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The South Pole

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About the Book
The South Pole; an account of the Norwegian antarctic expedition in the 'Fram', 1910 to 1912

After crossing the Northwest Passage, Amundsen made plans to go to the North Pole and explore the North Polar Basin. Amundsen had problems and hesitation raising funds for the departure and upon hearing in 1909 that first Frederick Cook and then Robert Peary claimed the Pole, he decided to reroute to Antarctica.[6] However, he did not make these plans known and misled both the Englishman, Robert F. Scott and the Norwegians.[6] Using the ship Fram ("Forward"), earlier used by Fridtjof Nansen, he left Norway for the south, leaving Oslo on June 3, 1910.[6][7] At Madeira, Amundsen alerted his men that they would be heading to Antarctica in addition to sending a telegram to Scott notifying him simply: "BEG TO INFORM YOU FRAM PROCEEDING ANTARCTIC--AMUNDSEN."[6] 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 January 14, 1911 where Amundsen located his base camp and named it Framheim. Further, Amundsen eschewed the heavy wool clothing worn on earlier Antarctic attempts in favour of Eskimo-style skins.[3]

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.[3] Amundsen also planned to kill some of his dogs on the way and use them as a source for fresh meat. A premature attempt, which included Hjalmar Johansen, Kristian Prestrud and Jørgen Stubberud, set out on 8 September 1911, but had to be abandoned due to extreme temperatures. The painful retreat caused a tempering quarrel within the group, with the result that Johansen and others were sent to explore King Edward VII Land.

A second attempt with a team, consisting of Olav Bjaaland, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel, Oscar Wisting, and Amundsen himself, departed on October 19, 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 November 21 after a four-day climb. On December 14, 1911, the team of six, with 16 dogs, arrived at the Pole (90°00'S). They arrived 35 days before Scott’s group. Amundsen named their South Pole camp Polheim, “Home on the Pole.” 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 returned to Framheim on January 25, 1912, with 11 dogs. Amundsen’s success was publicly announced on March 7, 1912, when he arrived at Hobart, Australia.

Amundsen’s expedition benefited from careful preparation, good equipment, appropriate clothing, a simple primary task (Amundsen did no surveying on his route south and is known to have taken only two photographs), 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 rather smooth and uneventful.

About the Author
In 1903, Amundsen led the first expedition to successfully traverse the Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans (something explorers had been attempting since the days of Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, Jacques Cartier, and Henry Hudson), with six others in a 47 ton steel seal hunting vessel, Gjøa. During this time Amundsen learned 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.

He led the first successful Antarctic expedition to the South Pole between 1910 and 1912.



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