November 30, 2009

November 1909


Peary announced in November that an American expedition to the South Pole would be mounted within the next five years.


"View from the North Pole. A base map from 1910 looking down on the earth from the North Pole, to show how the meridians come to a point at the North Pole. Notice that if the 0 meridian were continued, it would unite with the meridian 180. The longitude circles of the Arctic Circle and Tropic of Cancer are shown, with the equator forming the circular outside edge of the map." [1]

At some point after attending a lecture at the Royal Geographical Society in London given in November 1909 by A.R. Hinks, lecturer on Surveying and Cartography at Cambridge, Amundsen decided that he would adopt Hinks' theory on the subject of determining position near the Poles.

Hinks reasoned that since, as one approaches the geographical pole the meridians of longitude converge and its degrees become ever smaller, this measure eventually becomes meaningless, and that the extra effort in obtaining a measurement of longitude can be saved, focusing instead on latitude alone. [2]


[1] Maps etc.
[2] Wapedia: Polheim. For introductions on latitude and longitude, see for example and the Creative Science Centre's "Finding Our Position on the Earth", as well as the Wikipedia article on navigation.

November 1909


"The South Polar Expedition: Capt. Scott and his exploration ship 'Terra Nova'" [1]

Scott had spent the past few months trying to stump up money, with tedious result. "£40 to-day," he wrote, "nothing from Wales -- made an agreement with Bowring to pay only £5,000 on the eighth, don't know how I shall manage even that." [2]

This £5,000 was the first of a £12,500 payment for a ship. As the Discovery, which had been sold upon return from the Antarctic, was not available, nor either Morning or Nimrod, this was to be the Terra Nova.


[1] George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress.
[2] R.F. Scott, [source not given], quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.359.

October 5, 2009

Tuesday, 5 October 1909


Greenland dogs, Upernavik, photographed in June 2007 by Kim Hansen. [1]

Amundsen, anxious that Scott would also want to get dogs from Greenland, wrote to Daugaard-Jensen, "If you receive other orders for dogs I hope you will remember that I was first." [2]


[1] Wikimedia Commons.
[2] Roald Amundsen, letter to Jens Daugaard-Jensen, 5 October 1909, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.222.

September 14, 2009

Tuesday, 14 September 1909


Amundsen in his study at Uranienborg, ca. 1910. Photograph by Anders Beer Wilse. [1]

Amundsen postponed the departure of his expedition until 1st July, 1910. The general strike in Sweden, he told the newspapers, would delay the delivery of the diesel motor for the Fram.

Peary announced the next day his intention of claiming the South Pole, and the German Wilhelm Filchner had already declared his expedition for the South, which would depart in May of 1911.


[1] Roald Amundsen Bildearkiv, Nasjonalbiblioteket.

September 13, 2009

Monday, 13 September 1909


The Times announced that "Captain Scott informs us that another expedition ought to be arranged for at once .... [It] will, it is hoped, start in August next." [1]

"The main object of this Expedition," Scott wrote in his public appeal for funds, "is to reach the South Pole, and to secure for The British Empire the honour of this achievement." [2]

The announcement came as something of a surprise to the public, and even to the RGS.

In a letter to Leonard Darwin, Scott wrote, "At this juncture in the history of Polar Exploration, I think it absolutely necessary to continue those efforts which have given this country the foremost place in Antarctic research.... I believe that the main object, that of reaching the South Pole, will appeal to all our countrymen as the one rightly to be pursued at this moment, but the plan which I present provides also for the scientific exploration of a considerable extent of the Antarctic continent and will therefore I hope commend itself to the Royal Geographical Society." [3]

Kathleen Scott had gone into labour as the news appeared, and gave birth to a son the next day. He would be christened Peter Markham Scott.


Perhaps Amundsen did not have access to the Times, or he like much of the British public at least later remembered only Scott's emphasis on science, for in The South Pole he wrote, "Scott's plan and equipment were so widely different from my own that I regarded the telegram that I sent him later, with the information that we were bound for the Antarctic regions, rather as a mark of courtesy than as a communication which might cause him to alter his programme in the slightest degree. The British expedition was designed entirely for scientific research. The Pole was only a side-issue, whereas in my extended plan it was the main object." [4]


[1] The Times, 13 September 1909, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.221.
[2] The Times, 13 September, 1909, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.356.
[3] R.F. Scott, letter to Leonard Darwin, 13 September, 1909, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.357.
[4] Roald Amundsen, The South Pole, v.1.

September 11, 2009

Saturday, 11 September 1909


The North Pole, a photo taken in 2006 by the NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. [1]

The New York Times printed a cable from Peary in Labrador, saying that Cook had "not been at the pole on April 21st, 1908, or at any other time. He has simply handed the public a gold brick." [2]

Controversy still remains today over which, if indeed either, Cook or Peary had been first.

Amundsen was again interviewed by the press, who asked if he believed in Cook. "'Unreservedly,' he replied. 'How can you explain this affair with Peary?' 'Well,' answered Amundsen, 'Peary has got it into his head that he is entitled to a monopoly of everything up there in the North.'" [3]

The next day, Amundsen cabled Daugaard-Jensen to double his order of Greenland dogs, from fifty to a hundred.


[1] Wikipedia.
[2] "Peary Denounces Cook", New York Times, 11 September 1909.
[3] Aftenposten (Christiania) afternoon edition, 11 September 1909, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.220.

September 9, 2009

Thursday, 9 September 1909


Amundsen wrote to Jens Daugaard-Jensen, the Inspector (chief administrative officer) for North Greenland, thanking him for his "kind willingness to obtain sledge dogs, Eskimo equipment etc., from the Danish colonies in Greenland. I now take the liberty of specifying in greater detail what I require: 50 dogs. 14 complete Eskimo suits of sealskin. 20 prepared sealskins to repair the suits.... 20 dog whips.... sealskin straps.... As far as the dogs are concerned, it is absolutely essential that I obtain the very best it is conceivable to obtain. Naturally I am fully aware that as a result the price must be higher than that normally paid, but I am willing to adapt myself accordingly." [1]

His original intention had been to get the dogs in Alaska, on his way to the Bering Strait, but now with the added "diversion", it would be necessary to have them before the Fram went south.


[1] Roald Amundsen, letter to Jens Daugaard-Jensen, 9 September 1909, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.218.

September 8, 2009

Wednesday, 8 September 1909


Amidst the speculation over Cook and Peary, Amundsen told reporters, somewhat disingenuously, "It would be useless to make speculations as to the points arrived at by the two explorers. It is not important if the exact mathematical pole was reached or not, but it is important that the geographical conditions of the spot were observed. Probably something will be left to be done. What is left will be sufficient for all of us." [1]

He was on his way to Copenhagen to see Cook, who was being fêted as "the conqueror of the North Pole". He had left a note for Leon, "Write to Thv. Nilsen ... and tell him the exp. is postponed and will get under way in a few months.... Give the same reason to all the others. Possible departure July 1910." [2]

Some years later, Cook wrote of their visit, "Amundsen told me ... that he was about ready to take the Fram ... for another try at the Pole. He asked me about the currents, the weather, and what I thought of the prospects. I advised against the execution of the enterprise because at best I believed he could only duplicate the voyage of Nansen and Sverdrup. Furthermore, I said the North Pole is now out of the picture. Why not try for the South Pole.... [The idea] almost took Amundsen's breath."

Whether or not Cook was in fact the first to suggest the South Pole to Amundsen is not known, or if Amundsen's surprise was due to Cook inadvertently lighting on his change of plan.

"He sat in meditation for a while as was his custom when new ideas were suddenly flashed. Then said Amundsen, 'The Fram is not a good sea boat for the heavy South Seas. But this is the thing to do. Let me think it over.'" [3]

Amundsen himself wrote afterwards, "Just as rapidly as the message had travelled over the cables I decided on my change of front -- to turn to the right-about, and face to the South." [4]


[1] New York Times, 8 September 1909, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.216.
[2] Roald Amundsen, note to Leon Amundsen, [ca. 7 September, 1909], quoted by Tor Bomann-Larsen in Roald Amundsen (Stroud, Gloucestershire : Sutton, c2006, c1995), p.75.
[3] F.A. Cook, unpublished memoirs, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.216.
[4] Roald Amundsen, The South Pole, ch.2.

September 7, 2009

Tuesday, 7 September 1909


Robert Peary aboard the Roosevelt, ca.1909 [1]

The newspapers continued to astonish: "Peary: Has he also planted the Stars and Stripes on the North Pole?" [2]

Robert Peary claimed to have reached the Pole on 6th April, 1909, a year after Cook, who cabled cheerfully to the New York Herald, "Two records are better than one." [3]

Peary, an American Navy engineer who had in the course of his career as an Arctic explorer pioneered the use of Inuit survival techniques such as igloo-building and fur clothing, had departed New York on 6th July 1908 to winter on Ellesmere Island in northern Canada, and set off for the Pole in late February of 1909. His announcement that he, with Matthew Henson and four Inuit companions, had reached the Pole, was somewhat anticlimactic in light of Cook's own announcement.


[1] Library of Congress.
[2] Aftenposten (Christiania), 7 September 1909, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.215.
[3] New York Herald, 7 September 1909, quoted by Bruce Henderson in True North : Peary, Cook, and the Race to the Pole (New York : Norton, c2005), p.243.

September 3, 2009

Friday, 3 September 1909


Amundsen in a studio portrait by Anders Beer Wiltse, 1909. [1]

When interviewed in Christiania about his old friend's stunning announcement, Amundsen said, "'Dr. Cook was my partner on the Belgica expedition as physician ... and all on board appreciated highly his experience and his ability. His was an uncommonly stanch [sic], persevering, and energetic personality, and I admire him.'"

"'The possible results from Dr. Cook's achievement will have no influence on my projected expedition. I am not planning to reach the point of the pole. My trip will be for oceanographic exploration.'"

"Capt. Amundsen characterized Cook's dash to the pole as 'the most brilliant sledge trip in the history of polar exploration'." [2]

London newspapers, the New York Times reported, "are not wholly convinced by the narrative, and persist that it will be necessary to await more details and reports. They are unable to conceive how a task which has beaten the ablest polar explorers provided with everything that money could purchase could have been achieved in such a seemingly off-hand and unpremeditated manner and with such ease and quickness." [3]


[1] Galleri NOR, Norsk Folkemuseum, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[2] "Former Companion Lauds Cook", New York Times, 3 September 1909.
[3] "London Papers Praise Cook", New York Times, 3 September 1909.

September 1, 2009

Wednesday, 1 September 1909


Frederick Cook [1]

Norwegian newspapers announced THE NORTH POLE REACHED. "Dr. Cook reached the North Pole on the 21st April 1908, arrived in May 1909 from Cape York at Upernavik [Greenland]." [2]


[1] Wikipedia.
[2] Aftenposten (Christiania) afternoon edition, 1 September 1909, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.215.

July 9, 2009

Friday, 9 July 1909


On the advice of Sir Clements Markham, Lt. Teddy Evans, who had got tired of waiting for Scott and begun to organize an expedition of his own, met with Scott to discuss Evans's plans. As Sir Clements had probably intended, the two men decided to join forces, and Scott made Evans his second-in-command.

June 30, 2009

Summer 1909


Adolf Lindstrøm [1]

Helmer Hanssen [2]

Oscar Wisting. [3]

Kristian Prestrud
[4]. All of these photographs are part of the series of the Fram's crew taken by Anders Beer Wilse shortly before departure in 1910.

Adolf Lindstrøm and Helmer Hanssen, both of whom had been with Amundsen on the Gjøa, signed on for the Arctic drift, Lindstrøm as cook and Helmer Hanssen as dog driver. Hanssen, with his mate's certificate, could also navigate.

Oscar Wisting, a naval gunner, was working on the Fram at Horten when Amundsen came up to him and said, "as he patted me amiably on the shoulder," Wisting later wrote, "'You can come North with me.' To put it mildly, I was surprised." [5] Like Helmer Hanssen, Wisting had his mate's certificate, and he also had considerable experience whaling around Iceland and in handling small ships; Kristian Prestrud, already signed on as one of Amundsen's officers, had recommended Wisting to Amundsen for the expedition.


[1] GalleriNOR, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[2] GalleriNOR, Nasjonalbiblioteket. Helmer Hanssen spelled his name with a double "s" only later in his life. To avoid confusion with Godfred Hansen, he is here referred to by his full name.
[3] GalleriNOR, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[4] GalleriNOR, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[4] Oscar Wisting, 16 År med Roald Amundsen (Gyldendal, 1930), p.10, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.260.

June 19, 2009

Saturday, 19 June 1909


Scott presided at a dinner for Shackleton at the Savage Club in London, saying in his after-dinner speech that the South Pole must be discovered by an Englishman, and that he himself was prepared "to go forth in search of that object.... All I have to do now is to thank Mr Shackleton for so nobly showing the way." [1]

This was virtually a declaration of intent to organize another expedition, but opinion remained somewhat lukewarm. Shackleton was interested in going South again.

Admiral Sir Lewis Beaumont, vice-president of the RGS, felt that Scott was trying to compete with Shackleton, and wrote to Leonard Darwin, "Let him lead another Antarctic expedition if he will ... but let it be a scientific expedition... He is looking at the thing now from too close." Beaumont saw Scott's eagerness as mere Pole-hunting, and disapproved. "All this is to incline you to put Scott off from making ... a mistake -- that is, competing with Shackleton in organising an expedition to go over the old route merely to do that 97 miles ...." [2]


[1] The Observer, 20 June 1909, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.247.
[2] Admiral Sir Lewis Beaumont, letter to Leonard Darwin, 19 June 1909, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.248.

May 1, 2009

May 1909


Stubberud in July 1910, just before the Fram sailed. Photograph by Anders Beer Wiltse. [1]

Amundsen had hired a young local carpenter, Jørgen Stubberud, to work on his house at Svartskog, and was impressed enough to ask Stubberud to build the expedition hut, capable of being built ahead of time and reassembled on site. "Roald said only, 'It should be winter quarters, five metres long, four metres wide, and five metres high. Figure out the rest yourself!'"

"So then I went to Skedsmo and got the right materials, three-inch plank. There should be four panels, two outside and two inside, with cardboard in-between. I finished 'Framheim'. Roald said he was pleased, and so I packed the whole thing up. Afterwards I asked respectfully, "Captain, is there also an opportunity for me to go with the expedition?' 'Yes,' answered Roald, 'as long as your wife agrees.' And she did right away. The same day I sat in Roald's dining room and signed a contract for seven years." [2]


[1] Norsk Folkemuseum, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[2] Jørgen Stubberud, quoted in "Sydpol-Stubberud: den Siste Gjenlevende av Roald Amundsens Atten Menn", Dagbladet, April 1978, reprinted at A clip from 1961 of Stubberud recalling this is available at NRK Skole.

March 24, 2009

Wednesday, 24 March 1909


Marshall, Wild, and Shackleton at 88°23'S, 9th January 1909. Adams took the photograph. [1]

The same day that he took up his new Admiralty appointment as Naval assistant to Admiral Sir Francis Bridgeman, Second Sea Lord, Scott heard the news of Shackleton's arrival in New Zealand.

Shackleton had got within 97 miles of the Pole before weather, short rations, and dysentery forced the four-man Polar party to turn back.

Doubts were soon cast on Shackleton's latitudes, which had been calculated by dead reckoning, the estimation of present position based on route, speed, and elapsed time since the previous observation (as opposed to the more accurate celestial navigation, determining current position by its relation to sun, stars, etc.), but on the whole Shackleton was received with acclamation and official recognition.

"The private feeling incurred by past incidents cannot affect my judgment of his work," Scott wrote to Leonard Darwin, now president of the RGS. "That excited my interest and admiration to an extent that can scarcely be felt by those who have no experience of Polar difficulties." [2]

He wrote rather differently to Skelton. "Shackleton's exploit is very fine, but of course I cannot but share your mixed feelings -- However, outwardly, there is only one attitude for me and I shall have to do & say things that go a little against the grain -- What a difference it would make if one could be genuinely enthusiastic! -- but there's such a lot that tastes bad!" [3]


Upon hearing Shackleton's news, Amundsen wrote to the RGS, "I must ... congratulate you ... upon this wonderful achievement.... The English nation has by the deed of Shackleton won a victory in the Antarctic exploration [sic] which never can be surpassed. What Nansen is in the North Shackleton is in the South." [4]

"More than any of their predecessors," he later wrote of Shackleton and his men, "[they] had succeeded in raising the veil that lay over 'Antarctica.' But a little corner remained." [5]


[1] Wikipedia.
[2] R.F. Scott, letter to Leonard Darwin, 23 March, 1909, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.355.
[3] R.F. Scott, letter to Reginald Skelton, undated, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.355.
[4] Roald Amundsen, letter to Scott Keltie, 25 March, 1909, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.244-245.
[5] Roald Amundsen, The South Pole, ch.1.

March 1, 2009

March 1909


As Scott was unable to get leave from the Admiralty, Skelton ran the motor sledge trials. Scott had chosen Lillehammer in eastern Norway, as it was easily accessible.

It was about this time that, realising the motor sledges would not be as useful as he had hoped, Scott decided to take ponies as well.

February 6, 2009

Saturday, 6 February 1909


The Fram in front of Akershus castle in 1908. Photo: Anders Beer Wilse. [1]

The Storting, by a vote of 87 to 34, agreed to let Amundsen have the Fram and the 75,000 kroner to refit her.

A few days later, Amundsen wrote to Keltie, "I have not yet got all the money I want, but I must go on nevertheless." [2]


[1] GalleriNOR, Norske Folkemuseum, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[2] Roald Amundsen, letter to Scott Keltie, 13 February, 1909, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.203.

January 31, 2009

January 1909


Olav Bjaaland, photographed in 1910 just before the Fram's departure for the south, by Anders Beer Wilse. [1]

At the end of January, on his way to lecture at the RGS on his coming Arctic expedition, Amundsen changed trains at Lübeck in northern Germany, and happened to meet in the station restaurant a Norwegian ski team going to Chamonix.

"Do you know," one of them said as they chatted, "it would be fun to be with you at the North Pole." "Indeed!" Amundsen replied. "Well, if you really mean it, I think it could be arranged. Just look me up in Christiania when you get home from Chamonix. But -- think it over carefully. It won't only be fun." [2]

This was was not as casual as might appear, for the man was Olav Bjaaland, from Morgedal in Telemark, one of the best skiers in Norway, who had won the Nordic combined ski-jump and cross-country competition at Holmenkollen a few years earlier. Now thirty-five, he was a farmer and a skilled carpenter, and could make both violins and skis; he was travelling abroad for the very first time, and saw Amundsen's expedition as a chance for a bit of adventure. He did look up Amundsen on his return, and by February he had joined the expedition.


[1] GalleriNOR, Nasjonalbiblioteket.
[2] Olav Bjaaland, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.214.