Oscar Mathisen
Speedskating - Oscar Diary


The powder explosion in New York harbour, february 1st, 1911A hundred years ago today, the New Yorkers were busy cleaning up after the great explosion in the harbour on Wednesday. 25 tons of gunpowder had gone off during transfer from the freighter “Katherine W” onto a train, killing 30, damaging for 20 million dollars and leaving few glass windows intact for a mile or more. The image to the left is an attempt to give an impression of the damages.

In the Philippines, too, many lives were lost, as the Taal volcano went off, killing approximately 1334 with yellow ash clouds and whole series of tsunamies.

Other news: Sunday: Eighteen magonistas conquer Mexicali, Baja California, without firing a shot. Wednesday: Mutemidi Khan, the governor of the Isfahan province in Persia, is shot and killed along with his nephew by a Russian former chief of the police in the province. Friday: 253 Finnish ice fishers having set up camp on a huge ice floe are blown out to sea in a storm and succumb. Also on Friday, Nikolaj Strunnikov arrives in Kristiania to prepare for defending his titles. Saturday: The Persian Minister of Finance, Sani al-Dowleh, is murdered in Tehran by two Armenians having Russian passports. Afterwards they seek refuge in the Russian embassy, which refuses to deliver them. France passes a law to abolish the Paris Meridian and install Greenwich as the new reference and timekeeping meridian.

In the Framheim camp in the Bay of Whales down in Antarctica, they had spent the last week driving up coal, wood and oil and the expedition’s entire supply of dried fish to the storage. The adult dogs by now had been brought up to the house, and when they weren’t working, gave off unison howling concerts at regular intervals throughout the 24 hour day. The 20 pups were now brought up too, in boxes on the sledges. The temperature stayed between -15 og -25°C this summer, and with all dogs removed, the ship crew had a rough time removing all their excretions, which had invariably solidified as soon as they were dropped.

Terra NovaThis Saturday, the 4th of February, the expedition had a most surprising visit, from Terra Nova, Scott’s ship (without Scott himself, who was busy preparing his base camp). The visitors had caught sight of Fram on their way to exploring Edward VII Land, and cast anchor nearby at midnight. When activity resumed among the Norwegians, the Englishmen made polite visits both on board Fram and in the Framheim house, offering to bring mail to New Zealand, since they were going there next. When asked about his intentions, Amundsen stated them frankly. Terra Nova cast off again at 2 in the afternoon.

Skating activities were more concentrated this Saturday, mostly around Frogner Stadion, where the Kristiania-Stockholm cup match was taking place. The home expectations were high, but unfortunately the schism between KSK and KIF weakened the home side considerably, as Johansen had gone over to the enemy and could not be selected. But the weather was ideal, with clear and high skies and ice of superior quality. The match started at 3, and the first pair was Andersson and Johannessen. The Swede soon took the lead and beat the newcomer by more than a 100 meter. The times: 9.01,4 and 9.14,4. The first great surprise of the day came in the 2nd pair, where Paul Pettersson and Lundgreen skated side by side for half the race, but then the Swede pulled away and clocked such an excellent time as 8.55,8, a new pb and 11th place in the all time list. Lundgreen too pb’ed with 9.06,6. But the home team evidently were struggling. The national champion Henning Olsen tried to repair the damages in the 3rd pair, where he outskated Jean Pettersson, but unluckily missed the 2nd Swede by only 1/5 of a second. In the last pair, Sigurd Mathisen, who had been disappointing in Stockholm, surprised with a new lowland best at 9.06,2, defeating his Petterson in the process.


1.Paul Pettersson.SASK          8.55,8 pb
2.Otto Andersson.IFK Nyköping   9.01,4
3.Henning Olsen.KSK             9.01,6
4.Sigurd Mathisen.KSK           9.06,2 lowland pb
5.Trygve Lundgreen.KSK          9.06,6 pb
6.Josef N Pettersson.SASK       9.11,0 pb
7.Stener Johannessen.KSK        9.14,4
8.Jean Pettersson.Södermalms IK 9.16,0 lowland pb

Points after day one: Stockholm 9, Kristiania 12.

Four 5000m pairs were considered a reasonable Saturday dose in those days. But the relatively small audience, maybe a couple of thousands strong, had not started leaving for home yet. Because the announcer had informed them that Strunnikov had asked for permission to skate a 5000m, just to test how his shape was holding up after his long journey. Secretly, however, he also had made a request from the organisers to make sure that the paperwork was in good order. Because his form did in fact feel very good indeed, and the way the ice and weather looked at the moment, anything could happen.

Nikolaj StrunnikovFrom the first strokes, his pace indicated the most serious of intentions. Reidar Gundersen, who had offered to help, “showing him the way” (as the newspaper puts it), soon gave up and let the Russian go. Just like Burnov, Strunnikov seemed to have an inexhaustible source of energy, and the whole race was like a sprint from beginning to end. But while Burnov had been criticised and even ridiculed for his unbecoming style, Strunnikov was a picture of elegance. He had wholly abandoned the upper body twists that the experts criticised most Norwegian skaters for. Here, not a single superfluous movement was in sight. During the race, the atmosphere on the stands was electric. Few could have known that the legendary record of Eden finally was on its last legs. But when the result was announced, the applause and the crowd broke loose like a storm tide, shouting their throats sore and lifting the bewildered Russian high in the air, carrying him on top of themselves around the rink like a reed on an overflowing river.

The result, 8.37.2, was entered into the protocol with all required details, the track was carefully re-measured and all precautions were taken to make sure the first world record at Frogner would stand. Eden finally had been relieved of his last record. Or had he? This stuff about Reidar Gundersen ‘showing him the way’ it doesn’t mean he acted as a pacekeeper for Strunnikov, could it, if only for a short time?

This massive improvement helped Stunnikov to climb from 18th to 10th place in Adelskalenderen, and from 10th to 3rd place in the lowland Adelskalender, with only Eden and Oscar ahead of him.

Apparently, those Pettersson twins were on their way to changing their last name into Poss. In Preben’s lists, the Poss name is used for this cup match and at several later meets, but for the Stockholm meet last week, the Pettersson name is used. The Poss name is confirmed by many other sources as well, but the newspapers reporting from today’s event still use the Pettersson name, thus I’m using it too.