ROALD AMUNDSEN Biography - Pioneers, Explorers & inventors


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Name: Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen                                                         
Born: 16 July 1872 Borge, Østfold, Sweden-Norway                                               
Died: 18 June 1928 Bjørnøya, Svalbard, Norway                                                 
Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen (July 16, 1872 - c. June 18, 1928) was a                     
Norwegian explorer of polar regions. He led the first Antarctic expedition to                   
the South Pole between 1910 and 1912. He was also the first person to reach both                 
the North and South Poles. He is known as the first to traverse the Northwest                   
Passage. He disappeared in June 1928 while taking part in a rescue mission. With                 
Douglas Mawson, Robert Falcon Scott, and Ernest Shackleton, Amundsen was a key                   
expedition leader during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.                               
Amundsen was born to a family of Norwegian shipowners and captains in Borge,                     
between the towns Fredrikstad and Sarpsborg. His father was Jens Amundsen. The                   
fourth son in the family, his mother chose to keep him out of the maritime                       
industry of the family and pressured him to become a doctor, a promise that                     
Amundsen kept until his mother died when he was aged 21, quitting university for                 
a life at sea. Amundsen had hidden a lifelong desire inspired by Fridtjof                       
Nansen's crossing of Greenland in 1888 and the doomed Franklin Expedition. As a                 
result, he decided on a life of exploration.                                                     
He was a member of the Belgian Antarctic Expedition (1897-1899) as second mate.                 
This expedition was led by Adrien de Gerlache, using the ship the Belgica,                       
became the first expedition to winter in Antarctica. The Belgica, whether by                     
mistake or design, became locked in the sea ice at 70°30'S off Alexander Land,                 
west of the Antarctic Peninsula. The crew then endured a winter for which the                   
expedition was poorly prepared. By Amundsen's own estimation, the doctor for the                 
expedition, American Frederick Cook, probably saved the crew from scurvy by                     
hunting for animals and feeding the crew fresh meat, an important lesson for                     
Amundsen's future expeditions.                                                                   
In 1903, Amundsen led the first expedition to successfully traverse the                         
Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans (something explorers                   
had been attempting since the days of Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, Jacques                 
Cartier, and Henry Hudson), with six others in a 47 ton steel seal hunting                       
vessel, Gjøa. Amundsen had the ship outfitted with a small, gas engine. They                   
travelled via Baffin Bay, Lancaster and Peel Sounds, and James Ross and Rae                     
Straits and spend two winters near King William Island in what is today Gjoa                     
Haven, Nunavut, Canada.                                                                         
During this time Amundsen learned from the local Netsilik people about Arctic                   
survival skills that would later prove useful. For example, he learned to use                   
sled dogs and to wear animal skins en lieu of heavy, woollen parkas. After a                     
third winter trapped in the ice, Amundsen was able to navigate a passage into                   
the Beaufort Sea after which he cleared into the Bering Strait, thus having                     
successfully navigated the Northwest Passage. Continuing to the south of                         
Victoria Island, the ship cleared the Canadian Arctic Archipelago on August 17,                 
1905, but had to stop for the winter before going on to Nome on the Alaska                       
Territory's Pacific coast. Five hundred miles (800 km) away, Eagle City, Alaska,                 
had a telegraph station; Amundsen travelled there (and back) overland to wire a                 
success message (collect) on December 5, 1905. Nome was reached in 1906. Due to                 
water as shallow as 3 feet (1 m), a larger ship could never have used the route.                 
It was at this time that Amundsen received news that Norway formally became                     
independent of Sweden and had a new king. Amundsen sent the new King Haakon VII                 
news that it "was a great achievement for Norway." He hoped to do more he said                   
and signed it "Your loyal subject, Roald Amundsen."                                             
After crossing the Northwest Passage, Amundsen made plans to go to the North                     
Pole and explore the North Polar Basin. Amundsen had difficulty raising funds                   
for the departure and upon hearing in 1909 that first Frederick Cook and then                   
Robert Peary claimed the Pole, he decided to reroute to Antarctica. However,                     
he did not make these plans known and misled both Scott and the Norwegians.                     
Using the ship Fram ("Forward"), earlier used by Fridtjof Nansen, he left Norway                 
for the south, leaving Oslo on June 3, 1910. At sea, Amundsen alerted his                       
men that they would be heading to Antarctica in addition to sending a telegram                   
to Scott notifying him simply: "BEG TO INFORM YOU FRAM PROCEEDING ANTARCTIC--AMUNDSEN."         
The expedition arrived at the eastern edge of Ross Ice Shelf at a large inlet                   
called the Bay of Whales on January 14, 1911 where Amundsen located his base                     
camp and named it Framheim. Further, Admundsen eschewed the heavy wool clothing                 
worn on earlier Antarctic attempts in favour of Eskimo-style skins.                             
Using skis and dog sleds for transportation Amundsen and his men created supply                 
depots at 80°, 81° and 82° South, along a line directly south to the Pole.                   
Amundsen also planned to kill some of his dogs on the way and use them as a                     
source for fresh meat. After a premature attempt to set out on 8 September 1911                 
the Pole team consisting of Olav Bjaaland, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel, Oscar                 
Wisting and Amundsen himself departed on 19 October 1911. They took four sledges                 
and 52 dogs. Using a route along the previously unknown Axel Heiberg Glacier                     
they arrived at the edge of the Polar Plateau on November 21 after a four-day                   
climb. On 14 December 1911, the team of five, with 16 dogs, arrived at the Pole                 
(90°00'S). They arrived 35 days before Scott's group. Amundsen named their South               
Pole camp Polheim, "Home on the Pole". Amundsen renamed the Antarctic Plateau as                 
King Haakon VII's Plateau. They left a small tent and letter stating their                       
accomplishment, in case they did not return safely to Framheim. The team                         
returned to Framheim on January 25, 1912 with eleven dogs. Amundsen's success                   
was publicly announced on 7 March 1912, when he arrived at Hobart, Australia.                   
Amundsen's expedition benefited from careful preparation, good equipment,                       
appropriate clothing, a simple primary task (Amundsen did no surveying on his                   
route south and is known to have taken only two photographs), an understanding                   
of dogs and their handling, and the effective use of skis. In contrast to the                   
misfortunes of Scott's team, the Amundsen's trek proved rather smooth and                       
"I may say that this is the greatest factor -- the way in which the expedition                   
is equipped -- the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions                   
taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order                 
-- luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the                 
necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck."                                         
--from The South Pole, by Roald Amundsen.                                                       
Map of Amundsen's and Scott's South Pole journeys at The Fram Museum (Frammuseet)               
In 1918 Amundsen began an expedition with a new ship Maud, which was to last                     
until 1925. Maud sailed West to East through the Northeast Passage, now called                   
the Northern Route (1918-1920). Amundsen planned to freeze the Maud into the                     
polar ice cap and drift towards the North Pole (as Nansen had done with the Fram),               
but in this he was not successful. However, the scientific results of the                       
expedition, mainly the work of Harald Sverdrup, were of considerable value.                     
In 1925, accompanied by Lincoln Ellsworth, pilot Hjalmar Riiser-Larsen and three                 
other team members, Amundsen took two aircraft, the N-24 and N-25 to 87° 44'                   
north. It was the northernmost latitude reached by plane up to that time. The                   
planes landed a few miles apart without radio contact, yet the crews managed to                 
reunite. One of the aircraft, the N-24 was damaged. Amundsen and his crew worked                 
for over three weeks to clean up an airstrip to take off from ice. They                         
shovelled 600 tons of ice on 1 lb (400 g) of daily food rations. In the end six                 
crew members were packed into the N-25. In a remarkable feat, Riiser-Larsen took                 
off and barely became airborne over the cracking ice. They returned triumphant                   
when everyone thought they had been lost for ever.                                               
In 1926, Amundsen, Ellsworth, Riiser-Larsen, Wisting and Italian aeronautical                   
engineer Umberto Nobile made the first crossing of the Arctic in the airship                     
Norge designed by Nobile. They left Spitsbergen on May 11, 1926 and landed in                   
Alaska two days later. The three previous claims to have arrived at the North                   
Pole by Frederick Cook in 1908, Robert Peary in 1909, and Richard E. Byrd in                     
1926 (just a few days before the Norge) are all disputed, as being either of                     
dubious accuracy or outright fraud. Some of those disputing these earlier claims                 
therefore consider the crew of the Norge to be the first verified explorers to                   
have reached the North Pole. If the Norge expedition was actually the first to                   
the North Pole, Amundsen and Wisting would therefore be the first persons to                     
attain each geographical pole.                                                                   
Amundsen disappeared on June 18, 1928 while flying on a rescue mission with                     
Norwegian pilot Leif Dietrichson, French pilot Rene Guilbaud, and three more                     
Frenchmen, looking for missing members of Nobile's crew, whose new airship the                   
Italia had crashed while returning from the North Pole. Afterwards, a pontoon                   
from the French Latham 47 flying-boat he was in, improvised into a life raft,                   
was found near the Tromsø coast. It is believed that the plane crashed in fog in               
the Barents Sea, and that Amundsen was killed in the crash, or died shortly                     
afterwards. His body was never found. The search for Amundsen was called off in                 
September by the Norwegian Government. In 2003 it was suggested that the plane                   
went down northwest of Bjørnøya (Bear Island).