SCOTT & The South-Pole

Roald Amundsen

A Portrait Of Roald Amundsen

Amundsen was a native of Norway. He achieved a number of polar firsts: the first to traverse the Northwest Passage (1903-06); the first to to be at the South-Pole, December 14th, 1911; and the first consistent, verified, and scientifically convincing attainment of the North-Pole, May 12, 1926. He disappeared, in June 1928, while taking part in a rescue mission.

Amundsen was a member of an earlier expedition, the Belgian Antarctic Expedition (1897–99); he went as a "first mate." This was the first expedition to winter-over in the Antarctic region. Its ship, the Belgica, became locked in the sea ice. They spent the winter, stuck there: Amundsen learnt lessons. In later years while exploring the north poplar regions he learned further lessons "from the local Netsilik people about Arctic survival skills that would later prove useful. For example, he learned to use sled dogs and to wear animal skins in lieu of heavy, woolen parkas."1

Though Englishmen, just then planning an expedition to the south, thought that Amundsen's next objective would be to go to the North-Pole -- a feat already claimed (and questioned) by two Americans: Frederick Cook (1865–1940) on April 21, 1908; and Robert Peary (1856-1920) on April 6, 1909 -- Amundsen's real intention, not revealed until he was underway, was, to go to the South-Pole.

Amundsen left Oslo on June 3rd, 1910. Only when he was well underway, at Madeira, did Amundsen tell his men that his objective was the Antarctica, after which, he sent a telegram to Scott: "Beg to inform you am proceeding antarctic - Amundsen." On January 14th, 1911, Amundsen arrived at the Ross Shelf, at a bit of a bay, the Bay of Whales. (See Map)

"Using skis and dog sleds for transportation, Amundsen and his men created supply depots at 80°, 81° and 82° South on the Barrier, along a line directly south to the Pole. Amundsen also planned to kill some of his dogs on the way and use them as a source for fresh meat."2
Amundsen's first attempt was disappointing and caused difficulties amongst the Norwegian group, then:
"A second attempt with a team, consisting of Olav Bjaaland, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel, Oscar Wisting, and Amundsen himself, departed on 19 October 1911. They took four sledges and 52 dogs. Using a route along the previously unknown Axel Heiberg Glacier, they arrived at the edge of the Polar Plateau on 21 November after a four-day climb. On 14 December 1911, the team of five, with 16 dogs, arrived at the Pole (90° 0' S). They arrived 33 days before Scott’s group. ... The team returned to Framheim [base-camp] on 25 January 1912, with 11 dogs. Amundsen’s success was publicly announced on 7 March 1912, when he arrived at Hobart, Australia."3



[3] Amundsen had 52 dogs when he started out on Oct. 19, 1911; 11 survived to the end. "It was the practice throughout for the explorers to sacrifice some of the dogs for their meat, feeding them to the remaining dogs and sometimes eating the cutlets themselves."

GO TO A List of Persons Involved with Scott at the South-pole

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Peter Landry
2013 (2015)