January 13, 2011

Friday, 13 January 1911


The Bay of Whales. Photograph by P. Bond, before 2007. [1]

The Fram pulled in to the Bay of Whales. As soon as she was moored, Amundsen, Nilsen, Prestrud, and Stubberud set off on ski. The men were all a bit out of shape from having been five months at sea, but the skiing was good in the loose new snow and brilliant sunshine. After half an hour, they came to the place where the sea-ice and the Barrier met, the Barrier there being a rather anticlimactic twenty feet (6 m) or so, and smoothed with drift into a gentle slope.

"[The] ice foot led onto the Barrier by a small, even slope; an ideal connection [to the ship] in other words. We continued in a south-easterly direction, and after about 15 minutes reached one of the [previously observed] ridge formations on the barrier. These formations looked like small morain ridges with certain irregularities on the top. These irregularities turned out to consist of huge ice blocks on edge. Something must have stopped the barrier in its regular progress and caused this. What else can it be but underlying land?" [2]

He was, in fact, wrong. Shackleton had in 1908 rejected the Bay as unstable due to the extensive calving in the inner bay. Amundsen, noting that Shackleton's observations had shown that the location and shape of the Bay had changed little since Ross' discovery of it in 1841, reasoned that the ice was grounded on land. Although the bay, like the entire Barrier, is now known to be afloat, it is in the lee of Roosevelt Island, which slows the advance of the ice and creates the ridges that Amundsen had studied.

"I selected a place -- in a little valley, on a fine, flat foundation, about 4 nautical miles from the ... sea, as our future residence. Here we will build our home, and from here our work will be carried out. Already tomorrow -- Sunday -- we start some preparatory work, so that we are ready to begin in earnest on Monday."

"Lt. N[ilsen] has worked out the distance sailed from Norway. it is 15,938 nautical miles, and had been estimated at 16,000. That was not bad. We had calculated on being at our field of work on the 15th January -- We lay to ... on the 14th."


[1] Wikimedia Commons.
[2] Roald Amundsen, diary, 14 January 1911, quoted by Roland Huntford in Scott and Amundsen (New York : Putnam, 1980, c1979), p.315.

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