August 22, 2010

Monday, 22 August 1910


The Terra Nova set out from South Africa for Melbourne.

Scott had decided to join the ship in Cape Town, instead of waiting until New Zealand. Oates noted in a letter home, "this is not a very popular move but in a way I think it is a good thing as [Scott] gets to know the people better and we get to know him." [1]

From the Caroline Islands in the western Pacific, Meares wrote, "I have arrived here so far safely with my menagerie, and they are all flourishing for the present. Captain Scott's brother-in-law came out to help me, he is chief officer on a P&O steamer. Quite 'one of the boys' but too 'kid glovey' for this job, he stands on the upper deck & looks on instead of taking off his coat when there is a hard job of work." [2]


Amundsen shortly before departure, on the deck of the Fram. Photo by Anders Beer Wiltse. [3]

Shutting himself up in his cabin, Amundsen wrote the following letter:

"Herr Professor Fridtjof Nansen,

"It is not with a light heart that I send you these lines, but there is no way round, and therefore I might as well go straight to the point.

"When the news from Cook and later from Peary about their journeys to the North Pole arrived in the autumn of last year, I understood immediately that that was the death blow to my enterprise. I understood immediately that after this I could not count on the financial support I needed ....

"To give up my enterprise did not for one moment occur to me. The question for me became what I had to do in order to raise the necessary means. To acquire these without something special was out of the question. Something had to be done to rouse the interest of the public. In that way alone would it be possible to realize my plan. Only one problem remained in the polar regions that could be depended on to awaken the interest of the masses; the attainment of the South Pole. If I could carry that out, I knew that the means would be secured for the expedition I had originally planned.

"Yes, it is hard for me, Herr Professor, to tell you, but in September 1909, my decision to take part in the contest for the solution of this question was taken. Many a time I have been on the way to confide the whole matter in you, but always have turned back for fear that you would stop me. I have often wished that Scott could have learned of my decision, so that it would not seem as if I wanted to sneak down there without his knowledge in order to forestall him: but I have not dared to make any kind of announcement, for fear of being stopped. I shall in the meanwhile do everything possible to meet him down there and tell him my decision, and then he can act accordingly.

"So, since September last year, my mind has been made up, and I believe I may say we are well prepared. But at the same time I must point out that, had I succeeded in obtaining the funds still needed for the expedition I originally intended -- about 150,000 kroner -- I would have left out this extra excursion with pleasure; but there was no question of that.

"From Madeira we set our course Southwards for South Victoria Land. With 9 men it is my intention to be landed there, and then let Fram go out on an oceanographic cruise.... Where we will go ashore down there, I have not yet decided, but it is my intention not to dog the Englishmen's footsteps. They have naturally the first right. We must make do with what they discard.

"In February-March 1912, Fram will again come down to fetch us. We will then first go to Lyttelton in New Zealand to cable, and from there to San Francisco to continue my interrupted work with, as I hope, the equipment necessary for a voyage of this nature.

"I have asked Helland [Hansen], who for some time has known this plan, to deliver this letter, in the hope that possibly he will be in a position to put my case in a more favourable light than I myself am able.

"And when you pass judgment on me, Herr Professor, do not be too severe. I have taken the only path that seemed open, and now events will just have to take their course.

"Simultaneously with this letter, I am informing the King as well, but no one else. A few days after the receipt of this, my brother will arrange the announcement of the addition to the expedition's plan.

"Once more, I beg you, do not treat me too harshly. I am no humbug; necessity forced me.

"And so I beg your forgiveness for what I have done. May my coming work help to atone for that in which I have offended.

"With my most respectful greetings,
Roald Amundsen." [4]


[1] L.E.G. Oates, [letter to his mother? date not given], quoted by Sue Limb and Patrick Cordingley in Captain Oates : Soldier and Explorer (London : Batsford, c1982), p.99.
[2] Cecil Meares, letter [to his father?], 22 August, 1910, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.388.
[3] GalleriNOR.
[4] Roald Amundsen, letter to Fridtjof Nansen, 22 August 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.294-295.


  1. How do you know that Amundsen used "Framheim time”?

  2. Kris, Roland Huntford states in "The Amundsen Photographs" that Amundsen forgot to drop a day from his calendar when crossing the international date line on the way south in January of 1911, and that Amundsen made sure to clarify this at the Pole itself when he headed his diary entry "Friday 15 December (really 14th)".

    Curiously, Huntford does not mention this in "Scott and Amundsen". Amundsen himself seems to have silently corrected the dates in "The South Pole", as he gives the date of arrival at the Pole as the 14th.

    There are a number of inconsistencies in dates in both published and internet sources, which I have noticed as I laid out this chronological project, that certainly might be due to this oversight at the date line -- I will point out as many as possible as the project advances.

    I have edited the "Note On Dates" in the sidebar to be more clear.

    Thanks for commenting --

  3. Fram logbook would help, but I have never seen one. It may be at Fram museum in Oslo. Re-gards, Kris.

  4. Thank you. You are right. There are two original sources (Fram logbook & observation book) and Amundsen book to check on. I have one page from observation book which gives [on right hand side]: 9 Nov. 1911 position 83°S and 13 Nov. 1911 position 84°S. [Amundsen Observationsboken, pp. 127] Comparing with the dates from Amundsen journal one can see one day backward shift. However, according Captain Scott journal [Jan. 18, 1912] “we find a record of five Norwegians” and the record has a date 16. Dec. 1911. From Amundsen journal we know that on Dec. 17 he “left a letter, addressed to H.M. the King … [and] short epistle to Captain Scott”. One or two days are missing? And what about question of navigation precision (solar position)?
    I could not find your “Friday 15 December (really 14th)”?
    I would have pdf file for you (Amundsen Observationsboken, pp. 127) but an e-mail address in needed.

  5. Lark: in my Huntford book (Amundsen and Scott) on page 528 (fn):

    *Amundsen had omitted to put back his calendar when crossing the International Date Line so that the expedition was one day out in its reckoning. on returning to civilization, the dates were (pedantically) revised.

    Thanks Kris. I will e-mail you shortly.

  6. Huntford's remark is both humorous and puzzling. It may be pedantic in retrospect, but Amundsen had the lesson of Cook and Peary right in front of him, that not only priority but *proof of it* was vital.

    I was wrong that Huntford did not mention the dates question in "Scott and Amundsen". I was looking for it in the chapter about reaching the Pole, whereas it is in ch.34, "Birth of a Legend" (p.546 of the US hardcover edition, and p.511 of the paperback edition), as well as p.130 of "The Amundsen Photographs".

    In "Scott and Amundsen", Huntford gives the date of arrival at the Pole as the 15th of December, not Amundsen's pedantically-or-not revised 14th.