December 16, 2011
100th Anniversary Of First South Pole Expedition
Explorers, scientists, and the prime minister of Norway were among those who gathered at the South Pole Wednesday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the date that Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first man to ever lead a successful expedition to the Antarctic site.
"We are here to celebrate one of the greatest feats in human history," Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said while unveiling an ice sculpture of Amundsen, according to Nils Myklebost of the Associated Press (AP).
"Our respect for Amundsen's feat 100 years ago grew as we traveled in his ski tracks, and felt the physical challenges he experienced," Jan-Gunnar Winther, director of the Norwegian Polar Institute, added during the event, which was televised on Norway's NRK television.
On December 14, 1911, Amundsen and four companions became the first people to reach the South Pole, beating out Amundsen's British rival Robert Falcon Scott.
The Norwegian and his team "plunged a bright flag atop a spindly pole into the Antarctic ice, marking their claim as the first humans to set foot at the bottom of the world," Andrea Mustain of OurAmazingPlanet wrote on Tuesday.
Scott and his party arrived about a month later, the National Science Foundation (NSF) said in a statement -- losing the race to the South Pole, and then losing their lives when they encountered a blizzard during the return trip to their base camp. He was also honored during the ceremony.
"Scott and his team paid the ultimate price," Stoltenberg said, according to BBC News reports. "But their names will forever be inscribed in polar history. They will always be remembered for their courage and determination in reaching one of the most inhospitable places on earth."
The NSF also revealed that they had revised and updated their website, "U.S. South Pole Station: Supporting Science," in order "to mark this centennial and the century of scientific exploration of Antarctica that began with these expeditions."
"The site“¦ has been updated to reflect the dedication in 2008 of the latest Amundsen-Scott South Pole station," the American science organization said in a December 14 press release. "This state-of-the-art science-support facility consists of two massive scientific experiments: the 10-meter South Pole Telescope--the largest radio telescope ever built in Antarctica--and the IceCube Neutrino Observatory--a device a kilometer on a side built into the ice sheet below the station."
According to Mustain, Antarctica is the location of as much as 70% of the Earth's fresh water and 90% of the planet's freshwater ice reserves. It is approximately 5.4 million square miles, or about one and one-half time the size of the United States, the OurAmazingPlanet reporter added.
Image Caption: Roald Amundsen and his crew looking at the Norwegian flag.
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