Oscar Mathisen
Speedskating - Oscar Diary

Oscar Mathisen the biker

Mona LisaThe summer goes on and news pour in from various corners of the planet. From Turkestan we have a tall tale of a wedding party of 120 that allegedly have been devoured by wolves. In Kristiania there is a giant ship visiting, a triumph of modern technology, the “Olympic” of the White Star Line, weighing in at 45,000 tons. An even bigger one had been launched in May at the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast: the Titanic. In England there are swimming competitions for ladies, and this year Irene Steer of Cardiff finally beats the 6 years old record of Jennie Fletcher in the 100m freestyle. At a marathon race in New York, the Native Americans Tewanima and Arquette finish first, having been in front for the whole race. On Monday, one of the most famous thefts of all time takes place, as Vincenzo Peruggia nicks the Mona Lisa from the Louvre museum. On Tuesday, Mohammad Ali Qajar, the deposed Shah of Iran, fights a battle in the Savadkuh province in a desperate attempt to regain his throne, thinking that the new constitution is against Islam, but is defeated and loses 300 men. On Wednesday, the British Prime Minister Asquith arranges a secret meeting with the leaders of the navy and army to discuss the strategy to be used in a future war with Germany. On Thursday, a strike in Chengdu, China, draws little attention at first, but for the monarchy it bears ill portent. On Friday, André Jaeger-Schmidt arrives at Cherbourg after travelling around the world in 40 days. On Saturday, Argentina launches the biggest dreadnought battleship the world has seen so far, the 30,000 ton ARA Rivadavia, in a Latin American naval arms race. On Sunday, Kaiser Wilhelm II holds a famous speech where he affirms that no-one can deny Germany her rightful piece of the colonial cake. Meanwhile, the astronomer Percival Lovell reveals that the Martians have been very busy lately. In just a few months they have built new channels totalling a 1000 miles. So what are they up to then? Will they soon come visiting, maybe?

In Mexico, Zapata continues to disarm his men. On Monday, the governor of Morelos tells the president that his brother, Eufemio Zapata, plans to attack Cuernavaca. The president sends another 330 men to defend the town. On Tuesday, Madero signs a paper absolving Zapata from any charge of treason. Meanwhile, the governor reports to the president of zapatist aggression against Cuernavaca. The president declares the armistice broken. On Wednesday, Huerta advances toward Cuautla, where Zapata resides, now with only a small number of Zapatistas around him. Madero, dejected, takes the train back to Mexico city. On Friday, Figueroa and another general joins Huerta in the advance towards Cuautla from two further directions. A hundred years ago today, Zapata issues a statement denouncing the current government. Figueroa arrests and executes Zapatistas wherever he encounters them. The minister of the interior, Granados, sends out a warrant for Zapata’s arrest, dead or alive.

Down in the Antarctic, Scott and his men drank to the Sun on the 23rd (Wednesday). However it did not turn up that day as it was supposed to according to their almanac, having hidden behind a severe and seemingly endless blizzard. The temperature rose to minus 9 centigrade, almost summery. On Friday it cleared up, but their hut still lay in the shadow of Erebus. Next day brought calm and fair weather, and Ponting and Scott took a walk down to the floes to greet the Sun. It was like a miracle to bathe in sunlight again after so many dark winter months. They sang and cheered and felt like little boys, full of glittery life.

At Amundsen’s they finished packing their sledges on Tuesday (22nd). These were new sledges, built during the winter, weighing only 24 kgs—less than a third of the former ones, but tough and sturdy. Next day they were taken out with some struggle; fully loaded they weighed 400 kilograms every one of them. Using 12 dog teams they were run up to the starting point on the Barrier. On Thursday the Sun rose over the Barrier for the first time, shining on the sledges. Amundsen comments gleefully that they had beaten it by a day. Now they had only to wait for more benign temperatures before they could start, but the days went by and it stayed around 50 degrees. Some worried about Scott and wondered how far he had come by now. But others reassured them, no way his ponies could be out in this weather.

In his youth, Oscar Mathisen had witnessed track cycling on a proper velodrome in the outskirts of Kristiania near Skøyen railway station. But it was long since gone, and track cyclists were left with what they habitually called “Lørdahl’s track”, that is, Bislett, a flat gravel track. A fall here and you risked literally getting scarred for life.

A hundred years ago today a mixed sports event was arranged at Bislett with an attendance of 2000. One of the events was track cycling. First distance was the mile, which Oscar won in 2.44,6, ahead of A.E. Hansen, 2.44,7, and Herseth 2.44,8. In the 10000m they had a biggish peloton, and rather close, too. Oscar was in a good position, but suddenly one of the front men fell. The next one fell over him and the one behind likewise. Before he could react, Oscar lay sprawling in the middle of the heap. He staggered up and grabbed his bike, which was intact. But himself he was bleeding from a long gash in his wrist. That couldn’t be helped. He got into the seat and pedaled furiously with blood and sweat dripping, catching up one by one of his fellow racers, to unceasing applause from the crowd. Finally he caught up with the front men. But the catching-up had tired him, and he had no kick for the finish line (his memories as related in his book are failing on this point). Still he was close behind the winner. Results: 1. A.E. Hansen 17.51,5 2. M. Herseth 17.51,6 3. S. Johannessen 17.51,7 4. Oscar Mathisen 17.51,8. Johannessen won the frontrunner prize for pulling 13 out of the 20 laps.

The last event was a handicap race over 2500m with these results: 1. O. Mathisen (scratch) 4.06,5 2. A. E. Hansen 4.08,1 (scratch) 3. M. Herseth 4.08,5 (50 m) 4. Josef Bye 4.08,6