November 10, 2008

Tuesday, 10 November 1908


At a gala at the Geographical Society in Christiania, Amundsen presented his plans for his expedition to the Arctic. "Many people," he said, believe that a Polar Expedition is merely an unnecessary waste of money and life. With the concept of Polar Exploration they generally associate the thought of a record; to reach the Pole or Furthest North. And in that case, I must declare myself in agreement. But I want to make it absolutely clear that this -- the assault on the Pole, will not be the aim of the expedition. The main object is a scientific study of the Polar Sea itself."

"With Fram fitted out for 7 years," he went on, "and with a good crew, I propose to leave Norway at the beginning of 1910. My course will run round Cape Horn to San Francisco, where we will coal and provision. Thence, our course will be set for Point Barrow, America's Northernmost promontory. The last news will be sent home from there, before the voyage itself starts. On departing from Point Barrow, it is my intention to continue with the smallest possible crew. A course will be set in a North-North-West direction, where we will seek the most favourable point from which to force a way further to the North. When that has been found, we will try and get on as far as possible, and prepare for a drift of 4 to 5 years over the Polar Sea .... [From] the moment the vessel has been frozen into the ice, the observations begin with which I hope to solve some of the hitherto unsolvable mysteries." [1]

Nansen said that what drove men to explore the Polar regions was "the power of the unknown over the human spirit. As ideas have cleared with the ages, so has this power extended its might, and driven Man willy-nilly onwards along the path of progress."

"It drives us into Nature's hidden powers and secrets, down to the immeasurably little world of the microscopic, and out into the unprobed expanses of the Universe.... [It] gives us no peace until we know this planet on which we live, from the greatest depth of the ocean to the highest layers of the atmosphere. This Power runs like a strand through the whole history of polar exploration. In spite of all declarations of possible profit in one way or another, it was that which, in our hearts, has always driven us back there again, despite all setbacks and suffering." [2]

The next day, King Haakon and Queen Maud opened the subscription list with 20,000 kroner.


[1] Aftenposten, 11 November, 1908, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.206-207.
[2] Aftenposten, 11 November, 1908, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.207.

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