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Roald Amundsen

(1872—1928) Norwegian explorer


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(1872–1928)

Norwegian explorer who, in 1911, led the first expedition to reach the South Pole. On a previous Arctic expedition he had located the site of the magnetic north pole and was the first to navigate the Northwest Passage.

Amundsen's ambition was to be an explorer. He gave up his studies at medical school and, after military service and work on merchant ships, was accepted in 1897 as first mate on the Belgica as part of the Belgian Antarctic Expedition. In 1900 Amundsen purchased the 47-ton sloop Gjoa, and in June 1903 set sail for the Northwest Passage. His expedition reached the magnetic north pole by sledge over the ice but it was not until August 1905 that the Gjoa broke through the ice to reach the Beaufort Sea and the Pacific.

In 1909 Amundsen was preparing an expedition to the North Pole when news broke that Robert Peary(1856–1920) had already reached it. Amundsen nevertheless set sail on 7 June 1910 in his ship Fram, but turned southwards to Antarctica. The expedition landed at the Bay of Whales on 3 January 1911 in the Antarctic summer. After establishing forward supply bases, Amundsen and four companions set out for the Pole on 20 October 1911 with four sledges and fifty-two dogs. They reached the area on 14 December and two days later established the exact position of the South Pole. They had beaten Robert F. Scott and his team who were heading for the same objective. Leaving the Norwegian flag and a note for Scott, Amundsen's group returned safely to base. Amundsen received many awards and honours for his achievement, including the gold medal of the National Geographical Society. He wrote a book describing his exploit, The South Pole (1913).

During World War I Amundsen built up a successful shipping business and in 1925 was able to finance an attempt to fly over the North Pole. He was forced down but, the following May, succeeded in the airship Norge piloted by the Italian, Umberto Nobile. In 1928, Amundsen was killed in a plane crash while searching for Nobile, who had been forced down while flying in the Polar region.

Subjects: Maritime History.


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