flora. She was the first person to take colour photographs of Svalbard. She participated in the efforts to bring Svalbard under Norwegian sovereignty, and she fought to protect natural areas in mainland Norway and Svalbard.
Adventure of a lifetime.
Per Savio was a young man when he left his Sápmi home and headed out on the adventure of a lifetime.
He would go as far from home as was physically possible: to the Antarctic. Per Savio was accustomed to cold climates. Growing up in Sør-Varanger in Finnmark, he had to know how to dress in the bitter cold. He knew how to sew warm leather garments and skaller (boots made from reindeer fur by the Sámi people). He was well acquainted with snow, weather and wind; he knew how to travel in extreme weather and in the polar night – and he was an expert dog musher. This expertise was useful when he tended the dogs for the British Antarctic Expedition of 1898-1900 and the team overwintered at Cape Adare. It was a hard winter, and lives were lost, but expedition leader Carsten Borchgrevink later wrote that things could have gone a lot worse without the SNOWHOW of the Sámi men.
Crucial support to Norwegian polar heroes
Hanna Resvoll-Holmsen and Per Savio represent the north and the south. They are overshadowed by the great polar heroes, but their work was central in advancing their respective fields. Resvoll-Holmsen was a groundbreaker in her scientific discipline, and a pioneer among women, while Savio and others like him provided crucial support to Norwegian polar heroes. Without their assistance, the big names among polar explorers might never have returned from their expeditions over a century ago.
The quest for knowledge and the work done by Hanna Resvoll-Holmsen and Per Savio continues today, supported by the Fram Centre. Scientists would not survive expeditions to inhospitable areas without help from experienced people who know their logistics.
The Fram Centre supports extensive collaborations across various fields, disciplines and institutions. Broad collaboration is the way to go in our quest for more knowledge.
Ann Kristin Balto // Norwegian Polar Institute