16 July 1892 – 18 June 1928
Since birth Roald Amundsen wanted to become a Polar Explorer. Little did he know the achievements he would reach.
Roald Engelbregt Grauning Amundsen, was born in Borge, near Oslo on July 16, 1872. His parents wanted him to become a doctor. But, in 1894 he left that job, and entered the Norwegian navy. There he spent the following nine years studying science. All he wanted however was to become an explorer, and most important of all, explore Antarctica.
So, in 1897, he joined the “Belgica” – a Belgian-financed Antarctic expedition led by the Polar Explorer Adrien de Gerlache de Gomery. This voyage was actually meant to investigate the coast of Antarctica, but the ship froze into ice near Peter I’s island on the Antarctic Peninsula, and the entire crew waited anxiously for thirteen months before the “Belgica” entered open water again. During this time, almost all the expedition members had developed scurvy. By the time the ship had broken free of the ice it was under my commend (March 1899) and we had just become the first people to overwinter in Antarctica.
The Northwest Passage
The Northwest Passage was another place that fascinated Roald Amundsen. The vessel that he chose, the “Gjøa”, set out from Christiana (now called Oslo) in June 1903. He first crossed the North Atlantic, and then hugged the West Coast of Greenland. After this, he crossed to the northern end of Baffin Island. The expedition went on like this, nosing its way through all different islands. In August 1905, the “Gjøa” had successfully navigated the Northwest Passage – becoming the first vessel ever to do so.
A Change of Plans
By now, Roald Amundsen was a world known explorer, the Northwest Passage expedition had made him famous. But, sometime in April 1909, the news that Robert Peary, an American explorer, had reached the North Pole caused me to change plans and instead of trying to be the first to reach the North Pole, Roald Amundsen set his sights South.
Roald Amundsen was fortunate in that he was well funded (for a trip to the North Pole) hence could start preparing immediately. Just as well as the English explorer, Sir Robert Falcon Scott, was also working on his second attempt to reach the South Pole. So, in the summer of 1910, Roald announced his change in plans, just as Scott’s expedition was leaving New Zealand for Antarctica. The race was on!
Roald’s Arctic Exploration experience had taught him many valuable lessons and skills. Especially the time he had spend with the Inuit. There, he had taken mental note of the dogs that they used for pulling their sledges, and the warm clothes they wore. Hence his decision to use 48 dogs for pulling the four sledges to the South Pole. Scott was using motor sleighs and ponies for travelling something that was unproven (and proved to be the wrong decision). Roald Amundsen was confident that the motors in his sleighs would break down in the fierce cold, but was worried that the Ponies may do better. For the South Pole trip, Roald Amundsen selected four men, Bjaaland, Hansse, Hassel, and Wisting.
On December 14, 1911, the Pole was reached by Roald Amundsen’s team. The entire trip to the pole, Amundsen was driven by the prospect that Scott had beaten him to the pole. It had taken 99 days to travel 3000 kilometers across the snow and ice. We had achieved our goal First Person to the South Pole! Scott arrived at the pole a month later, and unfortunately died on his return.
The North Pole
Even though Robert Peary was the first man to reach the North Pole, Roald Amundsen continued to explore the Arctic after he had conquered the South Pole. His ship however kept on freezing in the ice because of the cold weather and he found it frustrating not being able to explore the areas he wanted. With the advent of Aviation though, this offered new opportunities and in May 1925, Roald Amundsen became the first person to fly over the North Pole.
On May 11, 1926 Roald Amundsen left Spitsbergen aboard the airship “Norge”. Among the crew of 12 were Lincoln Ellsworth and Umberto Nobile, the people who had constructed the vessel and flew it. The flight took 16 hours, and en route the Norwegian, Italian, and American flags were dropped over the North Pole. On May 14, 1926, the “Norge” landed in Alaska, after having covered 5,456 kilometers in 72 hours, and Roald Amundsen had become the first men to have flown from Europe to America.
In June 1928, News that Umberto Nobile’s new airship “Italia” had gone missing in the Arctic reach Roald Amundsen. Roald Amundsen, without hesitation, took part in a rescue effort. Roald Amundsen’s plane crashed on June 18, 1928, while on a search and rescue flight for the Italia.