Sunday, 15 February 2009

Roald Amundsen

NAME Roald Amundsen (Full name Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen)

WHAT FAMOUS FOR Norwegian explorer

BIRTH b1872 Borge near Oslo .

FAMILY BACKGROUND Roald's father, Jens was a ship owner and many of his family were also ship owners and captains.

CHILDHOOD As a boy, Roald played football, exercised regularly and read about great Polar Explorers.

EDUCATION As a student, Roald briefly studied medicine but quit university at the age of 21 to devote himself to a life on the ocean waves.

CAREER RECORD Let us briefly explore Amundsen's CV:

1892 Amundsen went to sea abroad an Arctic sailing vessel.
1897-98 Part of a Belgian Antarctic expedition
1903-06 Amundsen sailed through the North West Passage, during a time when this was not a stroll in the park.
1911 Amundsen became the first man to reach the South Pole.
1926 Amundsen was part of the Italian General Nobile's team, which circles the North Pole in an airship.

FASHION Amundsen told the New York Times, that during his expedition to the South Pole, "washing was a luxury never indulged on the journey, nor was there any shaving; but as the beard had to be kept short to prevent ice accumulating from one’s breath, a beard cutting machine which we had taken proved invaluable."

FAME Amundsen's 1903-06 voyage made him a world famous explorer and one of the few famous Norwegians. Not many other Norwegians have cut any ice.

MONEY When Amundsen left for the North West Passage in 1903 he'd built up massive debts and was being pursued for them. However as a world famous Norwegian, things got better for Amundsen on the finances front and in his later years he made a cool few thousand out of his lectures and book about his epic journey to the South Pole.

FOOD AND DRINK In 1897 as a member of the Belgian Antarctic expedition, Amundsen found himself trapped along with the rest of the crew in the Antarctic ice for 13 months. The ship’s doctor Frederick Cook fed the crew seal meat to prevent scurvy.
In 1911 at the Polar Plateau, en route to the South Pole, Amundsen ordered the shooting of the 24 weakest dogs to provide a source of fresh meat, to prevent scurvy. He had evidently learnt a few tricks from Dr Cook. Apart from dog meat Amundsen and his men survived entirely on dried meat biscuits and chocolate powdered milk.

LITERATURE In 1913 Amundsen recounted his epic trek in a book imaginatively titled The South Pole: An Account of the Norwegian Antarctic Expedition in the "Fram", 1910–1912.

TRAVEL Many are cold but few are frozen- Amundsen, you will have surmised, made a number of groundbreaking journeys to the very north and the exceedingly south. Here's a bit more detail about his most important trips.
1897-98 Amundsen joined the crew of the Belgica as a member of the Belgian Antarctic expedition. They got themselves trapped in the Antarctica ice and thus inadvertently, they became the first people to winter in Antarctica.

1903-06 Amundsen led the first expedition to successfully traverse the North West Passage. He set off in 1903 on a small sloop, the Gjoa with a crew of 7, and after three winters trapped in ice they finally reached the Pacific in their fishing smack. Amundsen and his freezing men spent two of those winters calculating the exact position of the North Magnetic Pole- well they had to occupy themselves somehow, the night life was virtually non existent those days in North Canada.
I know I keep going on about this North West Passage trip. Just in case you're not sure where on earth this is, well its the Atlantic-Pacific sea route round the north of Canada. Should you choose to go on this journey yourself, thermals are recommended.

1910 A trip to the South Pole doesn't cut much ice these days. But in 1910 it was a big thing. Antarctica meant (and still does) braving temperatures of minus 50c and icy winds of often over 100MPH, the sky blue with cold. Remember that the next time you complain about waiting for the bus in the rain. Amundsen actually announced that he was heading for the North Pole and left in August 1910. No one apart from Amundsen's brother knew that he intended to turn south and beat the Englishman Robert Scott, to become to first man to reach the South Pole. (He'd changed his mind when he heard that Robert Peary had reached North Pole in 1909). After a five month journey his three-masted schooner,The Fram, reached the Ross Ice Barrier. Amundsen set off from the winter quarters on October 20, 1911 on a final thrust to the Pole with four men and four sledges and 42 dogs. The 24 weakest dogs were shot and one sledge abandoned and on December 14, 1911 they arrived at the South Pole and planted the Norwegian flag beating Scott by 35 days. Amundsen, it is thought beat Scott due to his use of canine sledges compared with Scott's man-hauled and initially pony-hauled ones. In Norway the newsreel commentator loved it: "Robert Scott! Lord Nelson! Sir Francis Drake! Sir Walter Raleigh! James Cook! - can you hear me, Herbert Asquith! Your boys took one hell of a beating! Your boys took one hell of a beating!'"
1918-20 Amundsen got himself a new ship, in which he became only the second person to navigate the North East Passage, reaching Nome, Alaska in July 1920.
1926 Amundsen along with 15 other men, including the Italian aeronautical engineer General Umberto Nubile crossed in the airship Norge from Spitsbergen to Alaska, by flying over the North Pole. This flight of over 70 hours, meant they became the first people to cross from Europe to North America over the Arctic.

DEATH Amundsen died in 1928 when searching by seaplane for General Nobile and his wrecked airship, which was lost in the Arctic Ocean. Whilst Nobile was found and rescued, Amundsen's seaplane disappeared, presumably crashed in fog. Some remains of his plane were found near Tromso two months later.

APPEARANCES IN MEDIA Sean Connery played Amundsen in the 1971 Soviet/Italian film The Red Tent about Nobile's disappearance and rescue.

ACHIEVEMENTS 1. Lots of polar records, first person to navigate North West Passage, first to reach the South Pole first to fly over the North Pole etc etc...
2. Twenty one days before his death, Amundsen was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal.
3. Probably the most famous Norwegian ever.

Sources Mainly Encarta and

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