September 9, 2010

Friday, 9 September 1910


Antarctic Regions, 1910 [1]

At six in the evening, the order was given to raise anchor, three hours early; all hands were called on deck.

Nilsen was waiting with a large map, which he unfurled and hung on the mainmast, showing it to be of the Antarctic. Amundsen, with some agitation, broke the news to the men.

"There are many things on board," he said (Gjertsen wrote in his diary), "which you have regarded with mistrustful or astonished eyes, for example the observation house and all the dogs, but I won't say anything about that. What I will say is this: it is my intention to sail Southwards, land a party on the Southern continent and try to reach the South Pole."

"Prestrud and I," Gjertsen said, "were hugely entertained by the expressions on the various faces. Most stood with mouth agape, staring at the Chief like so many question marks." [2]

"I remember," Wisting wrote afterwards, "that he used 'we' and 'ours' .... It was not his expedition but 'ours' -- we were all companions and all had the same common goal." [3]

"Hurrah!" Bjaaland shouted. "That means we'll get there first!" [4]

Amundsen now revealed that his plan was to land at the Bay of Whales. He had told no-one, not even Nansen, understanding that Scott must have no inkling that an assault could be made on the Pole from anywhere other than McMurdo Sound, or Scott might be tempted to change his plans. Amundsen told the men that he could not compel anyone to accept what he had done, and that since he had broken his side of the agreement, they were all released from theirs, and that anyone who wanted could leave now, with paid passage home. Would they go with him?

Helmer Hanssen wrote later, "In spite of the intense heat down there in the tropics, I think a cold shiver ran through most of us when we heard the South Pole mentioned as our journey's aim. We began to think back and forth, to the South Pole -- when after all we were supposed to be going to the North Pole -- but there was no time to succumb to meditation [for now] came the steel-hard moment when each man was asked, one by one, if he would agree to this new plan -- and make a South Pole out of the North Pole. The consequence was that each and every one answered -- yes -- and the performance was thereby at an end." [5]

Amundsen gave his men an hour to write home, and the letters were collected and given to Leon, who would post them in Christiania after the news had been published. A few hours later, Leon was rowed ashore and the Fram left Madeira for the South.

"But good heavens -- what a surprise!" Johansen added to an already-begun letter to his wife. "We're not going to the North Pole -- we're going to the South Pole. Amundsen called everyone together and announced that, since September last year, plans had changed considerably. In the light of the contest between Peary and Cook, one at least of whom might have reached it [the North Pole, thus putting it out of the picture], we have, secretly, changed our plans. We will now partake of supper and thereafter make straight for the South Pole where 10 men will be put ashore on the ice and take up winter quarters. Fram will continue to Buenos Aires with the remaining 10. Additional crew will be taken on board in Buenos Aires and a period of oceanographic research will ensue, after which the Fram will pick us up in 1912. Talk about surprise. And Amundsen himself is exceedingly surprised that nothing has leaked out for, after all, the revised plan was put in place already a year ago. He said he could not force us to join him but he wanted to ask each and every one of us if we wanted to come. The answer was a unanimous yes!"

"Now many questions have been answered," he went on, "with regards to equipment and things, as I was of the opinion they were to be used on the pack ice, and A. obviously realised I was confused about a lot of things, especially the house, which we were supposed to erect on the pack ice, and other things too. He laughed with me this evening and said he knew my wishes had come true -- viz. going south to the ice there. He knew about that." [6]


[1] "Karen Ronne Tupek",
[2] Lt. F. Gjertsen, diary, 9 September, 1910, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.298-299.
[3] Oscar Wisting, Seksten År med Roald Amundsen, p.19, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.299.
[4] Roland Huntford, Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.299.
[5] Helmer Hanssen, "Minner fra Sydpolsturen", Polar-Årboken, 1941, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.300-301.
[6] Hjalmar Johansen, letter to Hilde Johansen, 9 September, 1910, quoted by Tor Bomann-Larsen in Roald Amundsen (Stroud, Gloucestershire : Sutton, c2006, c1995), p.82-83.

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