Nils Larsen was a Norwegian sea captain renowned for his involvement with the Norvegia explorations of Antarctica. Like many men of Norway at the time, Nils became a whaler. He made a name for himself and eventually captained several whaling ships–primarily for Thor Dahl A/S of Sandefjord.
Even more impressively, Sandar-born Nils Larsen served as the first mate for several Norvegia expeditions to Antarctica. These adventures were funded by the infamous explorer Lars Christensen. His name is most associated with the Norvegia Antarctic exploration of 1929-1930.
While Larsen died in 1976, his name lives on in several now-famous areas of Antarctica. During the Norvedia Antarctic exploration of 1929-1930, Nils Larsen discovered several geographical locations, including the Nils Larsen Glacier, Mount Nils Larsen, and Enderby Land’s Mount Nils.
Antarctica is one of the most inhospitable places on Earth. The freezing temperatures and unforgiving landscape kept people from settling in Antarctica–it is still void of any permanent human settlements. But the continent has always been a source of exploratory and scientific fascination.
In the time of Nils Larsen, the end of the roaring twenties, becoming an “explorer” was an actual occupation. The discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt, the Russian Arctic Ocean Hydrographic Expedition–every country wanted to be the first to discover and claim something new. With the invention of the airplane and the vast laying of track for equalized train travel, there was little of the world left unexplored.
The last expeditions were all about the “pursuit of the Poles,” meaning the North and South Pole, respectively. While expeditions had already made it to the identified poles, they became an Everest sort for explorers. They were obsessed with finding new ways to attain the Poles. The journey was brutal and required large exploration groups. Many people died of exposure during these expeditions.
In addition to the glory of his own exploratory work, Nils Larsen was
also a part of several successful annexations in Antarctica for his native Norway. Bouvet Island and Peter I Island now belong to Norway, thanks to the intrepid explorer. Both are uninhabited, but Peter I Island is where Nils discovered Nils Larsen Glacier–so named because he was the first recorded person to ever stand on the Bellingshausen Sea island. In fact, the volcanic island is so remote and inhospitable that, after Larsen’s departure, it was almost two decades before another human returned. Now, it is an area of study for marine biologists who specialize in seabirds and seals.