Tryggve Gran - Ski Expert
(1888 - 1980) - Biographical notes

Ski expert Terra-Nova 1910-13

Tryggve Gran

Tryggve Gran
20th January 1888 - 8th January 1980

Born in Bergen, Norway to a well to do shipbuilding family. He was recommended by Fridtjof Nansen to Scott as a ski instructor for Scott's upcoming expedition while in Norway to test the motor tractor.

Gran was involved in depot laying for the South Pole Party in January-March 1911, in November that year. He didn't take any further part in that aspect of the expedition, instead accompanying a geological journey to the western mountains led by Griffith Taylor in the austral summer of 1911-1912. The decision for him to do this rather than take part in the attempt on the Pole was taken by Scott after Gran had spoken to him and asked to be assigned to a different task to one that placed him in direct competition with Amundsen, his fellow countryman. Instead he spent 13 weeks as one of the second Western Party led by Griffith Taylor.

Later in 1912, he was part of the search party that found the dead bodies of the South Pole Party in their final camp on the Great Ice Barrier (Ross Ice Shelf). He wore Scott's skis after the tent was collapsed by removal of the poles and a large snow cairn built over the camp and bodies, so that at least Scott's skis would make the full journey. Gran took observations of where the tent was found, in a 1974 interview he said:

    "We have never given anybody the right  latitude and longitude because we were afraid that people would go down and try to find them. As far as I know, I am the only one who's got the figures, because I took the observations and wrote them down".
    Tryggve Gran

Before leaving Antarctica, he climbed Mount Erebus and had a near miss when an eruption ejected large pumice blocks. On his return he was awarded the Polar Medal by George V.

He became interest in flying on his return from Antarctica and was a pioneer of early aviation, being the first person to fly across the North Sea in a heavier than air aircraft, a Bleriot monoplane after training at Bleriot's aviation school in Paris . He was rejected from volunteering for the Royal Flying Corps at the outbreak of the WW1 as he was a neutral Norwegian, and so joined under an assumed name posing as a Canadian "Captain Teddy Grant". He received the Norwegian Order of St, Olav and British Distinguished Service Cross and Military Cross during the war. In 1928 he led the search for Roald Amundsen when his plane went missing (as Amundsen requested Gran do so in advance of the possible event), while himself searching for the missing Italian aviator Umberto Nobile, neither Amundsen nor Nobile were ever found.

In the Second World War he became a member of a Norwegian fascist party during the German occupation, his status being used for publicity, he was jailed for 18 months for treason in 1948. Sometimes referred to as the last surviving member of the Terra Nova expedition as he died in 1980, though a stoker on the ship, William Burton died in 1988. Gran gave over 1,000 lectures in Norway about Scott's expedition and remained very loyal to Scott resenting slurs on his reputation.

    "Scott was a man. He would always listen to you. Amundsen would listen to nobody. He was only interested in himself. So Amundsen, as a human being, was not worth much, but Scott was worth a lot as a human being. So, you can say Amundsen was a gentleman dressed up, but his mind was not a gentleman's mind. But Scott was a gentleman.
    Tryggve Gran

western party rescue Taylor Debenham Gran Forde

The Western Party after being rescued
May 16th 1911, l to r: Taylor, Debenham, Gran, Forde
Tryggve Gran

Tryggve Gran

Western party just after being rescued by the ship

Western party just after being rescued by the ship
l to r Forde, Debenham, Taylor, Gran - Feb 15th 1912
Geological party Granite Harbour 1912

Geological party Granite Harbour 1912
Gran seated left is taking the picture with a string to operate the camera

References to Tryggve Gran by Cherry-Garrard in "The Worst Journey in the World"

  • These Glacier Tongue crevasses are shallow things; Gran fell into one later and walked out of the side of the Tongue on to the sea-ice beyond!

  • Gran's pony, Weary Willie, a sluggish and obstinate animal, was far behind, as usual, when we halted our ponies at the camping place. Farther off the dog-teams were coming up. What happened never became clear. Poor Weary, it seems, was in difficulties in a snow-drift: the dogs of one team being very hungry took charge of their sledge and in a moment were on the horse, to all purposes a pack of ravenous wolves. Gran and Weary made a good fight and the dogs were driven off, but Weary came into camp without his sledge, covered with blood and looking very sick.

  •  There was no sugar at the hut except what the dogs had brought in, so Gran, who was quite fresh, volunteered to get a couple of bags from the depot at Safety Camp, which could plainly be seen out on the Barrier. We all went to the edge of the slope to see him go down it on ski. He did it splendidly and must have been going with the speed of an express train down the incline, as he was on the Barrier in an incredibly short time compared to the hours we had dragged up the same slope with the loads. Teddy, Titus and Keohane were left at the camp to be joined by Gran later.

  • At a point about 9000 feet up, Priestley, Gran, Abbott and Hooper started to make the ascent to the active crater on December 10.

  • But when they had got 500 feet down Priestley found that he had left a tin of exposed films on the top instead of the record. Gran said he would go back and change it. He had reached the top when there was a loud explosion: large blocks of pumice were hurled out with a big smoke cloud; probably a big bubble had burst. Gran was in the middle of it, heard it gurgle before it burst, saw "blocks of pumiceous lava, in shape like the halves of volcanic bombs, and with bunches of long, drawn-out, hair-like shreds of glass in their interior."This was Pele's hair. Gran was a bit sick from sulphur dioxide fumes afterwards. They reached Cape Royds on the 16th, the very successful trip taking fifteen days.

References to Tryggve Gran by Scott in "Scott's Last Expedition"

  • We have all been away on ski on the large floe to which we anchored this morning. Gran is wonderfully good and gives instruction well.

  • After breakfast we served out ski to the men of the landing party. They are all very keen to learn, and Gran has been out morning and afternoon giving instruction.

  • Gran tried going on ski with his pony. All went well while he was alongside, but when he came up from the back the swish of the ski frightened the beast, who fled faster than his pursuer - that is, the pony and load were going better than the Norwegian on ski.

    Gran is doing very well. He has a lazy pony and a good deal of work to get him along, and does it very cheerfully.

  • So we are resting in our tents, waiting to start to-night. Gran has gone back for the snow-shoes - he volunteered good-naturedly - certainly his expertness on ski is useful.

Landmarks named after Tryggve Gran

Feature Name: Gran Glacier
Type: Glacier
Latitude: 76°56'S
Longitude: 161°14'E
Description: A glacier flowing S into Mackay Glacier between Mounts Gran and Woolnough. It rises from a snow divide with Benson Glacier to the northeast. Named after Mount Gran by the New Zealand Northern Survey Party of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (CTAE) (1956-58), which visited the area in November 1957.

Feature Name: Mount Gran
Type: Summit
Latitude: 76°59'S
Longitude: 160°58'E
Description: Large flat-topped mountain, 2,235 m, standing at the N side of Mackay Glacier and immediately W of Gran Glacier in Victoria Land. Discovered by the British Antarctic Expedition (BrAE) (1910-13).

Tryggve Gran quotes from a 1974 interview: here

Other Crew of the Terra Nova Expedition

Abbot, George Percy - Petty Officer, R.N.  - 1, 2, N
Atkinson, Edward L. - R.N. - surgeon, parasitologist - 1, 2, D, P, S
Balson, Albert  - Leading seaman, R.N.- 1, 2
Bowers, Henry Robertson - Lieutenant - 1, 2, D, C, Po
Browning, Frank Vernon - Petty Officer  - 1, 2, N
Campbell, Victor - Lieutenant, R.N.  - 1, 2, N
Cheetham, Alfred B. - Boatswain (Bosun), R.N.R.
Cherry-Garrard, Apsley - Assistant zoologist - 1, 2, D, C, S
Crean, Tom - petty officer, R.N. - 1, 2, D, P, S
, Frank - Geologist - 1, 2, iW, iiW
Dickason, Harry - Able Seaman  - 1, 2, N
Evans, Edgar - petty officer, R.N. - 1, iW, Po
, Edward R.G.R. - Lieutenant, R.N. "Teddy Evans" - second in command, and Captain of the Terra Nova - 1, D, P
Girev (Geroff), Dmitriy - Dog driver - 1, 2, D, P, S

Gran, Tryggve - ski expert - 1, 2, D, iiW, S
Lashly, William - chief stoker, R.N. - 1, 2, P, S
Levick, G. Murray - Surgeon, R.N.  - 1, 2, N
Lillie, Dennis Gascoigne - Biologist on the ship
McLeod, Thomas F. - Able seaman - 1, 2
, Cecil H. - in charge of dogs - 1, D, P
, Lawrence - Capt. 6th Iniskilling Dragoons - 1, D, Po
, Herbert G. - Camera artist - 1
Priestley, Raymond E. - Geologist  - 1, 2, N
, Anton - Groom - 1
Scott, Robert Falcon - Commander, R.N. - Expedition leader - 1, D, Po
Simpson, George - Meteorologist - 1
Taylor, T. Griffith - Geologist - 1, iW, iiW
Wilson, Edward Adrian - chief of scientific staff and biologist - 1, D, C, Po
Wright, Charles Seymour - Physicist - 1, 2, iW, P, S

1 - first winter
2 - second winter
iW - first western party
iiW - second western party
N - northern party

D - depot laying for south pole journey
P - south pole party
C - winter journey to Cape Crozier
S - search party for south Pole party
- reached South Pole

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