This Day in History: 12/14/1911 - Amundsen Reaches South Pole

This Day in History: 12/14/1911 - Amundsen Reaches South Pole

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On December 14, 1799, the first true American hero passed away; George Washington. December 13 marked the last time Americans would walk on the moon. Apollo 17 marked the last lunar mission for NASA for the 20th Century. This mission finished on December 13, 1972. The South pole was also discovered by a Norwegian named Roald Amundsen on this day in 1911. December 13, 1959 marks the development of the great Motown Records by the great mind of Barry Gordy. To learn of more about these events, watch the This Day in History video on December 14th.

Roald Amundsen

Why Famous: Led the Norwegian Antarctic expedition of 1910–12 which was the first to reach the South Pole, famously beating Robert Scott's expedition by 33-34 days.

Amundsen is recognized as the first person to have reached both poles. He is also known as having the first expedition to traverse the Artic's Northwest Passage (1903–06).

In 1926, Amundsen and 15 other men also made the first crossing of the Arctic by air, in the airship Norge.

In June 1928, while taking part in a rescue mission for the Airship Italia, the plane he was in disappeared and he is presumed to have died in the crash or shortly afterwards.

Born: July 16, 1872
Birthplace: Borge, Østfold, Norway
Star Sign: Cancer

Died: June 18, 1928 (aged 55)
Cause of Death: Plane crash

This Day in History: 12/14/1911 - Amundsen Reaches South Pole - HISTORY

Today in 1911, Norwegian Roald Amundsen became the first explorer to reach the South Pole. This feat marked the high point of Amundsen’s life as an explorer, a path that he had been following for almost all his adult life.

Amundsen’s polar adventures began in 1897 when he joined a Belgian expedition bound for the Antarctic. This expedition gained fame as the first group to ever spend a winter in the harsh environment. In 1903, Amundsen guided a ship through the famed Northwest Passage, that area of ocean between Canada and the Arctic Circle. The journey was long and treacherous, and when it was over, Amundsen and crew had accomplished another first.

The next step for Amundsen was a journey to the North Pole. As he prepared for the journey, he received word that Robert Peary had become the first man to visit the top of the world. Undaunted, Amundsen continued his preparation but instead of heading north, set sail for the Antarctica with the hope of being the first human to reach the South Pole.

Amundsen was not alone in his desire British explorer Robert Scott was also on his way south. Amundsen set up his base camp in the Bay of Whales, 60 miles closer to the pole than Scott’s camp. Their means of travel varied greatly: Amundsen was using tried and true sled dogs while Scott employed motor sleds and Siberian ponies in addition to dogs. Both men set out with their teams in October.

Amundsen’s journey was relatively uneventful and after reaching the pole, the team headed back for base camp, which they reached in January, 1912. Scott arrived at the pole 35 days later, unaware of Amundsen’s success until he found his left-behind tent. On the return journey, weather brought tragedy to Scott’s team. The motor sleds broke down, the ponies proved unfit for rough weather and had to be shot and the dog teams had to be sent back on the journey to the pole. After losing two of his party, Scott and the other survivors became trapped by a terrible storm. A year later, their frozen bodies were discovered a mere 11 miles from their base camp.

Amundsen did not rest on his success but continued in his pursuit of other firsts. For example, he passed over the North Pole in a dirigible in 1926 just 72 hours after Richard Byrd flew over the same point in an airplane. Unfortunately, it was air travel which claimed Amundsen’s life in 1928 when he died trying to rescue a friend whose dirigible crashed at sea off the coast of Norway.


Mariner 2 (Mariner-Venus 1962), an American space probe to Venus, was the first space probe to conduct a successful planetary encounter. The first successful spacecraft in the NASA Mariner program, it was a simplified version of the Block I spacecraft of the Ranger program and an exact copy of Mariner 1. The missions of Mariner 1 and 2 spacecraft are together sometimes known as the Mariner R missions. Mariner 2 passed within 35,000 kilometres (22,000 mi) of Venus on December 14, 1962.

The primary mission was to receive communications from the spacecraft in the vicinity of Venus and to perform a radiometric temperature measurements of the planet. A second objective was to measure the Interplanetary Magnetic Field and charged particle environment.

The two-stage Atlas-Agena rocket carrying Mariner 1 veered off-course during its launch on July 22, 1962 due to a defective signal from the Atlas and a bug in the program equations of the ground-based guiding computer, and subsequently the spacecraft was destroyed by the Range Safety Officer. A month later, the identical Mariner 2 spacecraft was launched successfully on August 27, 1962, sending it on a 3.5 month flight to Venus. The spacecraft is now defunct in a heliocentric orbit. [Source]

Amundsen Becomes First to Reach South Pole, December 14, 1911

One hundred years ago today the South Pole was reached by a party of Norwegian explorers under the command of Roald Amundsen. The existence of the pole had been known, but the inhospitable landscape presented a barrier until Amundsen&rsquos party made the dangerous trek across ice and snow to stand at the geographical South Pole on this day a century ago.

One of Amundsen&rsquos competitors, Robert Falcon Scott and his party, achieved a different kind of fame: they arrived on January 17, 1912 to find they were second in the race to fame, and they perished on their way back north.

News of Amundsen&rsquos achievement was telegraphed to the world on March 7, 1912, on his return to Hobart, Australia.

From Scientific American, Vol. CV1, No. 11, March 16, 1911
The Discovery of the South Pole

It is much too early to give any critical account of Capt. Roald Amundsen's achievement. Many weeks must elapse before we are in complete possession of all his data. Yet even the laconic account, which he has cabled to the press, throws a flood of light on the mystery of Antarctic geography. Amundsen seems to have collected enough evidence to substantiate the theory that the great chain of mountains which extends almost uninterruptedly from Alaska to Patagonia finds its continuation in a ridge connecting Victoria Land and King Edward VII Land, and which, in honor of his queen, he has named "Queen Maude's Range."

The ice barrier, which had proved for a century and a half a formidable obstacle to Antarctic exploration, is found to terminate in a bay, lying between the southeast mountain range running from South Victoria Land and a range which is probably a continuation of King Edward the VII Land and which extends in a southwesterly direction. Contrary to his original plan, Amundsen despatched one of his officers, Lieut. Prestud, to survey the Bay of Whales and the great ice barrier and to explore King Edward VII Land, of which practically nothing is known. No doubt the spur of competition played its part in unfolding the secrets of the last unexplored frigid region of the earth.

No less than four other expeditions were in the Antarctic regions at the time while Amundsen was forcing his way south. Besides Amundsen's, there was the Japanese expedition under Lieut. Shirase, which had to retreat to Australia last spring in order to replenish its supply of dogs, and which Amundsen says landed on January 16th at the Bay of Whales, two weeks before he sailed for home Dr. Mawson's Australian expedition, for which $215,000 had been raised up to November 1st last, and which was to land three parties between Cape Adare and Gaussberg the German expedition under Lieut. Filchner in the "Deutschland," elaborately equipped with wireless, magnetic, and meteorological apparatus, full of the hope of establishing a base southwest of Coats Land in as high a latitude as possible and lastly, Capt. Scott's English expedition in the "Terra Nova," which left New Zealand in November, 1910, badly damaged by stormy weather so badly, indeed, that the necessary repairs and the cost of making good the stores that had been lost seriously depleted the resources of the party.

Amundsen seems to have been helped by exceptionally favorable weather conditions. To be sure, there were storms, but not those frightful hurricanes which thwarted Shackleton. It was cold, so cold that the dogs suffered visibly yet the average temperature was no lower than that in many an inhabited part of Canada. Amundsen himself states that part of his journey was much like a pleasure trip--"excellent ground, fine sledging, and an even temperature." The glaciers and crevasses make detours necessary, yet, despite them, progress was remarkably rapid. The party climbed up 2,000 to 5,000 feet in a day. Throughout much of his journey Amundsen covered entirely new ground. Therefore he will bring back absolutely new information of Antarctic geography. He made up his mind that he would reach the plateau on which the Pole is situated by another route than that of Beardmore Glacier. Luck, instinct, experience, call it what you will, the new route proved easier than that which either Shackleton or Scott took on their expeditions. To that comparatively easy route, coupled with exceptionally favorable weather, may be attributed Amundsen's success.

From Scientific American, Vol. CVI, No. 12, March 23, 1912
Amundsen's Attainment of the South Pole
Progress of Antarctic Exploration
By G. W. Littlehales, Hydrographic Office, United States Navy

The legendary limits of the Terra Australis of ancient and medieval cartographers, whose northerly coast was represented in art in the time of Ptolemy as extending eastward from Southern Africa toward China and inclosing the Indian Ocean, began to recede to the southward on the map of the world in the generation which produced Columbus, da Gama, and Magellan and disclosed America, the route to the Indies, and the circumnavigation of the globe. In the latter part of the sixteenth century the number of maps representing had noticeably lessened, and, by the end of the eighteenth century, it had faded from the minds of geographers.

The voyages of Cook in the latter part of the eighteenth century constituted the first circumnavigation of the south polar regions. He reached latitudes in some parts of his circuit which have even at the present time been scarcely surpassed, and, disproving the ancient beilef in a great Terra Australis Incognita extending northward of the sixtieth degree parallel of south latitude, the state of geographical knowledge such that the maps after his time mark "Antarctic Ocean" across the regions of the South Pole. The sum total or added knowledge in the sixty years following Cook's voyages had led to a general belief that around the South Pole was a scattered archipelago and not a continental mass, a state of geographical information that was not materially changed until the discovery by Charles Wilkes that after all there is a great Antarctic land, even if it is smaller than the land of legend.

It will be remembered that, during the year 1839, after having examined many of the island groups with which the vast area of the Pacific Ocean is studded, the United States Exploring Expedition, of which Wilkes was the commander, had reached the Australian shores. On the day after Christmas in 1889 the " Vincennes," "Peacock," "Porpoise," and "Flying Fish" headed southward from Sydney and, falling in with the land in latitude 64 degrees south and longitude 158 degrees East of Greenwich, on the 16th of January following, skirted the border of a new continent to the westward as far as longitude 97 degrees East of Greenwich. Returning to Sydney, Wilkes announced his discovery, in the following words, in a report to the Secretary of the Navy, dated March 11th, 1840: "It affords me much gratification to report that we have discovered a large body of land within the Antarctic Circle, which I have named the Antarctic Continent, and refer you to the report of our cruise and accompanying charts, enclosed herewith, for full information relative thereto."

At one or two points along this coast line, the French expedition under D&rsquoUrville, at nearly the same time, confirmed the existence of the land thus reported. Wilkes' work was not only important because he traced this coast for 1,700 miles, but also on account of the geological collections made by the expedition led by him, which showed that the land is formed of granite, massive sandstones, and other rocks of continental type, and further on account of the magnetic observations which were so numerous and well taken us to permit of the deduction of the earliest assigned position of the south magnetic pole.

A year later the extension of Wilkes Land to the eastward and the southward was charted by the famous British expedition under James Clark Ross, which discovered Victoria Land and the mountains of Erebus and Terror and surpassed all previous records in the Antarctic by reaching the latitude of 78 degrees. After the voyages of Wilkes and Ross, there was a long interval before serious work in the Antarctic was renewed. Until the close of the nineteenth century there was no part of the world about which less was known, and none about which so little interest was taken. This was probably due in part to its distance from the center of wealth and thought, and in part also to its dearth of animal and vegetable life and to its unpeopled state. It is only from the scientific side that human interest can he evoked in the desolate wastes of Antarctica. That this continent, whose present unexplored and unvisited extent is twice the area of Europe, was larger in former geological ages is scarcely to be doubted. In all probability it has been connected with Africa, South America, Australia, and New Zealand, although most likely not with all of them at the same time. This is suggested by the living and fossil floras and faunas of these lands.

At the time of the revival of Antarctic exploration in the beginning of the present century, knowledge of Antarctica was of two grades: in some areas the approaches from the sea had been explored of the rest nothing was known, Knowledge of the first grade existed only in relation to two or three parts of the continent. They were Palmer Land with its associated islands, the coast of Victoria Land with the adjacent Ross Sea, and, to a lesser extent, the coast of Wilkes Land, The rest of the continental limits of the Antarctic was known only through the interpretation of imperfectly recorded observations and the speculations arising from distant and uncertain views.

The work of Krech, Gerlache, Borchgravink, and Bruce had not yet been done the examinations of the &ldquoBelgica,&rdquo the &ldquoFrancais,&rdquo and the &ldquoPourquoi Pas&rdquo had not yet made known the extension of Palmer Land to the southwestward along the southern confines of the Pacific Ocean the explorations of the German Antarctic Expedition in the "Gauss" had not yet confirmed the conclusion of Wilkes that the long coast which he had discovered in 1840 extended still farther to the westward the Antarctic Continent had not yet been entered at any point and consequently that acquaintance with the general topography which constitutes the first essential to the scientific investigation of a country was wholly wanting,

It was the British National Antarctic Expedition of 1901 to 1904, under Capt. R. F. Scott, that first penetrated Antarctica. This expedition landed on the southwestern confines of the Ross Sea, and, by its explorations, showed that the great ice barrier is in reality the front of an enormous ice field or glacier, mainly floating on the surface of an extended bay or sea, and fed by glaciers coming down from the elevated land on the westerly side and probably also on the eastern. Scott traveled southward up the western margin of the ice field 400 miles to a point in latitude 82 deg. 16 min. 33 sec. south. He also climbed from his headquarters on MacMurdo Sound to the summit of the high table land to the westward.

Map of Amundsen&rsquos journey, from Scientific American, Vol. CVI, No. 12, March 23, 1912.

Shackleton's expedition of 1907 to 1909 penetrated at the same place that Scott entered, and traveled up the western border of the ice field along the route which had been pursued by his predecessor until he reached a great glacier, named Beardmore Glacier, coming down from the highlands to the westward. He followed up this glacier to the summit of the plateau and then continued to the southward until he reached a point in latitude 88 deg. 23 min. south, only 97 miles from the South Pole. At this point the elevation was 10,000 feet above the level of the sea. While this journey to the southward was in progress, another party of the expedition climbed Mount Erebus, and a third party reached the south magnetic pole and located it, in 72 deg. 25 min. south, and 155 deg. 16 min. east, in a position 40 miles distant from the position deduced from the surrounding magnetic observations of the expedition under Scott. The observations in either case were not sufficient, however, to warrant drawing a conclusion as to the actual change in the position of the magnetic poled between 1903 and 1909.

Five expeditions were sent to the Antarctic during the past year, for the purpose of reaching the South Pole, or for the exploration of the Antarctic Continent, or both. The first is the British Expedition under the command of Capt, R. F. Scott, who was the leader of the British National Antarctic Expedition of 1901 to 1904. He sailed from Port Chalmers, New Zealand, in his ship, the "Terra Nova" November 29th, 1910. He made a successful landing at a point near his former situation in MacMurdo Sound, and continued to be engaged in exploration to the southward. A German expedition under Lieut. Wilhelm Filchner left early in the year 1911, intending to make a landing somewhere on the shore of the Weddell Sea, perhaps on Coats Land, on the opposite side of the Antarctic Continent from Capt. Scott&rsquos headquarters. No reports have yet been received from him.

A Japanese expedition started for the Antarctic, intending to make a landing upon King Edwrd VII Land. Before reaching its projected landing place, however, this expedition suffered a series of mishaps, the chief of which was the loss of nearly all the dogs upon which relicance had been placed for transportation.

Near the close of the year 1911, another expedition started for it field of exploration in the Antarctic. This is the Australian expedition under the leadership of Dr. Douglas Mawson, geologist of the Shackleton expedition. The &ldquoAurora,&rdquo a barkentine of 580 tons with auxiliary steam-propulsion in which the expedition sailed, has recently returned to Australia bringing the report that two separate parties have been landed on those part of Wilkes Land known respectively as Adelie Land and Termination Land.

Capt. Roald Amundsen, the discoverer of the Northwest Passage, left Norway in June, 1910, in the &ldquoFram,&rdquo seemingly with the intention of sailing around Cape Horn, however, he sailed to the westward across the South Pacific, and made a landing at whale Bay on the ice sheet covering Ross Sea. This place is in King Edward VII. Land, near the eastern end of the ice front, and on the opposite shore of the Ross Sea, from the point at which Scott and Shackleton have made their successful entrances into the interior of the continent.

The expedition was in winter-quarters at Whale Bay until September, 1911, and, on the 20th of October. the main party made the final start for the South Pole, leaving a subsidiary party to carry on explorations and make a geological collection in King Edward VII Land. In less than a month. the south-bound expedition had cleared that vast plain of floating ice which flows down from the great mountains of the interior and covers the southern part of Ross Sea throughout an area above 20,000 square miles with an ice sheet approximately 800 feet in thickness, and had begun to climb the heights which form the mountainous embayment at the head of Ross Sea. The glacial streams descending through the depressions among the mountain slopes constituted the usual lines of travel, and the route developed was new and independent, passing among mountain peaks rising to the height of 15,000 and 18,000 feet above the sea and gradually mounting to a maximum level before the Pole was reached and thence descending very gradually for 140 miles over a vast plateau to the position which was occupied on December l5th and 16th, 1911, and determined to be the South Pole. As a result of Amundsen's expedition, important additions may be laid down upon the map of Antarctica in the sector of the earth&rsquos surface extending from the South Pole to the 80th degree parallel of latitude between the meridians 160 degrees and 180 degrees west of Greenwich.

The theory of the structural unity of the Pacific is well established, and, according to it, the Pacific Ocean must be bounded on the south by a coast of the &ldquoPacific type.&rdquo With one exception in Central America. the whole of the known coasts of the Pacific belong to this type. The main characteristic of this form of coast is that the trend is determined by mountain ranges running parallel to the shore. In the South Pacific, this type is well exemplified in New Zealand on one side and by the Andes of South America on the other. In the southern part of Patagonia the Andes are turned from their meridional course and run eastward across Tierra del Fuego. The tectonic line of the Andes is then apparently bent southward, and reappears in Palmer Land. It is probably continued around the southern Pacific meeting the end of the New Zealand line and the Victoria Range in the mighty mountains which Amundsen, in his approaches to the South Pole, discovered in the shape of what he has named the Maude Range stretching off to the southeastward as far as 88 degrees south. The principles of geomorphology would also suggest that from the lofty mountain axis bordering the Pacific there should slope downward, across the Pole, a broad plateau to Weddell Sea on the one side and the bight between Wilkes Land and Enderly Land on the other and this interpretation is borne out by the description of the plateau conditions which were found to exist around the South Pole.

So far the facts published concerning the information gathered by Amundsen are chiefly geographical and topographical. and hence the illustration of the nature of the scientific hearings of the accessions to knowledge which his expedition has produced are drawn from these materials but, as other branches of the information embraced in his observations are unfolded, other theoretical applications will appear for the advancement of philosophy and such of the geographical sciences as meteorology and terrestrial magnetism, concerning which the observations made in the South Polar regions tend in some respects to deliver the deciding stroke in the elaboration.

Nerve-Wracking Race to See to the South Pole – 1911

The Norwegians were so determined to win that they planned in advance to take advantage of the weaker dogs to feed the other dogs and people during the expedition, while the British found it distasteful.

Today the anniversary of the first human conquest of the South Pole is commemorated. This venture was performed by an expedition of five led by Norwegian Roald Amundsen. It is interesting that, almost simultaneously, another team was headed for the South Pole, led by Briton Robert F. Scott. Therefore, a kind of race took place as to see who will reach the Pole first.

Amundsen’s team was more successful for several reasons. Firstly, they used dogs for the journey, while Scott primarily used ponies. Furthermore, Amundsen’s team had Eskimo-style clothes made of fur, while the British had woolen clothes, which turned out insufficiently warm. The Norwegians were moving on skis on which they were accustomed to from an early age, while the British walked. Finally, while the British took geological samples for scientific research during the trip, Amundsen made the conquest of the South Pole his only goal.

He was so determined to win that he planned from the start to have weaker animals killed in order to feed the other animals and the men themselves, while the British found it distasteful. Amundsen went on a trip with 52 dogs, and returned with 11. The final outcome was that Amundsen’s team arrived at the Pole 34 days earlier and that all its members returned. Scott’s team was late and, on their return, he and his men were trapped in the ice and died. Scott’s body was found in the snow half-a-year later.

Dec 14, 1911: Amundsen Reaches South Pole

Norwegian Roald Amundsen becomes the first explorer to reach the South Pole, beating his British rival, Robert Falcon Scott.

Amundsen, born in Borge, near Oslo, in 1872, was one of the great figures in polar exploration. In 1897, he was first mate on a Belgian expedition that was the first ever to winter in the Antarctic. In 1903, he guided the 47-ton sloop Gjöa through the Northwest Passage and around the Canadian coast, the first navigator to accomplish the treacherous journey. Amundsen planned to be the first man to the North Pole, and he was about to embark in 1909 when he learned that the American Robert Peary had achieved the feat.

Amundsen completed his preparations and in June 1910 sailed instead for Antarctica, where the English explorer Robert F. Scott was also headed with the aim of reaching the South Pole. In early 1911, Amundsen sailed his ship into Antarctica’s Bay of Whales and set up base camp 60 miles closer to the pole than Scott. In October, both explorers set off–Amundsen using sleigh dogs, and Scott employing Siberian motor sledges, Siberian ponies, and dogs. On December 14, 1911, Amundsen’s expedition won the race to the Pole and returned safely to base camp in late January.

Scott’s expedition was less fortunate. The motor sleds broke down, the ponies had to be shot, and the dog teams were sent back as Scott and four companions continued on foot. On January 18, 1912, they reached the pole only to find that Amundsen had preceded them by over a month. Weather on the return journey was exceptionally bad–two members perished–and a storm later trapped Scott and the other two survivors in their tent only 11 miles from their base camp. Scott’s frozen body was found later that year.

After his historic Antarctic journey, Amundsen established a successful shipping business. He later made attempts to become the first explorer to fly over the North Pole. In 1925, in an airplane, he flew within 150 miles of the goal. In 1926, he passed over the North Pole in a dirigible just three days after American explorer Richard E. Byrd had apparently done so in an aircraft. In 1996, a diary that Byrd had kept on the flight was found that seemed to suggest that the he had turned back 150 miles short of its goal because of an oil leak, making Amundsen’s dirigible expedition the first flight over the North Pole.

In 1928, Amundsen lost his life while trying to rescue a fellow explorer whose dirigible had crashed at sea near Spitsbergen, Norway.

This day in history — Dec. 14

Blasts From the Past looks at significant events that happened on this day in history.

Today's highlight in history

On Dec. 14, 1799, the first president of the United States, George Washington, died at his Mount Vernon, Va., home at age 67.

On this date

In 1911, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his team became the first men to reach the South Pole, beating out a British expedition led by Robert F. Scott.

In 1946, the United Nations General Assembly voted to establish the U.N.'s headquarters in New York.

In 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Heart of Atlanta Motel vs. United States, ruled that Congress was within its authority to enforce the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against racial discrimination by private businesses (in this case, a motel that refused to cater to blacks).

In 1981, Israel annexed the Golan Heights, which it had seized from Syria in 1967.

In 1985, Wilma Mankiller became the first woman to lead a major American Indian tribe as she took office as principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

In 1995, Presidents Alija Izetbegović of Bosnia, Slobodan Milo&scaronević of Serbia and Franjo Tudjman of Croatia signed the Bosnian peace treaty in Paris.

In 2012, a gunman with a semiautomatic rifle killed 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., then killed himself as police arrived 20-year-old Adam Lanza had fatally shot his mother at their home before carrying out the attack on the school.

Ten years ago: The U.S. House of Representatives voted 251-174 to renew the USA Patriot Act.

Five years ago: The White House insisted the implementation of President Barack Obama's landmark health care law would not be affected by a negative federal court ruling, and the Justice Department said it would appeal.

14 December, AMUNDSEN REACHES SOUTH POLE - Today in History Through Collectibles

Norwegian Roald Amundsen became the first explorer to reach the South Pole by beating his British rival, Robert Falcon Scott.

Roald Amundsen born in Borge, near Oslo - Norway, in 1872. He was one of the heroes in polar exploration.
Amundsen planned to be the first man to reach the North Pole, and was about to embark on his mission in 1909 when he was informed that the American Robert Peary had already achieved the feat. He instead sailed for Antarctica in June 1910, where Robert F. Scott, the English explorer was also headed with the same aim of reaching the South Pole. Amundsen sailed his ship into Antarctica's Bay of Whales early in 1911 where he set up his base camp closer to the pole than Scott. Both explorers set off in October – Amundsen used sleigh dogs while Scott used Siberian motor sledges, Siberian ponies, and dogs. Amundsen's expedition won the race to the South Pole on 14 December 1911 and he returned safely to base camp in late January.

Scott's expedition was marred by misfortunate. His team reached the pole on 18 January 1912 only to find that Amundsen had preceded them by over a month.

Amundsen established a successful shipping business after his historic Antarctic journey. He later made attempts to become the first explorer to fly over the North Pole. In 1925 he flew within 150 miles of the goal, but in1926 he succeeded and he passed over the North Pole in a dirigible just three days after American explorer Richard E. Byrd had apparently done so in an aircraft. A diary that Byrd had kept on the flight was however found in 1996 that suggested that the he had to turn back 150 miles short of his goal due to an oil leak. This thus confirms that Amundsen's dirigible expedition was in fact the first flight over the North Pole.

Amundsen disappeared on June 18, 1928 while trying to rescue a fellow explorer whose new airship Italia had crashed at sea near Spitsbergen, Norway while returning from the North Pole. It is believed that the plane Amundsen was in crashed in fog in the Barents Sea, and that he was killed in the crash, or died shortly afterwards. His body was never found.

Collectibles on Colnect that Commemorate This Day in History:

Russia issued a silver coin in 1995 in their Expedition & Exploration series to honor this great man.

Several countries have honoured this noble man by featuring Amundsen on stamps:


Amundsen was born into a family of Norwegian shipowners and captains in Borge, between the towns Fredrikstad and Sarpsborg. His parents were Jens Amundsen and Hanna Sahlqvist. Roald was the fourth son in the family. His mother wanted him to avoid the family maritime trade and encouraged him to become a doctor, a promise that Amundsen kept until his mother died when he was aged 21. He promptly quit university for a life at sea. [6]

When he was fifteen years old, Amundsen was enthralled by reading Sir John Franklin's narratives of his overland Arctic expeditions. Amundsen wrote "I read them with a fervid fascination which has shaped the whole course of my life". [7]

Belgian Antarctic Expedition Edit

Amundsen joined the Belgian Antarctic Expedition as first mate. This expedition, led by Adrien de Gerlache using the ship the RV Belgica, became the first expedition to overwinter in Antarctica. [8] The Belgica, whether by mistake or design, became locked in the sea ice at 70°30′S off Alexander Island, west of the Antarctic Peninsula. The crew endured a winter for which they were poorly prepared.

By Amundsen's own estimation, the doctor for the expedition, the American Frederick Cook, probably saved the crew from scurvy by hunting for animals and feeding the crew fresh meat. In cases where citrus fruits are lacking, fresh meat from animals that make their own vitamin C contains enough of the vitamin to prevent scurvy, and even partly treat it. This was an important lesson for Amundsen's future expeditions.

The Northwest Passage Edit

In 1903, Amundsen led the first expedition to successfully traverse Canada's Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. He planned a small expedition of six men in a 45-ton fishing vessel, Gjøa, in order to have flexibility. His ship had relatively shallow draft. His technique was to use a small ship and hug the coast. Amundsen had the ship outfitted with a small 13 horsepower single-screw paraffin engine. [9]

They traveled via Baffin Bay, the Parry Channel and then south through Peel Sound, James Ross Strait, Simpson Strait and Rae Strait. They spent two winters at King William Island, in the harbor of what is today Gjoa Haven. [8] [9] During this time, Amundsen and the crew learned from the local Netsilik Inuit about Arctic survival skills, which he found invaluable in his later expedition to the South Pole. For example, he learned to use sled dogs for transportation of goods and to wear animal skins in lieu of heavy, woolen parkas, which could not keep out the cold when wet.

Leaving Gjoa Haven, he sailed west and passed Cambridge Bay, which had been reached from the west by Richard Collinson in 1852. Continuing to the south of Victoria Island, the ship cleared the Canadian Arctic Archipelago on 17 August 1905 . It had to stop for the winter before going on to Nome on Alaska's Pacific coast. The nearest telegraph station was 500 miles (800 km) away in Eagle. Amundsen traveled there overland to wire a success message on 5 December, then returned to Nome in 1906. Later that year he was elected to the American Antiquarian Society. [10]

At this time, Amundsen learned of the dissolution of the union between Norway and Sweden, and that he had a new king. The explorer sent the new king, Haakon VII, news that his traversing the Northwest Passage "was a great achievement for Norway". [11] He said he hoped to do more and signed it "Your loyal subject, Roald Amundsen." [11] The crew returned to Oslo in November 1906, after almost three-and-a-half years abroad. Gjøa was returned to Norway in 1972. After a 45-day trip from San Francisco on a bulk carrier, she was placed on land outside the Fram Museum in Oslo, [11] where she is now situated inside her own dedicated building at the museum.

South Pole Expedition Edit

Amundsen next planned to take an expedition to the North Pole and explore the Arctic Basin. Finding it difficult to raise funds, when he heard in 1909 that the Americans Frederick Cook and Robert Peary had claimed to reach the North Pole as a result of two different expeditions, he decided to reroute to Antarctica. [12] He was not clear about his intentions, and Robert F. Scott and the Norwegian supporters felt misled. [12] Scott was planning his own expedition to the South Pole that year. Using the ship Fram, earlier used by Fridtjof Nansen, Amundsen left Oslo for the south on 3 June 1910. [12] [13] At Madeira, Amundsen alerted his men that they would be heading to Antarctica, and sent a telegram to Scott: "Beg to inform you Fram proceeding Antarctic – Amundsen." [12]

Nearly six months later, the expedition arrived at the eastern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf (then known as "the Great Ice Barrier"), at a large inlet called the Bay of Whales, on 14 January 1911. Amundsen established his base camp there, calling it Framheim. Amundsen eschewed the heavy wool clothing worn on earlier Antarctic attempts in favour of adopting Inuit-style furred skins. [6]

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. [6] Amundsen also planned to kill some of his dogs on the way and use them as a source for fresh meat. A small group, including Hjalmar Johansen, Kristian Prestrud and Jørgen Stubberud, set out on 8 September, but had to abandon their trek due to extreme temperatures. The painful retreat caused a quarrel within the group, and Amundsen sent Johansen and the other two men to explore King Edward VII Land.

A second attempt, with a team of five made up of Olav Bjaaland, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel, Oscar Wisting and Amundsen, departed base camp on 19 October. 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. The team and 16 dogs arrived at the pole on 14 December, a month before Scott's group. [n 1] Amundsen named their South Pole camp Polheim. Amundsen renamed the Antarctic Plateau as King Haakon VII's Plateau. They left a small tent and letter stating their accomplishment, in case they did not return safely to Framheim.

The team arrived at Framheim on 25 January 1912, with 11 surviving dogs. They made their way off the continent and to Hobart, Australia, where Amundsen publicly announced his success on 7 March 1912. He telegraphed news to backers.

Amundsen's expedition benefited from his careful preparation, good equipment, appropriate clothing, a simple primary task, an understanding of dogs and their handling, and the effective use of skis. In contrast to the misfortunes of Scott's team, Amundsen's trek proved relatively smooth and uneventful.

The Northeast Passage Edit

In 1918, an expedition Amundsen began with a new ship, Maud, lasted until 1925. Maud was carefully navigated through the ice west to east through the Northeast Passage. With him on this expedition were Oscar Wisting and Helmer Hanssen, both of whom had been part of the team to reach the South Pole. In addition, Henrik Lindstrøm was included as a cook. He suffered a stroke and was so physically reduced that he could not participate.

The goal of the expedition was to explore the unknown areas of the Arctic Ocean, strongly inspired by Fridtjof Nansen's earlier expedition with Fram. The plan was to sail along the coast of Siberia and go into the ice farther to the north and east than Nansen had. In contrast to Amundsen's earlier expeditions, this was expected to yield more material for academic research, and he carried the geophysicist Harald Sverdrup on board.

The voyage was to the northeasterly direction over the Kara Sea. Amundsen planned to freeze the Maud into the polar ice cap and drift towards the North Pole – as Nansen had done with the Fram – and he did so off Cape Chelyuskin. But, the ice became so thick that the ship was unable to break free, although it was designed for such a journey in heavy ice. In September 1919, the crew got the ship loose from the ice, but it froze again after eleven days somewhere between the New Siberian Islands and Wrangel Island.

During this time, Amundsen suffered a broken arm and was attacked by polar bears. [15] As a result, he participated little in the work outdoors, such as sleigh rides and hunting. He, Hanssen, and Wisting, along with two other men, embarked on an expedition by dog sled to Nome, Alaska, more than 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) away. But they found that the ice was not frozen solid in the Bering Strait, and it could not be crossed. They sent a telegram from Anadyr to signal their location.

After two winters frozen in the ice, without having achieved the goal of drifting over the North Pole, Amundsen decided to go to Nome to repair the ship and buy provisions. Several of the crew ashore there, including Hanssen, did not return on time to the ship. Amundsen considered Hanssen to be in breach of contract, and dismissed him from the crew.

During the third winter, Maud was frozen in the western Bering Strait. She finally became free and the expedition sailed south, reaching Seattle, in the American Pacific Northwest in 1921 for repairs. Amundsen returned to Norway, needing to put his finances in order. He took with him two young indigenous girls, a four-year-old he adopted, Kakonita, and her companion Camilla. When Amundsen went bankrupt two years later, however, he sent the girls to be cared for by Camilla's father, who lived in eastern Russia. [16]

In June 1922, Amundsen returned to Maud, which had been sailed to Nome. [17] He decided to shift from the planned naval expedition to aerial ones, and arranged to charter a plane. He divided the expedition team in two: one part, led by him, was to winter over and prepare for an attempt to fly over the pole in 1923. The second team on Maud, under the command of Wisting, was to resume the original plan to drift over the North Pole in the ice. The ship drifted in the ice for three years east of the New Siberian Islands, never reaching the North Pole. It was finally seized by Amundsen's creditors as collateral for his mounting debt.

Although they were unable to reach the North Pole, the scientific results of the expedition, mainly the work of Sverdrup, have proven to be of considerable value. Much of the carefully collected scientific data was lost during the ill-fated journey of Peter Tessem and Paul Knutsen, two crew members sent on a mission by Amundsen. The scientific materials were later retrieved by Russian scientist Nikolay Urvantsev from where they had been abandoned on the shores of the Kara Sea. [18]

Aerial Expeditions to the North Pole Edit

The 1923 attempt to fly over the Pole failed. Amundsen and Oskar Omdal, of the Royal Norwegian Navy, tried to fly from Wainwright, Alaska, to Spitsbergen across the North Pole. When their aircraft was damaged, they abandoned the journey. To raise additional funds, Amundsen traveled around the United States in 1924 on a lecture tour.

In 1925, accompanied by Lincoln Ellsworth, pilot Hjalmar Riiser-Larsen, flight mechanic Karl Feucht and two other team members, Amundsen took two Dornier Do J flying boats, the N-24 and N-25, to 87° 44′ north. It was the northernmost latitude reached by plane up to that time. The aircraft landed a few miles apart without radio contact, yet the crews managed to reunite. The N-24 was damaged. Amundsen and his crew worked for more than three weeks to clean up an airstrip to take off from ice. [19] They shovelled 600 tons of ice while consuming only one pound (400 g) of daily food rations. In the end, the six crew members were packed into the N-25. In a remarkable feat, Riiser-Larsen took off, and they barely became airborne over the cracking ice. They returned triumphant when everyone thought they had been lost forever.

In 1926, Amundsen and 15 other men (including Ellsworth, Riiser-Larsen, Oscar Wisting, and the Italian air crew led by aeronautical engineer Umberto Nobile) made the first crossing of the Arctic in the airship Norge, designed by Nobile. [20] They left Spitsbergen on 11 May 1926, flew over the North Pole on 12 May, [21] and landed in Alaska the following day.

Controversy over Polar Priority Edit

The three previous claims to have arrived at the North Pole: Frederick Cook in 1908 Robert Peary in 1909 and Richard E. Byrd in 1926 (just a few days before the Norge) are disputed by some, as being either of dubious accuracy or outrightly fraudulent. [22] [23] If these other claims are false, the crew of the Norge would be the first explorers verified to have reached the North Pole, when they floated over it in the Norge in 1926. [4] [21] If the Norge expedition was the first to the North Pole, Amundsen and Oscar Wisting were the first men to have reached both geographical poles, by ground or by air.

Amundsen disappeared on 18 June 1928 while flying on a rescue mission in the Arctic. His team included Norwegian pilot Leif Dietrichson, French pilot René Guilbaud, and three more Frenchmen. They were seeking missing members of Nobile's crew, whose new airship Italia had crashed while returning from the North Pole. Amundsen's French Latham 47 flying boat never returned. [24]

Later, a wing-float and bottom gasoline tank from the plane, which had been adapted as a replacement wing-float, were found near the Tromsø coast. It is assumed that the plane crashed in the Barents Sea, [25] and that Amundsen and his crew were killed in the wreck, or died shortly afterward. The search for Amundsen and team was called off in September 1928 by the Norwegian government, and the bodies were never found.

In 2004 and in late August 2009, the Royal Norwegian Navy used the unmanned submarine Hugin 1000 to search for the wreckage of Amundsen's plane. The searches focused on a 40-square-mile (100 km 2 ) area of the sea floor, and were documented by the German production company ContextTV. [26] [27] They found nothing from the Amundsen flight.

Amundsen was a lifelong bachelor, though he had a relationship with the Norwegian-born Kristine Elisabeth ('Kiss') Bennett, the wife of an Englishman, Charles Peto Bennett. [28] He met her in London in 1907 and they remained close for many years, although Amundsen kept the relationship a secret from everyone outside his intimate circle. Later, he became engaged to Bess Magids, an American divorcee whom he had met in Alaska. [29] Though there is little evidence, it was said that Amundsen had a brief affair with his landlady in Antwerp — until he came home and found her dead of an apparent suicide. [30]

Author Julian Scanton noted that in his younger years, Amundsen was said to have ignored romantic relationships in pursuit of his goals. He "found little use in activities that didn't help him fulfill his polar ambitions". [31]

Amundsen was awarded the Grand Cross of the Imperial Austrian Order of Franz Joseph in 1907. [32] In 1925, Amundsen was awarded the Hans Egede Medal by the Royal Danish Geographical Society. [33]

Watch the video: 14th December 1911: Roald Amundsen reaches the South Pole