In Memoriam: Mauritz Casper Fredriksen


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death of retiree Mauritz Casper Fredriksen on May 31.  He was 100.

Mauritz was born on July 15, 1912 in Norway.  He attended high school and maritime school in Oslo, Norway.  He also attended International Correspondence School and from 1951-1958, he was the Captain of the Albatross for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Captain Mauritz C. Fredriksen died in his 101st year in Sudbury, Massachusetts. His rich and sometimes dramatic life spanned a century. His earliest experiences in his native Norway were from a time when cargo ships were powered by sail and radio lay in the future.

The sea brought him to countries on six continents, and his contacts with many peoples throughout the turbulent twentieth century gave him a global view of life: tolerance, wisdom, and a broad sense of social morality. He saw the good in other people and, despite setbacks nurtured what was good in his own life, appreciating it to the very end.

In 1917, during the last year of World War I, he went to sea at the early age of five. His father was the captain of a three-mast full-rigged sailing ship who brought his wife and young son across the Atlantic, carrying freight to Buenos Aires, Argentina. From there, the voyage went north to New York before returning home to Norway’s southern coast.

After his father’s death in 1927, Mauritz knew he had to help support his mother and siblings; he left school at 15 to start his long career at sea. He advanced through merchant marine ranks for five years, then entered Norway’s Maritime College in Oslo to graduate with his Ship’s Officer License. His first job as an officer was on the Belray, which carried nineteen 90-ton locomotives – some on deck and some under – from Germany to China, where the government was developing a rail system. Unloading was done by hand, with hundreds of workers using ropes and pulleys.

While the direction of his career seemed clear, the turbulent 1930s brought great changes to his life. In Germany, he like all seamen on shore took care to avoid the pitched street battles between Nazi gangs and their opponents fighting to control the country. Then in 1937, his ship, the Belray, was trapped on the Yangtze River for eight months when Japan began their invasion of China. The blockade was broken in December.

Mauritz returned to Norway and resumed his education to qualify as a Ship’s Master. Within the year, he married Gunvor Ertzeid, a nurse at Oslo’s city hospital. In July 1939, he left his pregnant wife in Oslo, this time as second mate on a ship bound for the US. He was in San Francisco when Nazi Germany invaded Norway in April 1940. All Norwegian ships went into Allied service during the Second World War. Mauritz served on the Atlantic convoys and then as a commercial fisherman in Alaska before bringing his wife and son over from Norway to live in Seattle in early 1946. It was the first time he saw his six-year-old son, Mauritz Carl.  While in Seattle, Mauritz captained a combined fishing and processing ship, and pioneered the fishing of king crabs in Alaskan waters.

The family briefly moved back to Norway, where Mauritz’s daughter, Ragnhild, was born in 1948.  The following year, Mauritz took command of the Washington Star and brought it to Peru, with his family on board. The vessel’s purpose was to freeze fish for export. Every day, the Peruvian fishermen would take their open sailboats and even some balsa rafts far out to sea to catch tuna and swordfish. In the evenings, these were cleaned and frozen for shipment to the US.

In 1951, Mauritz became captain of the Fish and Wildlife Service research vessel, Theodore N. Gill. For the next seven years, the Gill performed research in the Atlantic, from the Caribbean to Maine. Some of the work was done for the US Navy, classified at the time, but today we know that it involved the study of long-range acoustics for anti-submarine warfare. After several moves, the family finally settled in Falmouth, Massachusetts.

Mauritz retired from the sea in 1958 for medical reasons, but immediately set out on a new career path. He passed the CPA exam, and thus began a settled life ashore. Mauritz began his career at WHOI in 1965 as a Bookkeeper.  In April of 1974, he was promoted to Accountant I.  He retired in December of 1974.

After retirement, Mauritz and Gunvor moved to Concord, Massachusetts. She died in 1991 after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was remarried in 1992 to Sonja Rogge, who helped him continue to enjoy life, teaching him how to play golf and stay active. She died in 2007.

Many people will miss Mauritz. Failing health during his last months did little to dampen his good cheer. He will be well remembered by everyone who ever knew him.

He is survived by his daughter, Ragnhild (Renel) Fredriksen and her husband John Robinson of Lincoln, his son, Mauritz and his wife Astrid of Oslo, Norway, step-daughters Sonja Strong of Wayland and Christine Ljunghammer of London, England, foster son Zoltan Retey of Zephyrhills, Florida, and loving grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and extended family.

Memorial service at Framingham Friends Meeting, 841 Edmands Road, Framingham, June 16, 3:30 PM.

Donations in Mauritz's name may be made to the Salvation Army.

(Information for this obituary was received from the family of Mauritz Fredriksen)


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