Roald Amundsen

Roald Amundsen was a Norwegian explorer that was known for his expeditions into polar regions. He is best known for his discovery of the South Pole, being the first recognized explorer to reach the North Pole, and being the first explorer to travel along the Northwest Passage. He was born to Jens Amundsen and Hanna Sahlqvist in July of 1872. His family owned and managed a number of ships, but his mother did not want him to join the family trade, encouraging him to become a doctor. Amundsen upheld his promise to become a doctor until the age of 21, when his mother died, after which he quit attending school and began his journeys on the seas.

Amundsen took his first voyage on the Belgica during the Belgian Antarctic Expedition, which lasted between 1897 and 1899. This expedition, led by Adrien de Gerlache, was the first taken to the Antarctic. The Belgica became trapped in the sea ice near Alexander Island. The crew was not prepared to spend the winter locked in ice, but an American doctor named Frederick Cook is thought to have been the reason why the crew survived. Cook most likely hunted wild animals in order to save the crew from scurvy, because fresh meat is known for providing vitamin C.

On his second voyage, which lasted between the years of 1903 and 1906, Amundsen led a team of six men to travel the Northwest Passage in Canada. He took a 45-ton fishing ship called the Gjøa, in hopes that using the smaller ship would allow the team to stay near the coast. The team spent two winters on King William Island, today known as Gjoa Haven in Nunavut, Canada, learning valuable survival skills from the Arctic Netsilik people, which would aid them in later expeditions. In 1906, Amundsen and his team reached Nome and returned to Oslo after three and a half years on the ocean.

Amundsen took his third voyage in 1910, planning to explore the North Pole and the Arctic Basin. Before his journey, he had learned that Americans Robert Peary and Frederick Cook had visited the North Pole, so he decided to travel to the South Pole instead. After reaching Antarctica, Amundsen attempted to reach the South Pole, but the attempt failed because members of his crew abandoned the mission. His second attempt to reach the South Pole in 1911 was successful and he traveled to Australia in 1912, where he announced success to the public and the investors that made his voyage possible.

Amundsen’s fourth journey, on which he planned to explore unknown regions of the Arctic Ocean, took him through the Northeast Passage. Amundsen and his team encountered several obstacles during the first part of the voyage, including the cook who suffered a stroke and a polar bear attack that injured Amundsen. Although the ship the crew used on this voyage, called the Maud, was meant to become trapped in the ice, the crew spent two winters locked in ice with no success in reaching the North Pole or exploring unknown areas. Eventually, after years of no results and two failed missions, the Maud’s investors took the ship away from Amundsen. His attempts to fly to the North Pole also failed between the years of 1918 and 1925. Amundsen and a few others are disputably the first explorers to reach the North Pole, however, on an airship called the Norge in 1926.

On June 18, 1928, Roald Amundsen and five crewmembers disappeared during a rescue mission in the Arctic. It is thought that the crew crashed into the Barents Sea and died instantly or shortly after the accident. A search team was sent to find the plane wreckage and the bodies of the crew in 1928, but this proved unsuccessful. In 2004 and 2009, the Royal Norwegian Navy surveyed an area of the sea where the plane could have crashed, using the unmanned submarine Hugin 1000, but nothing was found in either survey.

Image Caption: Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen. Credit: Wikipedia