“Nineteen men, ninety-seven dogs, four pigs, six carrier pigeons, and one canary.”
From the New York Times
When Roald Amundsen’s ship, the Fram, left Norway on Aug. 9, 1910, it carried, in Amundsen’s words, “nineteen men, ninety-seven dogs, four pigs, six carrier pigeons, and one canary.” The ship was nearly 20 years old, and the expedition leader, Amundsen, was 38. He was already a formidable polar explorer, but this voyage to Antarctica and the South Pole made him one of the greatest explorers who ever lived. Related News
On Dec. 14, a century ago, Amundsen and the four members of his team reached the South Pole. “That day,” he wrote, “was a beautiful one,” and at 3 o’clock in the afternoon they planted the flag of Norway, each man with one hand on the flagpole. Like so many other days on that polar journey, that day was “like a pleasure trip,” as Amundsen later reported. The weather was good, but even better was the planning. The Norwegians were born skiers, excellent dog handlers and skilled navigators. They proceeded across the ice exactly as they had done across the ocean, fixing their location again and again by dead reckoning and with sextants. They also left innumerable cairns and markers to guide them on their return.
In his book, “The South Pole,” Amundsen makes none of this sound heroic. He admired the English for their “pluck and grit,” but what you feel in reading his account is joy and adventure. Even now, Amundsen is too little admired, mainly because his straightforward success was eclipsed by what a member of Robert Falcon Scott’s expedition called the “first-rate tragedy” of Scott’s polar push, which ended in the deaths of Scott and his four-man team.
On Dec. 14, Amundsen was at the pole, writing a letter to Scott wishing him a safe return. Scott was 34 days behind him, on a different route. Scott’s journal for that day reads, “We are just starting our march with no very hopeful outlook.”