Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen

Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen


Roald Engelbregt G. Amundsen is the first person to reach the South Pole.


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Amundsen studied medicine for a while and then took to sea. In 1897 he sailed as first mate on the Belgica in a Belgian expedition that was the first to winter in the Antarctic. In 1903, with a crew of six on his 47-ton sloop Gjøa, Amundsen began his mission to sail through the Northwest Passage and around the northern Canadian coast. He reached Cape Colborne (in present-day Nunavut) in August 1905, completing his transit of the passage proper, before ice halted his westerly progress for the winter at Herschel Island in the Yukon the following month. Amundsen and his crew resumed the journey in August 1906 and were greeted with a heroes’ welcome when the expedition concluded in Nome, Alaska, later that month. This achievement whetted his appetite for the spectacular in polar exploration.

Amundsen’s next plan, to drift across the North Pole in Fridtjof Nansen’s old ship, the Fram, was affected by the news that the American explorer Robert E. Peary had reached the North Pole in April 1909, but he continued his preparations. When Amundsen left Norway in June 1910 no one but his brother knew that he was heading for the South Pole instead of the North. He sailed the Fram directly from the Madeira Islands to the Bay of Whales, Antarctica, along the Ross Sea. The base he set up there was 60 miles (100 km) closer to the pole than the Antarctic base of the English explorer Robert Falcon Scott, who was heading a rival expedition with the same goal. An experienced polar traveller, Amundsen prepared carefully for the coming journey, making a preliminary trip to deposit food supplies along the first part of his route to the pole and back. To transport his supplies, he used sled dogs, while Scott depended on Siberian ponies.

Amundsen set out with 4 companions, 52 dogs, and 4 sledges on October 19, 1911, and, after encountering good weather, arrived at the South Pole on December 14. The explorers recorded scientific data at the pole before beginning the return journey on December 17, and they safely reached their base at the Bay of Whales on January 25, 1912. Scott, in the meantime, had reached the South Pole on January 17, but on a difficult return journey, he and all his men perished.


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