Between cleanliness and survival

After nearly a month on the ice, we can safely say the Inspiring Explorers are going to be looking forward to a hot shower.

In his account of the first crossing of Greenland, Nansen described the sight of the men, as they fought their way across the interior of the ice cap.

“We were a remarkable sight by daylight next morning. Our complexions, hitherto comparatively fair, and washed moderately clean by wind and weather, had undergone a complete transformation. In places the incrustations of soot were so thick that they could be scraped off with a knife. All wrinkles and depressions were full of this foreign substance…The only parts still clean were the eyeballs and teeth, and these now shone out quite uncomfortably white in contrast.”

Nansen’s expedition did not wash between departing from the Jason, to reaching the west coast of Greenland (78 days in total). Water had to be melted every morning and evening over their cooker and was scarce, leading to a constant, unquenchable thirst. As a result, they could not spare a drop for bathing. Furthermore, Nansen stated that the risk of wetting the face in the harsh glare of the sun reflecting off the ice could lead to the skin peeling off and blistering into sores.

He stated, “between this and uncleanliness, the defenders of cleanliness will be found few and far between.”