February 4, 2007
Born 16 July 1872, Roald Amundsen came from a family of shipowners and captains in southeastern Norway. His mother pressured him to become a doctor, but upon her death when he was 21, Amundsen left university for a life at sea. Inspired since boyhood by the crossing of Greenland by Nansen in 1888 and by the doomed Franklin expedition, Amundsen decided to become an explorer.
By 1907, Amundsen had accompanied the Belgian Antarctic Expedition, the first to winter in the Antarctic, and led his own expedition, the first to navigate the Northwest Passage and reach the North Magnetic Pole. He had learned much, and now set his sights on the North Pole itself.
The French ambassador to Norway, Louis Delavaud, wrote in 1912 of Amundsen at this time, "[This] man, whose energy and modesty I had often the occasion to admire, had never given me such an impression of power .... [That] he had an authority and charm, nobody denies, who has approached him.... Without chasing people, he does not flee them. [He possesses] simplicity ... and a charm of conversation enlivened by sharp remarks, but without malice. Far from seizing the occasion to shine, as he could easily do, he listens more than he speaks, quite happily keeping in the background, smiling a little vaguely, and always he avoids speaking of himself." 
Hugh Robert Mill, geographer and meteorologist, and librarian of the Royal Geographical Society, found Amundsen "of a reserved and very sensitive nature. Although brave, daring and self-reliant above most men, he shrank from criticism, and withered under any suspicion of ridicule. He was, I think, the most successful and the most unhappy of all the Polar explorers whom I have met." 
 Louis Delavaud, L'Explorateur Roald Amundsen, pp.3-17, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.198.
 Hugh Robert Mill, An Autobiography, p.149, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.198.