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Amundsen preferred the Arctic

Posted in Exploration, Historical articles on Tuesday, 28 June 2011

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This edited article about polar exploration originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 979 published on 13 December 1980.

Amundsen, picture, image, illustration

Amundsen’s expedition to the South Pole, by Luis Arcas Brauner

Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian explorer, is rightly regarded as one of the greatest men in the field of polar exploration – yet he failed in his main ambition, which was to lead the way for the first time to the North Pole. The American, Robert Peary, after 15 expeditions north, finally claimed to have reached the Pole in April, 1909.

Amundsen, crushed by the news, nevertheless continued his preparations for an expedition. When he sailed, in June 1910, only his brother knew that the south pole was now his destination. On the 14th December, 1911, after an overland trek of 53 days, accompanied by four men, four sledges and 52 dogs, he reached the South Pole. With funds from this dramatic journey he returned to his first love, the Arctic, which he went on to explore by land, sea and air. In 1926 he became the first man to cross the north pole by dirigible.

Scott, meanwhile, reached the South Pole to find Amundsen’s debris. Along with the Norwegian flag, Amundsen had left a tent containing a note for Scott, wishing him a safe return and asking him to deliver a letter to King Haakon, and three reindeer bags containing nuts, socks and, ironically, British navigational instruments.

Scott and his party died, tragically, on their return journey. Amundsen was lost over the Arctic Seas on the 18th June, 1928, while taking part in an air-sea rescue attempt.

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