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Colin Archer (22 July 1832 – 8 February 1921) was a Norwegian naval architect and shipbuilder from Larvik, Norway. He was known for building safe and durable ships including the Fram used in both Fridtjof Nansen's and Roald Amundsen's polar expeditions.[1][2]

Colin Archer
Portrett av Colin Archer.jpg
Portrait of Colin Archer, 1893 or earlier
Born Colin Archer
(1832-07-22)22 July 1832
Larvik, Norway
Died 8 February 1921(1921-02-08) (aged 88)
Larvik, Norway
Occupation naval architect and shipbuilder
Spouse(s) Karen Sophie Wiborg (1838-1908)
Children 5

Order of St. Olav -1886

Fram-medaljen - 1896
Model of RS 1 Colin Archer in the Fram Museum, Oslo, Norway



Colin Archer was born at Tollerodden in Larvik, Norway. He was the second youngest of thirteen sibling born to parents who had immigrated to Norway from Scotland in 1825. Prior to his career as a naval architect in Norway, he spent time in Queensland, Australia, with several of his brothers, including Thomas Archer. While there he became a farmer and administrator. He also sailed with cargo up the Fitzroy River, Queensland. [3]

In 1861, Archer returned home to Larvik and undertook the study of practical and theoretical shipbuilding. [4] Early in the 1870s he began to build pleasure craft. He and his shipyard became known for building durable and safe ships. The most notable single ship built by Colin Archer was the Fram, which participated in Fridtjof Nansen's expeditions to the North Pole and, later, in Roald Amundsen's historic first expedition to the South Pole. Fram is now preserved in the Fram Museum on Bygdøy, Oslo, Norway. [5][6]

Archer also designed sturdy rescue vessels for the Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue (Norsk Selskab til Skibbrudnes Redning). In 1893, RS 1 Colin Archer was launched and Archer continued to improve the boat type until he closed the business in 1909. This class of sailing ships were used for many years and now are referred to as a Colin Archer. [7] Several other original vessels belonging to the Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue are still sailing including the Frithjof Wiese RS40.[8]

Lilleodden (Kirkestredet 11) in Larvik
Bust of Colin Archer in Larvik, Norway


  • Knight of the Order of St. Olav -1886
  • Commander of Order of St. Olav -1896
  • Fram-medaljen - 1896

Personal lifeEdit

Archer was married in 1869 to Karen Sophie Wiborg (1838-1908) with whom he had five children. The family resided at Lilleodden (Kirkestredet 11) in Larvik. Archer designed most of his vessels in the working room of their residence. [9][10]


Archer spent much time calculating how an efficient hull should be designed. To this day, people consult his work when designing new ships. He is credited with the design of more than two hundred vessels, including Fram. Archer's designs were adapted to pleasure sailing in the twentieth century. In 1904, he built a boat for the writer Robert Erskine Childers named the Asgard.[11][12]

In 1928, William Atkin scaled down Archer's 47-foot (14 m) Regis Voyager, a pilot boat, to make the 32-foot (9.8 m) Eric and in 1934 the 38-foot (12 m) Ingrid. The Eric went on to become very influential in ocean sailing, with boats such as Vito Dumas's Lehg II and Robin Knox-Johnston's Suhaili making notable circumnavigations, the latter becoming the first boat to be sailed single-handed and non-stop around the world. In the 1970s, the design was adapted to glass-reinforced plastic by William Crealock, and became the Westsail 32; this famous cruising boat has, in turn, inspired many imitations, so that the "Archer double-ender" style of boat continues to be popular to the present day.[13][14]


  • The Colin Archer Memorial Race is a biennial race starting in Lauwersoog, the Netherlands, and finishing near Larvik, in Norway. The distance covered is about 365 nautical miles (676 km); depending upon weather and the type of ship, the sailing time generally is three, four, or five days.[17]

Selected worksEdit

  • Colin Archer. On the wave principle, applied to the longitudinal disposition on immersed volume (The Institution of Naval Architects, 13 April 1878)


  1. ^ Stein Ove Erikstad. "Colin Archer". Store norske leksikon. Retrieved May 1, 2017. 
  2. ^ Jack Vogelaar (1996). "The story of Colin Archer". Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved May 1, 2017. 
  3. ^ "Tollerodden". Retrieved May 1, 2017. 
  4. ^ "Colin Archer". 1865 Census Larvik prestegjeld. Retrieved May 1, 2017. 
  5. ^ "Colin Archer". Retrieved May 1, 2017. 
  6. ^ Tor Borch Sannes. "Colin Archer, Skipskonstruktør, Verftseier". Norsk biografisk leksikon. Retrieved May 1, 2017. 
  7. ^ "RS 1 Colin Archer". Norsk Selskab til Skibbrudnes Redning. Retrieved May 1, 2017. 
  8. ^ "Fritjof Wiese RS#40". sjohistorie. Retrieved May 1, 2017. 
  9. ^ "Lilleodden (Larvik)". Retrieved May 1, 2017. 
  10. ^ Geir Tandberg Steigan. "Larvik:Kirkestredet 11". Retrieved May 1, 2017. 
  11. ^ "Asgard". National Museum of Ireland. Retrieved May 1, 2017. 
  12. ^ "Conservation of the Asgard". National Museum of Ireland. Retrieved May 1, 2017. 
  13. ^ "Eric, Colin Archer Type Double-Ended Ketch by William Atkin". Atkin & Company. Retrieved May 1, 2017. 
  14. ^ "Ingrid, 37' 6" Colin Archer Type Double-Ended Ketch By William Atkin". Atkin & Company. Retrieved May 1, 2017. 
  15. ^ "RS 1 «Colin Archer» (1893)". Retrieved May 1, 2017. 
  16. ^ "Colin Archer Peninsula". Latitude/Canada. Retrieved May 1, 2017. 
  17. ^ "Colin Archer Memorial Race". Waypoint Amsterdam. Retrieved May 1, 2017. 

Other sourcesEdit

Related readingEdit

  • Foss, Bjørn (2002) Fra seil til vannjet (Norsk Maritimt Forlag: Oslo) ISBN 82-90319-34-7
  • Leather, John (1979) Colin Archer and the Seaworthy Double-Ender( International Marine Publishing Company) ISBN 0-87742-086-6
  • McDonald, Lorna (1997) Magic ships: life story of Colin Archer, 1832–1921, and Sailing for pleasure ( Central Queensland University Press) ISBN 1-875998-26-8
  • Sannes, Tor Bork (1979) Colin Archer: Skøytene og lystbatene (Norsk Maritimt Forlag: Oslo) ISBN 978-8290319019
  • Stephens, William P. (1981) Traditions & memories of American yachting (International Marine Publishing Company) ISBN 0-87742-132-3

External linksEdit