Roald Amundsen (1872-1928)

Roald Amundsen

1872 On the 16th of July Roald Amundsen was born near Oslo, Norway. He was an explorer who reached the South Pole. He was also the first who succeeded to cross the Northwest Passage and one of the Arctic aviation pioneers. Son of a ship owner, Amundsen studied medicine for a while, but he had the adventure into the blood, so he gave up thinking to a conventional career and left on the sea very early.

1897 He joined Belgian expedition on Belgica ship that had been kept between glaciers for 13 months, becoming the first vessel that wintered in Antarctica. The crew survived eating seal meat.

1903-1905 Amundsen bought his own ship, Gjoa, a cuter of 47 tones, with a crew of only 7 people; he was the first who sailed through Northwest Passage. The trip among dangerous waters, full of icebergs, that separated continental Canada of Arctic islands, lasted almost three years and finished in 1905, at San Francisco, where Amundsen presented his ship to the city. Northwest Passage’s glaciers aroused Amundsen’s appetite for polar explorations and made him famous worldwide.

He decided to conquer North Pole but gave up to his plans to float over the polar cap on Fram when he found out that American explorer Robert Peary sustained he reached the first the North Pole. Amundsen decided to go towards South. Knowing that explorer Robert Falcon Scoot had already been before him to what would become a real race to South Pole, he secretly left.  He did not inform Fram’s crew about destination (he did it later) – they knew they were going to the North Pole. But Amundsen sent a telegram to Scott in order to announce his intentions, but he got sure that it was sent when he had already left.

Amundsen was already an experienced polar explorer. He established a winter camp in the Bay of Whales, at the edge of Ross Ice Shelf – 60 miles (96 km) closer to South Pole than Scott’s camp from McMurdo Sound. He prepared for the expedition making food supplies; unlike Scott, he used dog sleds from Greenland to carry the supplies. Scott counted on motorized and drawn by pony sleds, but both types did not work at a moment.

1911 After wintering in the camp, Amundsen left in September – at the beginning of the season – but was impeded by the hard weather. He tried again next month, leaving the camp on the 20th of October together with four comrades, 52 dogs and four sleds. They reached South Pole on Friday, 14th of December, at 3 pm; they spent three days there and came back unharmed to the camp on the 25th of January. Scott and his people reached South Pole on the 17th of January; all of them died on the additional turn road because they were forced to draw the sleds on terrible weather conditions.

Amundsen was luckier regarding weather conditions, but in the end he succeeded due to his knowledge concerned to polar conditions, meticulous attention he paid to extreme physical endurance and to details. A six-foot giant, Amundsen was very harsh, even on himself, and a rigid leader. In the same time, he had very big debts, fact that represented another strong motivation for his rush for spectacular successes.

1918-1920 After South Pole, Amundsen undertook a last polar trip – from the North of Siberia to Alaska – being the second man who had crossed Northeast Passage.

1926 He became the first man who had undeniably seen North Pole. Amundsen flew by an Italian plane, Norge, over North Pole – a 70-hour flight – the first from Europe to North America by North Pole. Together with him, into Norge, there were also aircraft’s designer, Italian Umberto Nobile, and American pilot, Lingolm Ellsworth. Nobile and Amundsen argued, each of them sustaining that the country should have arrogated the merit of the first transpolar flight.

The three explorers who had claimed the award to have reached North Pole, Frederick Cook in 1908, Robert Peary in 1909 and Richard Byrd in 1926 (by plane, few days before Amundsen) were hotly contested by accusations of false statements (Cook and Byrd) and also because of geographical inaccuracies and controversy continues nowadays too. Because of these reasons Amundsen’s expedition by navigable Norge is considered the first which has undoubtedly reached North Pole by geographical point of view. Anyway, Amundsen and Wisting are the first man who have reached the both Poles.

1928 As a life irony, Amundsen went again among the icebergs in order to help Nobile’s searching operations, because his plane, Italy, had fallen during a polar flight. At last, Nobile was saved but Amundsen was heard for the last time on the 28th of June. “If you would know how wonderful it is there... There I would like to pass away”. And his wish became true.

He was found later on the sea, near Tromso, in the same time with a flotor of the seaplane and the remains of a fuel tank. It is supposed that the seaplane crashed because of the fog somewhere in Barents Sea and that Amundsen and the crew died instantly or shortly after that. His body has never been found even if the Norwegian officials had been searching until September that year.



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